The second volume of VanderMeer’s trilogy (following Annihilation
) continues to investigate the secrets of Area X, a mysterious zone somewhere in the United States, isolated from the rest of the world through (as-yet) inexplicable processes, and from which participants of multiple expeditions have returned enormously changed—if they return at all. The narrator this time is John Rodriguez, who goes by the name “Control,” the newly appointed director of the Southern Reach, the organization that has, for 30 years, attempted to discover basic information about the zone. The Southern Reach is in turmoil following the calamitous 12th Area X expedition, which was the subject of Annihilation.
In this sequel, VanderMeer supplements his evocative descriptions of the unnatural Area X with the shadowy, dusty, seemingly half-forgotten offices in which Control spends his time, as he parses video footage and interrogation testimony in order to get to the bottom of the Area X mystery. The book strengthens and develops the narrative arc while remaining fully coherent on its own, revealing more and more secrets about Area X all the while. VanderMeer’s masterful command of the plot, his cast of characters, and the increasingly desperate situation will leave the reader desperate for the final volume in the trilogy. (May)