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Hummingbird Salamander: A Novel Kindle Edition
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Named one of NPR's Best Books of 2021
From the author of Annihilation, a brilliant speculative thriller of dark conspiracy, endangered species, and the possible end of all things.
Security consultant “Jane Smith” receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and clues leading her to a taxidermied salamander. Silvina, the dead woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of an Argentine industrialist. By taking the hummingbird from the storage unit, Jane sets in motion a series of events that quickly spin beyond her control.
Soon, Jane and her family are in danger, with few allies to help her make sense of the true scope of the peril. Is the only way to safety to follow in Silvina’s footsteps? Is it too late to stop? As she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, time is running out—for her and possibly for the world.
Hummingbird Salamander is Jeff VanderMeer at his brilliant, cinematic best, wrapping profound questions about climate change, identity, and the world we live in into a tightly plotted thriller full of unexpected twists and elaborate conspiracy.
"Hummingbird Salamander is harrowing, gripping, and profound. It's both a thriller and a requiem for a disappearing world. I expect this novel will haunt me for a long time." ―Emily St. John Mandel
“Jeff VanderMeer's Hummingbird Salamander is an existential mindfuck cleverly disguised as a thriller. Though the plot never stops rocketing forward, this astonishing novel continually shifts and expands in scale, until the puzzle the narrator is tasked with solving at the outset becomes an almost Matrix-like invitation to open herself up to a new and shattering understanding of her world, and ours. Visionary, dark, beautiful, and strange, Hummingbird Salamander is that rare novel that coaxes you into imagining the unimaginable". ―Kristen Roupenian, author of You Know You Want This: Cat Person and Other Stories
“A strange, seductive eco-thriller ripe for our era.” ―Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of Mexican Gothic
“This is an astonishing book, topical and madly compelling. A timely, unsettling novel of obsession and descent―a thriller equal parts ecological and psychological, whose puzzle warns of a natural world on the edge of ruination. There's an urgency to it, but it's not preachy. VanderMeer shines in revealing our current dystopia.” ―Chuck Wendig, bestselling author of Wanderers
“Hummingbird Salamander is a profound and incendiary thriller hurtling backward from the end of the world. Jeff VanderMeer’s tale of ecological and personal obsession inhabits that strange, surreal space where the natural world and human ambition collide – a space almost no other writer has chronicled with as much reverence and imaginative lucidity. The result is a detective story unlike any I’ve read before, futuristic in bearing but deeply relevant to this present, dangerous moment.” ―Omar El Akkad, award-winning journalist and author of American War
“This gripping eco-thriller pulls readers into a world of danger, mystery, and obsession. Surprising, suspenseful, and compelling, Hummingbird Salamander is in turns insidious and explosive, heartrending and beautiful. Riveting.” ―Meg Gardiner, Edgar-Award-winning author of the UNSUB series
About the Author
- ASIN : B088DPRZPJ
- Publisher : MCD (April 6, 2021)
- Publication date : April 6, 2021
- Language : English
- File size : 13125 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 369 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0771094876
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #55,782 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviews with images
Top reviews from the United States
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Here's the thing: this novel is SO well written - the imagery, the characters, the tension, the chase and the action - that you are fully engulfed in the story and you can't wait to get to the end and then you don't want it to end. AND you cannot pick up another novel right away because it just won't be as good as this one. (I had to read some nonfiction for a while to clear my head.)
The end is unexpected and perfect. Enjoy the ride getting there.
I think the combination of the noir detective and climate disaster dystopia turned eco-terrorism got too gawky, the way Vandermeer did it. He wrote his protagonist, a wife and mother, abandon her family for a dead woman scientist she didn’t know that left her a taxidermied hummingbird and a manifesto scattered like breadcrumbs, all to follow down a rabbit hole. While she saw the world was burning, the skies change to a chemical green tinge, and a murky pandemic invade the species. “Jane” casually cheated on her husband with strangers (even though she was introverted), engaged in casual violence, and watched others get casually beaten, battered, and killed.
I’m confused as to why Vandermeer kept trotting out stereotypical villains and half-villains, who we obviously won’t care about, and set up scene after scene with these half-formed and half-baked characters. Some were caricatures that met cartoon fates. All the while, threaded through the novel, were the supposedly profound (?) words left by the dead Argentine scientist, Silvina, scion to a wealthy, powerful, criminal family. Criminal as in: wildlife trafficking and (maybe) bioweapons.
Anyway, most of the stuff written by Silvina seemed rather trite and coyly abstruse. Occasionally, an author will disguise an inability to shine a light by keeping us in perpetual darkness. Vandermeer seemed that way, or maybe he deals better with the cerebral than the emotional, (which he then sentimentalized at key plot turns). The novel was often busy with extraneous details of hiding finding, texting, calling that were essentially meaningless after a while. Instead of enlightening me, I was drowning in the drawn-out repetition and sociopathy of it all.
When everyone is a sociopath, what is really at stake? The world, I know--that’s what the author put up as the Holy Grail--saving the world. But Jane was constantly being beaten and bruised, either by accident or enemy. And we followed her step by step, car by car, and cars that trail cars, her and her “Shovel Pig,” her nickname for her jumbo handbag.
I learned some things that the internet could have taught me about hummingbirds and salamanders, but the ultimate reveal of the bird and the amphibian were anticlimactic. As far as ecology and wildlife trafficking, what I learned was choppy and randomly sequenced, so I got lost in the weeds, or in the pervasive dark. There’s not much one can figure out, either, since new, essential facts are unveiled right before each small discovery, and the build-up of one thing after another and another gummed it up for me. That, and “Jane’s” lot and lode of injuries. Ouch!
Then this over-the-top ending, which I think Vandermeer could have finessed more keenly. I can tell that he has talent, that maybe I’d like some of his other books. Perhaps this was a rushed quarantine-y book to meet the times. Or I’m just the wrong reader. The style felt forced and disingenuous. Of course others will find this exciting and adventurous, and I accept that I dropped out of caring about these characters left to save the world, even though I read the entire mythic tale, hoping to be converted. I’m sorry, Jeff Vandermeer, that I had to write this review. I can tell that this writer cares about humanity and other living things, more than what is conveyed, extinct or otherwise.
2.5 rounded down
It's a great read, a page-turner, as the protagonist follows the clues left by an accused ecoterrorist before her death. Very bad people start coming after her, but she won't relent in her search regardless of the consequences. She is tough and fights back.
We learn about her dysfunctional family and childhood on a farm. She is full of anger. I found the character very compelling. More and more people are likely to make risky and dangerous choices as the ecosystem is destroyed and human society unravels.
For several years in junior high and high school I kept tiger salamanders as pets that I had caught in the nearby woods. They were easy to take care of -- I fed them earthworms in the summer and mealworms in the winter. I eventually let them go back into the woods. That gave me a powerful connection to the novel.
This is the first VanderMeer novel I have read. It won't be the last.
Top reviews from other countries
Not quite as haunting as some of his other work, but lots of striking images that linger past the end of the book.
Any comments about the plot may be akin to spoilers.
But one can say that this is one of the best ever depictions of the current and near future world -and through the eyes of a very unique protagonist.
An outstanding read. Highly recommended.
The literary skills of the author to vividly create scenes place him as truly from one of the most gifted.