Read 8/4/14 - 8/5/14 2 Stars - Recommended Lightly to readers already familiar with the stranger side of Bizarro Pgs: 138 Publisher: Bizarro Pulp Press Re...moreRead 8/4/14 - 8/5/14 2 Stars - Recommended Lightly to readers already familiar with the stranger side of Bizarro Pgs: 138 Publisher: Bizarro Pulp Press Released: June 2014
I pride myself on knowing what I like and I usually do a pretty damn good job of picking books I know I'll enjoy. But every once in a while, I get it wrong. And when I do, BOY do I!
Day of the Milkman came to my attention as a Kindle Recommendation, based on other titles I had recently added or downloaded to the app. I took a peek at it on Goodreads, liked the cover, am familiar with the publisher, and thought the description sounded pretty cool. So I purchased it for 2.99. Thank god that's all I paid for it. A buck and a penny more and you might've heard me start pitching a fit over the whole thing.
To be clear, it wasn't the book's premise, so much, that turned me off. It was the way the author executed it. We went from something I could kind of get lost in to something that was just so ridiculously patched together I eye-rolled so bad at times I thought my eyes would roll right out of their sockets. Cartledge's writing style left a lot lacking too...
Here we have HiLo. Who is rocked awake on a piece of glass flotsam in a sea of milk. Because Milk. It's this bizarro world's version of water. And the glass? It was once a door. To an office. On a ship. A glass bottomed Milk Evaluation Ship of sorts. And HiLo was one of the ship's crew members. Now, he's the only SURVIVING member. The last milkman on earth. In a sea of quickly spoiling milk (gag). That's gotta smell great!
As the book goes on, we discover HiLo's floating out there in the sea of milk because there was a storm. And this storm killed everything that was in (or on) the sea. Boats were torn asunder and submerged. Seamen were sucked under the milky waves and drowned. Sea cows - these cow/manatee hybrid creatures that replenish the milk in the sea by squirting it out of their nipples (slight gag) directly into the sea they swim and shit in (more gagging) - were boiled up and beached as a result of it, too. And whatever caused this storm is now causing the sea to heat up and start curdling.
And poor HiLo is left to face the rotting world on his own. Well, wait, not completely on his own, cause he's got this high tech holographic computer wristband chick Calcitine with him, but she's not human so yeah, totally, he's all alone.
He and Calcitine manage to paddle their way to an island, the island that houses a Milk Factory that pulls milk out of the sea and purifies it or something. Well, looks like the storm somehow caused all the landlubbers to disappear and die too (but where are all the bodies then?!), and now no one's around to run the machines. This is bad. Really bad. The milk is just totally fucking sour now. The sea itself is curdling up so fast it's becoming thick and gelatinous. There's not a drop left to drink. HiLo, I think you're screwed.
But no, wait, he and his hologram head out to the main land to search for supplies and fresh milk, if there is any, and other people, if there any of them left either, and along the way we're treated to some really bizarre dreams and hallucinations brought on by his malnourished mind. And then things get kind of.. .weirder.
There's a big blue beached sea cow that causes some troubles for HiLo, and some creepy androgynous mole-people, and a stolen milk machine that kind of sounds like a vagina with arms and teeth that not only shoots milk into an underground lake from some dangling cord-like teats while simultaneously giving birth to millions of eggs - eggs that contain ever evolving versions of more mole-people, sea cows, and whatever other DNA the milk machine sucks out of the milk lake. Ew. Just a whole bunch of ew....
Can one man and his hologram, and some mole-people and cloned eggs, and a vagina-like milk machine, all work together to rebuild civilization and recreate the milk sea?
ST Cartledge has one weird-ass imagination. I wonder if the idea for this book all stemmed from some horrible faux-fairy tale he would tell his kids (or someone else's kids) when they refused to drink their milk with dinner. I wouldn't be surprised. Honestly.
