I was excited about the first installment of the Southern Reach trilogy, and anxious to read volume 2, Authority. The first volume was very short, and one question I had after reading it was: why a trilogy? Why not just a long book? But then I thought, hey, maybe the second volume, which is almost twice as long as the first, will have much more going on.
Sadly, I was wrong. Authority, in spite of its wonderfully creepy cover (and yes, it's relevant to the story), drags. A lot. It's told from the POV of John Rodriguez, or, as he likes to call himself, Control (because of his job, but yeah, pretty heavy-handed metaphor right there). He's been sent to Southern Reach to find out why the expeditions into the mysterious Area X keep having unsettling--and sometimes horrifying--results.
So far, so good. The first book set up Area X as a place of terrifying unknowns, so yeah, let's get behind the people who are trying to figure it out. But John--er, Control--spends so much time talking to people...and thinking...and talking...and thinking...and thinking about saying or doing things that he then decides not to say or do...
It's not until the last 50 pages that the story really kicks in, and that's so frustrating. There's a great deal that occurs that would have borne more detail.
It's also frustrating because Vandermeer is a good writer:
"But it had seemed to Control like the companionable silence of shared experience, as if he had been initiated into membership in an exclusive club without having been asked first. He was wary of that feeling; it was a space where shadows crept in that shouldn't creep in, where people agreed to things that they did not actually agree with, believing that they were of one purpose and intent."
There's also a wonderful section where Control thinks another person is referring to the "terror" of Area X, but comes to find out the word is "terroir", which does work as a metaphor, and maybe could have been extended later in the book.
Ah well. In the end, I gave it three stars on Goodreads rather than the two I originally thought about giving it, because: 1. I was never tempted to stop reading, even though I was frustrated; and 2. I still want to read the third volume when it comes out this month.