This second volume of VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy starts in media res and ends with a cliffhanger. It displaces the focus to a new character and out of Area X proper to the Southern Reach facility where the investigations are based. The new protagonist is referenced mostly by the nickname “Control,” and he is in a nominally executive position, but the story has him constantly at the mercy of greater and more obscure forces.
Compared to Annihilation, this sequel emphasizes the espionage dimension more. It reminds me somewhat of a grimmer Laundry Files–not for the yog-sothothery, but for the Kafkaesque intelligence bureaucracy with degraded resources, hidden factions and compromised leadership. Like Annihilation, it’s very character-driven, with some clever ideas and limpid, evocative prose. It also has some startling and horrific surprises.
A physical feature of the book I read was at the start of each of the four major sections, where the text-free facing pages were progressively darkening shades of gray. It suited the theme nicely. [via]