Listened 7/29/14 - 8/10/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended, you gotta listen to it, you just gotta Approx. 11 hours Publisher: Podium Publishing Released:...moreListened 7/29/14 - 8/10/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended, you gotta listen to it, you just gotta Approx. 11 hours Publisher: Podium Publishing Released: 2013
You know I have no shame. None whatsoever. And that's ok. Because my shamelessness landed me the audio-review copy of Andy Weir's The Martian and it was awesome. And yeah, I know what you're thinking. Lori.. you think, you're always so far behind with the bigger books. What gives? We already knew this was a hot one, we've read it already. It's old news.
Hey, I never claimed to read the books from the "Big 5" and their imprint arms first. Heck, I kind of go out of my way to not read them. You'll find me curling up on the couch with a small press book in my hands, or its digital equivalent, instead of one that's been read and reviewed by over 4600 other people (that's how many people have reviewed The Martian on Goodreads right now). I'm not knocking the bigger boys, by any means. It's just that my heart belongs to the underdogs of literature. And there's very little that will sway me away from them....
Unless. If I find out that a "Big 5-er" has an interesting looking book released in audio (see The Three, The Troop, and Authority as recent examples), well, that's a different story. I've got a pretty long work commute, and I don't know about you, but I get tired of listening to music after awhile. Audiobooks offer me a great opportunity to escape. They help distract me from the fact that I'm heading into work again (sigh) for another 14 hour shift (double sigh) and make that long drive disappear almost completely.
You should know, though, that I was totally going to let The Martian pass me by. I really had no interest in it at all until one of the TNBBC goodreads members nominated it for our August sci-fi group read. When it won, I figured, what the heck... lemme see if it's been released in audio. And that's when I discovered something really cool.
Did you know Andy Weir initially self-published The Martian? Yup. He did. He was giving it away for free on his website and selling it online for only a buck. Podium Publishing got their hands on it, recorded the audio, and then helped Andy get a publishing contract for the print copy. IN. YOUR. FACE. all you self-pub haters! I told you there's some golden nuggets in them there hills.
The Martian has been referred to "Castaway" on Mars, and I can't come up with a better comparison so we'll stick with that. Stranded on the red planet after a worse-than-anticipated dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the mission and leave him stranded (don't blame them, they thought he was dead), Mark has to face the facts - he is stuck on Mars, with only a few months of supplies and no way to communicate with Earth. He's fucked.
But the good humored astronaut doesn't let that get him down. He's a botanist and a mechanical engineer and he's got some tricks up his sleeve to at least EXTEND his life, even if it is for just a few more months. Through daily audio-logs, Mark records his thoughts and survival progress for whoever ends up recovering them after he's long dead-and-gone. Heck, I'd do the same thing. If for no other reason than to feel like you're still connected to someone, somehow, somewhere, right?!
Turns out our pal Mark is quite the little MacGyver. Give him some martian soil, human feces, flammable gas, and a few fresh potatoes, and this dude can cultivate quite the little garden. Seriously. And he doesn't stop there. He's the coolest nerd to ever leave Earth and he's determined to get back there, at all costs. He was trained well before being dispatched into space. He's patient and extremely savvy. And typical of a book whose entire premise is set on building tension and dragging out the inevitable, every time Mark overcomes one obstacle, it seems Mars is prepared and ready to hit him with another.
But that good ole Mark, he just won't be stopped. Cool-headed and capable of thinking his way through just about any situation, Mark Watney's got my vote as the man I'd most like by my side when the world comes to a halting and apocalyptic end! I don't care that I can't understand half the science mumbo-jumbo that comes out of his mouth, the man knows his shit, and I'd trust him with my life a hundred times over.
Podium Publishing did a great job matching the narrator (RC Ray) with the Weir's writing. He nailed the balance between witty sarcasm and hopeful hopelessness... And don't listen to those reviewers who poo-poo the upbeat and charming personality of our fearless astronaut. The cheeky and refreshing humor was exactly what the book needed to keep it moving along and keep its readers engaged. I'm not sure any of us would have been able to handle a cranky, blubbering account of man's attempt to survive the unsurvivable.
