Monday, January 19, 2015


Authority by Jeff VanderMeer.


But lurking behind them might be something even darker and more vast, and that was the killing joke. That the thing catching up with all of them would be even less merciful—and would question them until, like a towel wrung dry and then left out in the sun, they were nothing but brittle husks and hollows. 
—page 315, Authority by Jeff VanderMeer.

Authority is the second book of the Southern Reach trilogy but like Annihilation easily stands alone. Having read the first book was helpful in some ways and was hindrance in others. There are as many questions in this book as the first, and many of them are likewise left unanswered. Many of the facts of that are revisited from the first book don’t match what was learned in that opening volume of the trilogy. And the protagonist of the first book, the biologist, is a minor character in this novel. The new protagonist, even though we learn a few things about him and his origins, is as cryptic as the biologist of Annihilation.


Authority is Kafka, where the nightmare of nothing happens. And everything happens. Unseen. ("Off screen.") Off-kilter. As terrifying as Annihilation, although we take a longer time to get to the horror. Then we realize we have been immersed in the horror all along.


In Annihilation, the (natural) environment was suspect. The team was suspect, but primarily because of the fear provided by the environment. In Authority, the “bureaucracies” of government, military, agency, work, team, and family exist as ways to control and manage our (constructed) environment, and are themselves to be feared. They are as compromised as the “natural” environment of Area X.

And, of course, they don't really control Area X. The control and authority of the Southern Reach over Area X is forced and ultimately false.

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