Whereas Annihilation took place inside Area X, Authority takes place outside, at Southern Reach. The folks at Southern Reach are charged with studying Area X, putting together expeditions to send into it, and potentially protecting the world against Area X and whatever might come out of it. Unfortunately, Southern Reach is currently a dysfunctional environment at best.
A man who prefers to be called Control but whose real name is something else is sent to Southern Reach to be its new director. Grace, the assistant director, takes an immediate dislike to him, leading to a power struggle that stretches across most of the book. While trying to get Grace to accept his authority, Control, a spy from a family of spies, also attempts to get his bearings. He interviews the twelfth expedition's biologist, learns as much about Area X and Southern Reach as his new employees are willing and able to tell him, and tries to figure out if the previous director was as unstable as the mess in her office made her look, all of which he reports back to his shadowy boss.
Although I wasn't really a fan of the first book, I continued on with the trilogy in the hope that it would improve and maybe give me a few more answers. It did provide me with a few answers - some of the things the psychologist said and did make a lot more sense now, for example - but it also left me with more questions and less trust that the final book in the trilogy would answer them.
Annihilation had its problems, but it was far more interesting than Authority, which spent way more time than I'd have preferred on Control's family history and his obsession with the biologist (who wasn't really the biologist and who preferred to go by Ghost Bird). I kept reading because of the book's occasional links to Annihilation and the mystery of Area X, but they were crumbs in a sea of crap about Control's mother, grandfather, and father. Yes, that info tied into one of the big revelations about Control's situation, but surely it could have been more tightly written?
It didn't help that, after a point, I just wasn't interested in Control. He acted like he was some kind of hotshot spy who'd slide into Southern Reach, figure out the right power games to play, and end up with the power to improve Southern Reach's operation and get the info his boss needed. Except that it turned out he wasn't nearly as slick and competent as he tried to tell himself he was. Some of it was lies, to himself and to the reader, and some of it was that, despite his preferred name for himself, he actually had even less control over his situation than I initially thought.
I really liked when things started to get weird and creepy near the end of the book (ooh, that scene with Whitby!), but it was too little, too late. Also, a word of warning for animal lovers: Control has a cat that he ends up abandoning near the end of the book. No further information was provided about the cat's fate, so I prefer to think that he somehow found a safe place and thrived.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)