And you've heard that a movie is in the works, right? I hear Matt Damon has signed on to play Mark... and I can't wait to see the book come to life on the big screen!(less)
Read 7/15/14 - 7/17/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of "memory loss and love" stories, because lord knows this stuff's been done before Pages: 326 Publi...moreRead 7/15/14 - 7/17/14 3 Stars - Recommended to fans of "memory loss and love" stories, because lord knows this stuff's been done before Pages: 326 Publisher: Gallery Books Released: (in paperback) January 2014
I'm going to come clean and state that Love Water Memory is not my usual fare. But you know this already. You're scratching your head as you look at this and you're probably wondering what prompted me to pick this up. I know. I know. And you're right. You are absolutely right. It's much too mainstream and the plot is just way too common to have caught my attention on its own.
So a disclaimer: the publicist for this book had reached out to me back in February and after discussing the premise, I felt it had a lot of promise as a group read for TNBBC. For that monthly Author/Reader Discussion series I host. I know juicy, conversation-sparking content when I hear it. So I planned to have the book and its author featured in the group in September. Can you believe September is only two months away? Where the hell has this year gone?! And so, based on my freak-out about the year passing by in a blink of an eye, and because I like to read what TNBBC will be discussing during these author events, I felt that now would probably be a good time to get my read on. And what a read it was.
So many things went through my head as I read it.
First. That title. Love Water Memory. It's got to go. I don't know why, but it really irks me. Maybe it's too much like Eat Pray Love? It just doesn't seem to fit the book well. And it feels waaaay too oversimplified. As if everyone who worked on the book decided "Fuck it. What three words will communicate to the audience exactly what this book is about?" Over on Twitter, I mentioned two alternative titles - "What Water Makes Us Forget" and "The Weight of Water" (that second one is pulled directly from text found within the book, and is actual my favorite of the two). Either of those are preferable to me over its current title.
Second. That cover. What is it with floating, wispy, watery lady images lately? Is this a new thing? Is it something that's got staying power? It's been done. A lot. And ok, so I think I get what they're trying to do - see, the book opens with Lucie, our leading lady, suddenly becoming aware that she is standing knee-deep in the ocean, with no memory of who she is, how she got there, or why she is there. So if you want the cover to play off of that moment, play off of it. But don't have this wispy white dress floating off of a girl half submerged, who appears to be walking deeper into the water. It's just too, I don't know, YA-looking? Maybe that's what's bothering me?
So I call the cover "been-there-done-that". And now I have to call out the plot for the same exact thing. Please keep in mind, I don't read these kind of books on the norm so if I'm saying I know it's been done, isn't that kind of telling?
Not that I'm knocking the story. Listen, I admit to sitting down and reading the entire book in two days. It's engaging and kept me turning the pages. Not because I HAD to turn them, but because I wanted to. I enjoyed being taking on Lucie's journey of self-re-discovery, uncovering who she was and how she had changed after coming out of the disassociative fugue state that day she "awoke" alone and confused standing in the San Francisco Bay. It was interesting, the way we were led along by Lucie as she began to piece together what triggered her mental collapse, learning the secrets her aunt, fiancee, and even she herself had been harboring.
I thought the strangeness, the tension-filled awkwardness between Lucie and her fiancee Grady, who came to collect her from the hospital once she was "found" and of whom she had no recollection, was well written and also quite frustrating. All of the internal talk - the concern and worry they both had but failed to put into words, the tip-toeing around each other for fear of pushing too hard or being rejected - seemed so unnecessary and yet, it was that very tension that Jennie Shortridge built her entire novel around. There were moments where you thought... ok, here we go, finally, some conflict, some "get it all out of your system and feel better for it later" head-on conversation, but every single time, Lucie and Grady, or Lucy and Helen backed off... waaaay off, and defaulted back to their internalization, rationalizing that the timing was not good, or just flat out chickening out. Now, the sadist in me was upset to see all of those opportunities go passing by, but the emotional me could see why Shortridge took that approach. It forced her to flesh the characters out more. It helped you connect with them as their individual stories slowly came to light.
Looking back on it all, Love Water Memory was a pleasant, kick-back-and-just-get-lost-in-the-story read. It required little more than just simply letting go and going with the flow.
