Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
|Publisher(s):||FSG Originals (US) Fourth Estate (UK)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Science Fiction / Horror|
|Release Date:||May 6, 2014 (US) May 8, 2014 (UK)|
So after reading through Annihilation, I immediately looked up when Authority was coming out in order to present myself at my favorite bookstore and acquire it as soon as it was available. I had wondered if it was possible to make Area X any weirder and creepier than it already was. Authority proved that possibility rather handily.
Following the events of Annihilation, the book follows the inquiry of John Rodriguez, also called Control, as he tries to figure out what exactly the prior director was planning when she joined the last expedition into Area X (and subsequently disappeared). It’s one part detective work, one part spy novel, and one part horror all held together with the ubiquitous aura of creepy weirdness.
I loved the irony of Control’s nickname. He is never in control; he just gets a comforting illusion of it that he is constantly lifting the curtain on. It doesn’t help him that the things behind the curtain get more disconcerting as the story progresses. Or that everyone in the research building is keeping secrets. Or that the things and people that come out of Area X all look normal but drop straight down a gully in the uncanny valley. Control himself is socially aloof from everyone else, partly by personality and partly because of his position, which can be off putting. He’s very concerned with how his actions will be seen to his bosses and his internal narrative is more concerned about them than it is with his co-workers until he starts talking with the biologist. Regardless, Control’s unease and frustration with his situation is easy to sympathize with, particularly in the beginning when he has to deal with the more hostile elements of the Area X’s researchers and administrators while not alienating them entirely.
Then there’s Ghost Bird, the biologist who narrated Annihilation, who has returned vastly changed from her time in Area X. It’s made very clear that what Control thinks happened there and what the biologist said in the last book are two vastly different things. However, as odd as she is, Control feels most comfortable in her company. I’m looking forwards to seeing how this strange proto-friendship develops and evolves.
Area X itself is less of an entity in this entry as Control doesn’t see it as such right off. If I thought that Area X was this strange entity that enjoyed playing with the small creatures wandering through it, this was the book that convinced me that it was playing with them the way a bored cat plays with a small bug or terrified mouse before eating it. There’s also an interesting implication that Area X might be a retaliation to some thing or event man-made in origin. Regardless, I love how the “woods that eat people” trope is being handled here. It’s a wonderful cross between a haunted house and an unseen monster.
I really enjoyed the slow burn of suspense found throughout Authority. Some are going to find the beginning very slow going indeed as much of it doesn’t seem all that significant until things start happening. Control’s initial impressions of what kind of situation he has landed in slowly give way to the realization that he doesn’t know nearly as much as he needs to and it scares him. It’s the sort of middle book where you might not realize that it is the middle book simply because while its start point is after Annihilation, you don’t get lost because it approaches the over arching story from a completely different angle before converging with the first. I loved it and can’t wait to read Acceptance.