Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

authorityBook two of the Southern Reach Trilogy takes place outside of Area X, the creepy setting of Annihilation, in the bowels of Southern Reach itself, the government agency perched on the border of Area X, and tasked with researching the phenomenon at their doorstep.

Unfortunately, bureaucracy in fiction is generally just as dull and frustrating as the real-life DMV. The protagonist, John Rodriguez aka Control, has moved to the small town of Hedley to be “acting” Director of Southern Reach. From the first we’re informed that Control hasn’t had a sterling career–Southern Reach is his last chance and Southern Reach has problems that go all the way down. The Assistant Director hates and resents Control, his staff is just plain weird, the biologist from book one has only a handful of appearances and is mostly a cypher, and the plot begins and ends with Everything You Thought You Knew Is Wrong.

Mr VanderMeer is a strong writer, good with character and setting, but Authority (FSG Originals, May 2014) is a book that should be all about the story, and it can’t carry its own weight. The plot is choppy and episodic, relying heavily on Control’s ignorance to provide mystery and suspense; however, instead of invoking the sense of impending doom that made Annihilation so deliciously spooky, I felt annoyed. But I finished it, because I’m invested now, damn it.

I’m just into book three, Acceptance. I read in hope.

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