Does the story eventually come to a nice, happy, satisfying close? Does Lucie get her memories back? Does she find out what triggered her disassociative fugue and get the closure she so desperately needs and longs for? Do things work out between the new her and her fiancee? Well, you're just going to have to pick up a copy and find out!
And oh the fun we are going to have discussing the ins and outs of it all when we host the book and its author in September! You'll come join us, won't you? Watch out for the giveaway, which will run during the first week of August. Land yourself a free copy so you can read it for yourself and then hit us up come discussion time! I wanna know what you think!(less)
Listened 7/19/14 - 7/28/14 3 Stars - Recommended to readers who like their characters slightly mad and incredibly unlikable Audio: approx 4 hours Publish...moreListened 7/19/14 - 7/28/14 3 Stars - Recommended to readers who like their characters slightly mad and incredibly unlikable Audio: approx 4 hours Publisher: Blackstone Audio Released: 2010
Welp! I'm no longer a Flannery O'Connor virgin. It's about time I popped that cherry. I own a few of her books, have had them sitting around here for years actually, but just never seemed to get around to reading any of them. And I'd always heard great things about Wise Blood, her first novel, so when I saw downpour.com had it on audio, and that it was narrated by Bronson Pinchot (who did a phenomenal job with Authority), I figured now was as good a time as any to get started on her.
Though, now that I look back at it, I wonder if this was the right book to start with because I found every single one of its characters to be wholly unlikable and more-than-a-little mad. And I'm not sure if that's typical of Flannery or if it's specific to this book due to its religious nature.
But before I get too far off course, let's set things up. Wise Blood tells the tale of Hazel Motes, a sour young military man who returns home to discover that, well, he has no home to return to. A quick peek through the house he grew up in is enough to tell him that his mother just packed up and disappeared. If that wasn't enough to put a chip on his shoulder, my guess is being asked if he's a preacher by every stranger he comes across certainly is. Maybe it's the suit and hat? Maybe it's the way he carries himself? Or maybe it's the fact that he claims to be an out-and-out atheist?
He's crotchety, and sarcastic, and looks down his nose at everyone, and now, out of the blue, he's decided to go on and preach a new church - The Church Without Christ - to prove to everyone just how anti-religious he is. He buys a beat up ole car, parks it in front of various movie houses, and spews his atheist views from the hood of it, proud to piss people off and even prouder to blasphemy the word of God.
As he builds his roaming Church Without Christ, he comes into contact with eighteen year old Enoch Emery, a kid who is incredibly mentally unstable and who's taken an extreme liking to Hazel. He follows Hazel around town endlessly, yammering away about his shit family life, and his current friendless existence, and tries desperately to befriend him. Hazel can't stand Enoch, can't seem to shake him off, and treats him horribly time and time again. But Enoch's got "wise blood", blood that talks to him, blood that tells Enoch to do bad things, things he isn't really keen to be doing, things he seems helpless to avoid. things that keep leading him back to Hazel.
Hazel, meanwhile, has become infatuated with Asa Hawks, an old "blind man" he meets on the street. The old man wants nothing to do with him, so to punish him Hazel devises a plan that includes moving into the old man's apartment building and seducing his fifteen year old daughter, Sabbath. The plan quickly backfires, though, when Sabbath returns his faked affections ten-fold, much to his dismay and frustration.
You'd have to be blind not to see that Hazel isn't all that different than Enoch. Wanting what he can't have. Following someone around town who won't accept his company. Putting people up on pedestals who have no right and no interest in being up there.
Little by little, Enoch's obsession with Hazel, his determination to help Hazel locate a new Jesus for his church, and his desire to have Hazel acknowledge him drives him mad. Well, more mad, I guess. Because lord knows that boy's head was never screwed on properly to begin with. And Hazel. Poor, miserable, confused Hazel. A man who claims he has no religion yet struggles daily with the fact that he isn't "clean"; who preaches The Church Without Christ yet punishes himself day after day in the name of the very religion he speaks out against. We watch idly as his growing obsession with The Hawks' and his own unclean behaviors drive him teetering off the deep end too...
