Authority (The Southern Reach Trilogy) Hardcover – 8 May 2014
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Praise for ANNIHILATION and the SOUTHERN REACH TRILOGY:
‘I’m loving the Southern Reach Trilogy … Creepy and fascinating’ Stephen King
‘Hauntingly weird and brilliantly new … These are contemporary masterpieces and career-defining novels’ Adam Robert, Books of the Year, Guardian
‘This trilogy is a modern mycological masterpiece … Remarkable … Tense, eerie and unsettling … VanderMeer writes much better prose than Poe ever did … This is genuinely potent and dream-haunting writing. VanderMeer has arrived.’ Guardian
‘A teeming science fiction that draws on Conrad and Lovecraft alike … “Annihilation” shows signs of being the novel that will allow VanderMeer to break through to a new and larger audience’ Sunday Telegraph
‘A lasting monument to the uncanny … You find yourself afraid to turn the page’ Guardian
‘VanderMeer’s novel is a psycho-geographical tour de force, channelling Ballard and Lovecraft to instil the reader with a deep, delicious unease’ Financial Times
‘What a haunting book this is, lodging deep in the memory in similar fashion to otherworldly classics such as David Lindsay’s “A Voyage To Arcturus” … “Annihilation” is so disquietingly strange as to defy summarisation. Read it’ Daily Mail
‘Astonishing, frightening, spectacular … The imaginative daring and reach with which VanderMeer has invented and executed a concept such as Area X is breathtaking … Powerful and echoing … I hope the trilogy will come to be seen not only as the instant sci-fi classic it is, but also as Literature’ New Statesman
‘Immersive, insightful and often deeply bloody creepy, this is a startlingly good novel … A major work’ ***** SFX Magazine
‘A tense and chilling psychological thriller about an unravelling expedition and the strangeness within us. A little Kubrick, a lot of Lovecraft, the novel builds with an unbearable tension and claustrophobic dread that lingers long afterwards. I loved it’ Lauren Beukes
‘Original and beautiful, maddening and magnificent’ Warren Ellis
About the Author
Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist and editor. His fiction has been translated into twenty languages and has appeared in the Library of America’s American Fantastic Tales and in multiple year’s-best anthologies. He writes non-fiction for the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, and the Guardian, among others. He grew up in Fiji and now lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife.
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Authority is slower and bigger than Annihilation, with a larger cast of characters and more complexity in play than before. But it all works perfectly.
Here in lies my problem. If the reader has read Annihilation, then the reader already knows more than John. The reader has seen the lighthouse and the tower/tunnel. The reader knows how Area X can change people. The reader probably has a decent stab at guessing who (or what) Ghost Bird is. However, this is all new to Control and therefore must be explained to him at a painful pace.
The primary issue with Authority is its pacing. Although it does carry an echo of the first book's tension, it takes a long time to find its feet. Many of the twists mirror things that happened in Annihilation and so are easy to see coming, and its not until the climax that things become especially odd. It can still be creepy - incredibly so - but it largely felt a bit lifeless.
It also doesn't really give an concrete answers. While a few new connections are implied and a hypothesis about the nature of Area X is exposited, the novel is still very vague, steeped in metaphor and open to the reader's interpretation. It certainly won't appeal to everyone.
For obvious reasons, the book also contains a largely new cast and these are actually very well rounded. We get to know them all a bit better than the Biologist and her largely unnamed team and they are all certainly curious. From Grace's devotion to the former director to Whitby's increasing strangeness as the story progresses, they are certainly unforgettable. In fact, Control was the least interesting character for me. He's a bit of a blank slate and didn't really interest me as a protagonist until close to the end of the story.
Anyhow, that's about all I have to say. I will probably read Acceptance at some point for closure, but I hope that it's a stronger novel than this one.
We did learn a few choice nuggets of information, but not enough to support a second volume which was longer than the first but in which almost nothing actually happened. The first third or so was OK as Control tried to find his way through the mess of the Southern Reach and get some answers, but the answers he is searching for were not the answers that the reader is searching for, so actually I found that I didn't much care. Especially as he didn't really find much for the majority of the book. The middle sagged with almost nothing happening of any interest at all.
Towards the end there is an exciting event which appears to be the climax of the book, except it then continues on at a slow and boring pace for another long chapter which really threw me. In fact the pacing overall was really strange.
I didn't really understand Grace at all, what her motives were or her feelings on pretty much any matter, which made all Control's experiences with her seem very odd and hard to understand.
The writing was strange and stilted throughout which in the context of being in the "normal" world was just annoying.
Perhaps the final instalment can redeem the series for me, I'm certainly willing to give it a go.
Here, we are presented with more backstory, which only leaves us with more questions than it answers.
One reviewer described this book as the other side of a telephone call, which is about as apt an analogy as could be asked for.
That being said, it's only a continuation of the conversation and given the nature of both books, I doubt the final book will provide all the answers. But then isn't that the best part about horror and weird fiction?
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