Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
”In the black water with the sun shining at midnight, those fruit shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the revelation of the fatal softness in the earth.”
John A.K.A. Control has been made director of The Southern Reach Facility. The last director finagled her way onto the last expedition into Area X and has never been seen or heard from again. The assistant director doesn’t only dislike him, but is working actively to undermine him. I’ve been in a similar circumstances before with a job. It is time consuming winning everybody over so that the work environment can settle into a new normal.
As it turns out Control doesn’t have months to convince anyone of anything.
There is something wrong with the building...it smells like rotting honey.
Some of “the twelfth” expedition which were all women have returned, remembering next to nothing, scattered thoughts. Soon he is focused on The Biologist, the main character from Annihilation, whose answers are not...quite...right. There is blue sky in the amnesia that makes Control suspicious that she remembers more than she is letting on.
”They were beginning to exist in some transitional space between interrogation and conversation, something for which he could not quite find a name.”
She is bemused by him.
He discovers notes by the original director about The Biologist that he hopes will offer some clarification, but they only create more questions.
”Not a very good biologist. In a traditional sense. Empathic more toward environments than people. Forgets the reasons she went, who is paying her salary. But becomes embedded to an extraordinary extent. Would know Area X better than I do from almost the first moment sets foot there. Experience with similar settings. Self-sufficient. Unburdened. Connection through her husband. What would she be in Area X? A signal? A flare? Or invisible? Exploit.
Control has been resurrected from what should have been a career ending disastrous string of decisions on his last assigning. The type of judgment calls that haunts your career for the rest of your life. His mother, Severance, currently works for Central in some nebulous position deemed Classified. His grandfather also used to work for Central as well and filled Control’s head with all kinds of platitudes.
”So long as you don’t tell people you don’t know something, they’ll probably think you know it.”
Gramps didn’t pass along anything original, but as his situation becomes more and more tenuous Control finds his grandfather’s voice in his head very reassuring.
”Is your house in order?” the Voice asked. “Is it in order?”
That voice is not grandfather, but his contact at Central. The entity that is supposed to be running interference for him at Central and buy him time to work his way through this puzzle. But why does he always feel so damn funny after talking to him?
Then there is the plant in his desk drawer; the plant that won’t die. It is obviously from Area X. Somebody gave it a dead mouse to eat.
Rabbits will do what rabbits do best, but what will Rabbits do best in Area X?
And then there is Whitby talking about the terror, the terroir. The French word meaning the set of special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place possess and how it is interacting with plant genetics.
Why don’t we agitate it? Make it do something.
Will it bring him ”closer to the truth about Area X, and even if the truth was a fucking maw, a fanged maw that stank like a cave full of putrefying corpses, that was still closer than he was now.”
Control is opening that door that defies the first rule of every horror film…DON’T OPEN THE DOOR.
Control would have been so much more focused if he’d had Dana Scully licking his face.
This was such a surprise after reading book one. I was expecting to be up to my armpits in malicious people eating foliage, attempting to keep my brain from going completely Gonzo, and hopefully finding answers to some lingering questions about Area X. Jeff Vandermeer switches gears on us and puts us in the middle of an X-File with a Fox Mulder without the steadying influence of a Dana Scully. The suspense builds beautifully with many moments of...that was odd...until finally it reaches a crescendo with Control on the run not only from Area X, but also from the people at Central. And now I MUST read Acceptance.
ANNIHILATION review Book one of the Southern Reach Trilogy
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