A funny thing about religion. In order to be atheist - to disbelieve in the existence of God - you are kind of admitting that there is something to disbelieve in. By taking a stand against God, against the existence of God, are you not confirming that God does, then, exist? That's quite the little pickle he's found himself in. Like a snake eating its own tail.
Wise Blood doesn't attempt to define words like "grace" and "redemption" and "Jesus". Rather, it delves into how others perceive them. The powerful effect they can have on believers and nonbelievers alike.
Oh yeah. And it brings to life some of most mentally unstable and annoying characters I've ever met in literature!(less)
Read 7/21/14 - 7/23/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to those who don't mind laughing in the face of the apocalypse Pages: 338 Publisher: Dapper Press Re...moreRead 7/21/14 - 7/23/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to those who don't mind laughing in the face of the apocalypse Pages: 338 Publisher: Dapper Press Released: January 2014
A post-apocalyptic novel that makes fun of itself and every book or film that's ever come before it? Uh, yes please!
Clayton Smith knocks it out of the park - The Magic Kingdom's parking lot, to be exact - with this hilarious tale of two BFF's who've managed to survive the apocalypse (which was brought about by Jamaican 'Flying Monkey Missiles' if you can believe it) by apparent sheer dumb luck. After holing up in an apartment building for the past three years, Patrick panics when his food-to-pudding ratio finally reaches a critical low, and convinces his neighbor and ole college buddy Ben to pack up his belongings and hoof it all the way down to Florida with him. His bucket list has only one item on it and he'll be damned if he's gonna die before taking a trip out to Disney World. After much bickering and some super-intense backpack repacking, the two besties head out on a POST APOCALYPTIC ROAD TRIP!
Prepared for the worst, though they're not exactly sure what that might be, they leave their Chicago digs behind and trudge through the yellow dust fog that blankets the entire United States, with Patrick leading the way as his buddy reluctantly follows.
The road they travel is ripe with danger and sticky with the melted bodies of those who were not immune to the Flying Monkey Dust. Armed with a bunch of weapons (chosen for their cool factor), their witty banter, and unique sense of humor, these guys meet up with some of weirdest end-time characters I've ever come across - a milky-eyed soothsayer who foresees a world of trouble for the traveling duo; zombie-like running men who will stop at nothing to eat the flesh of the uninfected; a cuddly buffalo named Ponch; tree-dwelling monks who drink frog blood in the hopes of spontaneously switching genders; a crazy family of four who act as though M-Day (Monkey Day, the day Jamaica bombed with US) never happened, and more.
Time and time again I found myself wishing I could hop inside Clayton's world and tag along with these guys. Their "laugh in the face of danger" attitude and incredibly poorly timed curiosity made APOCALYPTICON an edge-of-your-seat fun house ride. There was no situation Patrick and Ben couldn't get out of. I swear, these two had nine lives. Screw survival of the fittest! In this post-apocalypse, those who take the craziest risks and don't take themselves too seriously will inherit the earth. Well, whatever's left of it, anyway. Of course, it's not all laughter-and-happy-tears for these two. The dark humor pulls back at just the right times and let's the gory-goodness-of bashing-in-heads-with-baseball-bats and extremely poignant, bittersweet moments shine through. You can't survive an apocalypse on sarcasm and inside jokes alone, now that's just plain cuckoo.
Sprinkled throughout with pop culture references and served with a heaping dose of well written dialogue, I'm naming APOCALYPTICON the must-read book of 2014 for fans of post-apoc literature. Give yourself a break from all the end-of-the-world doom and gloom, and get your read on with this insanely incredible post apocalyptical novel with a huge heart. And HELLO?! Have you seen the cover? If my review's not enough to make you pick this thing up.... that cover sure as hell should be!(less)
Read 6/29/14 - 6/30/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to those who believe you can never go home again but say fuck it and do it anyway Pages: 120 Publis...moreRead 6/29/14 - 6/30/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to those who believe you can never go home again but say fuck it and do it anyway Pages: 120 Publisher: Calamari Press Released: March 2014
No one comes from a perfect family, no matter what those cheesy 80's tv sitcoms would have you believe. The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Family Matters - pah-lease. Whose family actually sits around the kitchen table bemoaning what's fair and what's not? Who has parents that are skilled in not only talking you out of doing something stupid, but could do so in a way that utterly convinced you, all nice and clean-like, without any yelling or cursing or throwing of things or verbal humiliation, like those god-awful shows managed, in a swift half-hour segment?
