Matt’s Reviews: Authority (Southern Reach book 2) by Jeff Vandermeer

Book Cover: Authority by Jeff Vandermeer


  • Publisher:    Blackstone Publishing
  •  Published:   2014
  •  Format:       Audio CD (8 discs)
  •  ISBN:         1482987430
  •  ISBN-13     9781482987430
  •  Author:     Jeff Vandermeer
  •  Read by:  Bronson Pinchot

Authority by Jeff Vandermeer is the second book of the Southern Reach Trilogy.  I recently reviewed the first book in the trilogy here (Annihilation).   If you haven’t read that review, I’ll wait.  Go ahead and click on the link then come back here… 

…OK, now we’re on the same page.

Area X is a large area cut off from the rest of the world by an impenetrable border.  There is a sort of  ‘gateway’ at the Southern Reach which is the only way to get into or back out of the Area. The Southern Reach is the research and control facility for Area X.    Multiple government expeditions have crossed through this gateway at the Southern Reach to explore the Area, and many of them have not returned.

The events of Authority take place shortly after those of Annihilation which covered the activities of the 12th expedition.  Similar to the 11th expedition, most of the members of the 12th expedition have returned from Area X.  They appeared near their homes or work locations, but no one knows how they were able to get past the border without being detected. All of the members of that expedition returned except for the psychologist who we learn was previously the director of the Southern Reach facility. 

John Rodriguez (aka ‘Control’) has been appointed as the Southern Reach’s new director.  He has a reputation as a ‘fixer’ and has been brought in by ‘Central’ to try to figure out what is happening at the Southern Reach and what has gone wrong.  The facility seems to have fallen into disarray as it is understaffed and the staff that remain are not overly helpful; being openly hostile, passive aggressive, evasive and sometimes outright obstructive.   Control reviews notes from the past decades of the facility and its expeditions.  He interrogates the members who returned from the 12th expedition and follows other evidence to try to uncover the mysteries of Area X and of the Southern Reach facility.  He quickly focuses on the biologist from the 12th expedition as one of the keys to answering at least some of the questions, but she is far from cooperative. 

One of the things I liked most about the first book in the trilogy was that it raised questions and did not answer them all.  It fed the mystery of Area X with the mysteries of the story itself.  If the area is really unknowable, then it can be satisfying to have an unknowable story too.  The reader is a participant in the unfathomable nature of the environment.

I was worried about how and where Vandermeer would take the story in the second book.  He surprised me by leaving Area X almost completely unexplored in this story. He brought the story outside of the Area and into the Southern Reach facility.  Control is trying to get answers and we are along for the ride.  There are almost as many unanswered questions in the research facility as there are in the Area itself.  The author does a great job of fitting a few pieces into the puzzle and exposing more unexplained secrets to keep you wondering.

I am looking forward to the third book in the trilogy (Acceptance) with the hopes of finding more answers and also the hope that some mysteries remain.  Jeff Vandermeer has done an amazing job of creating a weird and wonderful world in the first two books.  I’ll let you know how he does in the third visit to the Area in another review here in a few weeks.


In the meantime, if you are looking for another book to read while you wait for the final installment of my reviews of the Southern Reach, you can read the first book in another universe: Plastivore by Matt Truxaw









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