authority“In Control’s dreams it is early morning, the sky deep blue with just a twinge of light.”

Earlier this year I read Jeff VanderMeer’s very strange Annihilation. I enjoyed it, while at the same time not having a bloody clue what was going on. I said that the time that I would get around to the sequels, and a few weeks later I was browsing through the second-hand bookshops of Charing Cross Road when I found both the second and third book in good nick for a good price. I snatched them up, and here we are.

It goes without saying that if you plan on reading this series, this is not the beginning and so this review will be laced with spoilers from the off. Read on at your peril.

It’s a few months since the events of the first book and while we left the women stuck in Area X with apparently no hope of escape or idea what they were doing, three of them have suddenly turned up in the outside world again, all with amnesia and no evidence at all that they ever passed through the border, it’s up to the people at Southern Reach headquarters to work out what happened.

But changes have been afoot there, too. With the director missing, a new man has taken over, known to his colleagues as Control, and he’s been charged with solving the mysteries of Area X. Unfortunately, the notes left by the old director are a mess, and no one seems altogether willing (or sane enough) to help him decode them. He quickly comes to blows with the assistant director, Grace, and he also soon reveals to the reader that not only is he trying to solve the mysteries, he’s also reporting back all his findings to another agency.

The deeper down the rabbit hole that Control goes, the more confused everything becomes, and just when he thinks he might be on to something, something happens at Southern Reach that puts everyone back to square one…

There seems, at first, little overlap between this book and the first. There’s new characters, it’s set slightly further into the future and we’re learning about the situation from the other side of the border, hence the title. But then we meet the biologist and see Control interviewing her, trying to get her to remember, but there’s a suggestion that she does remember, she just doesn’t want to share.

Although slightly less creepy than the first book, there’s still a definite thread of unease running through the novel as the character’s all seem to be running to their own agenda. It’s also quite terrifying to note that the people sending expeditions into Area X know even less than they let on, sending in people after filling their heads with half-truths and hypnosis. The fact that no one really knows what’s going on adds to the insanity of the novel, further emphasised by the characters themselves all seeming to go insane to some degree. The biologist also makes for an interesting character again, but I admit that I’d forgotten some details about her from the first book. By the end, most of them were back.

I’ll have to finish the trilogy, but once more, I can’t even begin to imagine where this one is going. Let’s hope we finally get some answers in the last book.

And on that note, that’s it! Ninety-five books down in 2015 and the count begins again tomorrow. My top ten of the year will be up sometime in the next week, but until then, I wish you all the best for 2016! Here we go!

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