We are not the results of a happy, healthy, normal household. We are children of divorce or mentally and physically abusive parents. We are the unappreciated, unwanted offspring of dope-heads and meth-heads and alcoholics. We raised ourselves while our depressed, unemployed or underpaid, unhappy mothers and fathers struggled to make ends meet, children of parents who constantly reminded us of the hardship our needs and wants had placed upon them.
We got ourselves off to school every morning and relied on our older siblings to make sure we had some food in our stomachs and scrubbed under our armpits and behind our ears. We hung out with friends until late at night, hoping to sneak in unnoticed as our parents lie there on the couch, passed out in front of the television. We were one teeny tiny misstep away from becoming one of the wild, caged animals you see in the zoo, pacing back and forth across our small, familiar bit of land, puffing out our chests and snarling and snapping if strangers circled too close.
Brian Hobson's Deep Ellum is very much a sentimental look back at that broken childhood, at family relationships gone bad (and getting worse), at why they say "you can't go home again", and rightly, who the fuck wants to? It also details, more specifically, a reluctant last-gasp attempt to pull the pieces back together when three siblings are called back home after their mother's most recent failed suicide.
Gideon, our narrator and middle child, leaves his Chicago life behind and crashes at his older sister Meg's apartment to be closer to his mother and step-father in their time of need. Though he finds, within the very first day, that this is going to require a heck of a lot more energy than he is willing to expend. Meg, for her part, appears to do everything she can to avoid being around, preferring to lose herself in whatever dark and drug-induced corners of Dallas she can tuck herself into while Basille, the youngest and most conscientious of the threesome (though that's not saying a whole lot), is relied on for the day-to-day hang outs at the parents' place. Family obligation, freedom, and the fucking aggravation that goes along with all of it, right? Someone always gets to disappear while the other(s) are left, grudgingly, to pick up the slack.
Hobson is at his best when creating wholly uncomfortable familial situations - the Flowers-in-the-Attic wrongness to Meg and Gideon's relationship, the unspoken mounting tension between Gideon and his step-father, the increasing drug abuse of all three siblings, and the overall disinterest they show towards their mother and her current state of mind. What's the saying? The family that incessantly picks at each other's wounds stays together? Hobson is also a master at word economy, expressing only what's necessary and trusting, or simply allowing, his readers to infer the rest. He isn't afraid to hold a mirror up to all the ugly shit families are famous for pulling on each other, either. Whether you've lived a similarly messed up life or not, you certainly know someone who has, or can relate to some of the circumstances here.
Deep Ellum is one of those books you happily, unexpectedly, fall into. I'd been meaning to read it for awhile now, ever since the publisher sent along the digital file, quite a way's back. And for some reason it just kept getting pushed farther and farther down the review pile. Until, two days ago, when I was caught out and about without my current (paper) read, and pulled this up on my phone. Within minutes, Hobson's writing sucked me in and refused to spit me out until I'd read every last word. And as I read, every so often, I bent over and kicked myself in the ass, wondering what the hell took me so long to get started on it. But then again, I always feel the right books come to you at just the right times. I think Deep Ellum knew it was time. And I'm glad that I listened.
Listened 6/26/14 - 7/7/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers of Book 1, for, uhm, obvious reasons Audio 10.5 hours Publisher: Blackstone Audio Rele...moreListened 6/26/14 - 7/7/14 4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers of Book 1, for, uhm, obvious reasons Audio 10.5 hours Publisher: Blackstone Audio Released: May 2014
WARNING: Do not read this review if you haven't read Annihilation. I'm about to spoil a whole lotta shit if you do....
So Book 2 of the Southern Reach Trilogy. Not as chilling and creepy as Annihilation, but certainly not without charms of its own, either.
