Authority ... and More Mysteries

Authority (Southern Reach Trilogy, #2)Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book in Jeff VanderMeer's "Southern Reach" trilogy is a real surprise. It is very different from the first book in style, characterization, and length. (See http://markelacy.com/2014/03/23/annihilation-and-mysteries/.) There is more emphasis on the clandestine than the eerie. It reminded me more of Cormac McCarthy than H. P. Lovecraft, with its mirroring of the desolation of both spirit and environment, and the central role of dark truths. If the conflict in "Annihilation" (the first book in the trilogy) lay in the confrontation with the supernatural, the conflict in "Authority" is more between people, and within the main character, "Control." The appellation is ironic, for he has no control, can exert no control, and is himself controlled by others. In general, the story is one where the reader sees events are leading inexorably to the world "going to hell in a handbasket." Given the differences between the first two books, it's hard to imagine what the third book will be like, but like the first two it will undoubtedly be a riveting story.

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Annihilation ... and Mysteries

Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy, #1)Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. A fun, fast read. Vandermeer has created an eerie world where something very strange has happened and everyone has secrets from one another. As I read "Annihilation" I was reminded of wine-tasting. I have not yet (perhaps never will?) be able to discern the various components of a given kind of wine ... which fruit, which overtones, what kind of finish, with hints of ... you get the picture. But with "Annihilation" I was reminded of a variety of different stories and possible influences. Lovecraft is a fairly obvious one -- both his imagination and his light-on-dialogue style. I was also reminded of the island in the TV series "LOST", and the strange things that occurred there. The creepiness of the personal transformations that occur in the story reminded me a lot of the novel "The Ruins" by Scott B. Smith. And the transformation taking place in the landscape itself reminded me of "The Crystal World" by J. G. Ballard, a tale of a strange (but different) conversion of the terrain from normal to abnormal.

I must confess, even the design of the book hooked me. An interesting cover, interesting graphics within the cover, and a length to the book that promised I wouldn't have to invest too much reading time before I determined whether it was worth staying with.

I'm looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy. Here's hoping we aren't left hanging when the last book comes out. We want our questions answered!

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