David Katzman's Reviews > Authority

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
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Apr 30, 2014

it was amazing
Recommended for: lovers of highly crafted language, fantasy, horror, psychological drama, mystery...

An unsettling study of the ineffable. The indescribable. A slowly constricting knot. Our human edifices are evanescent. Or as I say in my novel A Greater Monster , "A home is paper thin."

Nature is a harsh taskmistress. Nature is implacable. We have been playing with fire for a long time now. Humans think they own the land. The clouds. The air. The water. We do not own it. It owns us. We've been borrowing it without paying back the principal. And it's going to come due soon.

Authority is the second book in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy. I urge you to pick up Book 1, Annihilation, which I reviewed here.

Book 2 exudes a slow burning tension that builds a sense of claustrophobia and mystery. It is again a sort of hybrid fantasy (that's literature for you, doesn't always fall into neat categories) with elements of fantasy horror mystery and psychological thrillers combined. The horror, like in Book 1, has a rather a Lovecraftian quality—which embodies this theme of the indescribable I mentioned at the outset. Lovecraft presents a horror behind our dimension, insane indescribable entities that lurk behind all things and that we can never understand. Life itself, even that which is beautiful, is inexplicable. Life just is. No matter the bones of the matter, the physical attributes of animal and plant matter...existence is a mystery. When you look at atoms and electrons and quantum particles...and the mysteries of the big bang and.... In some ways, the Southern Reach trilogy, at least so far in Books 1 and 2, is about that ineffable mystery of existence. And in other ways, it is about the horror of not understanding. That which cannot be named. We all know how the story ends. We all die. No one likes that ending. And it might come for our species, when? A few years with a nuclear surprise? A couple centuries when global warming creates another ice age and clean water shortage? Blink of the eye.

Before getting on to the specifics, I'm simply going to say these are the best fantasy novels I've read in a long time. Erudite and masterful in the writing itself and with honest human characters. VanderMeer is a master of atmosphere, and both books conjure up a haunting, creeping dread that is both frightening and delicious. They were both hard to put down. Highly recommended.

What follows is marked as Spoiler for those who haven't read Book 1. If you have read Book 1, then I won't reveal any major surprises from Book 2.

(view spoiler)
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Reading Progress

April 30, 2014 – Shelved
April 30, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
May 21, 2014 – Started Reading
May 30, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Maria (new)

Maria Wonderful review David and love your thoughts on it! Definitely looking for this trilogy.


David Katzman Thank you!


Mark Flowers Wish I'd had space in my 250 word review to touch on the racial/ethnic issues which you mention. Great review.


David Katzman Thanks, Mark!


message 5: by Debra (new)

Debra Great review!


David Katzman Debra wrote: "Great review!"

Thank you, Debra! Nice of you to say.


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