Authority picks up a few months after the events of Annihilation, with Jeff Vandermeer turning his sharp eye on the inner workings of The Southern Reach and the introduction of Control, its new Acting Director. Immediately, we itch to ask questions... where did Control come from? The old Director, the one Control is replacing, who was he/she? And Jeff does not waste any time filling in these blanks.
We discover quite early on that Control's mother works out in Central - a fancy name for Headquarters - and she pulled some strings to get her son into the position. He's a bit of a fuck-up, lets his emotions lead him around, but he's thorough and determined to get to the bottom of whatever the hell is going on at The Southern Reach. All of these Expeditions come and gone, and getting worse... what is actually going on over at the Border and within Area X? And how much of it is to be blamed on The Southern Reach's incompetence?
Control's first order of business is to interview the survivors of the 12th Expedition. That's right. I said it. The Survivors. What the...?! If you'll recall, everyone but The Biologist died in Area X, and the last we heard of The Biologist, she was walking to the farthest shores in search of her husband, who she felt certain he was still out there somewhere. But, nope. Here they all are... well, almost all of them. The Southern Reach found The Archaeologist, The Surveyor, and The Biologist miraculously returned to the real world, with little to no recollection of the events that took place within Area X or of how they escaped it. The Psychologist, however, has not yet turned up.
Here, Control makes his first decision - he'll only interview The Biologist. He informs Grace, the Assistant Director, of this - she's a woman of many, many secrets who harbors a serious dislike of Control - and she promptly releases the others. So, it's Control and The Biologist. And she's behaving oddly. She's not playing along and her responses, vague and incomplete, end up only creating more questions for him. Control needs to understand what took place within the realm of the Border, what The Biologist - who's asked Control to call her "Ghostbird" because, she claims, she is NOT The Biologist - recalls of Area X, her fellow Expedition-mates, and how the heck she ended up back in the vacant lot.
In between the bouts of interviewing, Control gets to know his staff. There's Chaney, a strangely chipper gentleman who acts as Control's Chauffeur, making introductions, teaching him the layout of the land, and even driving him over to the Border so he can see it firsthand. He appears mostly unconcerned and unknowledgeable with the inner workings of The Southern Reach. Then there's Whitby, a scientist of sorts, who is obsessed with the Border and the secrets it contains. He's a weird one, Whitby, spending a lot of his time in the supply closet, and Control - like it or not - spends quite a bit of time with him, listening to his theories on Area X and the Border and what is it and HOW it came to be. And of course, there's Grace, his Assistant Director, who seems dead-set on withholding information, only sharing details when Control's proven to her that he's already gathered intel on the things he questions her on. She's covering something up, or hiding something, and Control's not going to give up until he gets to the bottom of the Expeditions.
So in a sense, Authority is actually about Control's LACK of authority and the false sense of authority Central and The Southern Reach appear to be wielding around. Who can stand there and say they have authority or control over nature? Or unnatural events? Who can claim to have an event like The Border and Area X under control when they don't have a clue about how to it even came to be? Or what's controlling IT?
Where Annihilation shone a spotlight inside Area X, here, Authority tries to shine the light outside Area X, highlighting all of the cracks in the system, the confusion and curiosity of the 'Corporate Heads', and proves, once and for all, that no one has a fucking clue what the hell is going on.
Authority is not as fast-paced as it predecessor, and it reads like a true investigation would... ask a few questions, see what rabbit-holes it forces you down, change your technique and your focus, ask a few more questions, weigh the new information against the information you've already got, see what fits and what doesn't, pressure the interviewee, pressure your peers, look inside locked cabinets and behind sealed doors to uncover the secrets no one else wants you to see, ask the questions no one wants to answer and WHAM-O. By the end of the book, your head is spinning and everything you thought you knew about Area X and the Border and Central and The Southern Reach is simultaneously confirmed and thrown out the window.
So, does Authority give you answers to some of the questions you had while reading Annihilation? Absolutely! But, for every answer you get, Authority creates another question that is left hanging, which we hope are to be explored in Book 3. (less)