Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer | Aka We Need to Protect the Earth

I don’t even know where to begin with this book, the latest from well known author Jeff VanderMeer. VanderMeer is apparently known for writing stories with strong themes and ideas about the environment, which is definitely found in Hummingbird Salamander.

Blurb: 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.

Publication: April 6th 2021 by MCD

When I looked up the author’s name to check spelling, I saw that under his Wikiepedia page, it says that he’s a part of the literary movement New Weird. Which is probably the most accurate thing I’ve read. VanderMeer excels at bringing a new level of interesting and weird in speculative fiction/ science fiction (even though I’ve only read two of his books so far, including Hummingbird).

The thing is, I didn’t love this book. It’s touted as an eco-thriller yet the thriller part wasn’t at the level that I personally prefer and enjoy. Hummingbird, I found, was a lot more subtle with the thriller aspects, playing the long game with the reader. Keeping me interested just enough to keep turning the page. Which tends to be more of a least favorite kind of thriller. Even though one of the twists was really good, I started to suspect about halfway through the book.

I also went in with a high level of expectation of the writing. When I read Annihilation, I was enamored with VanderMeer’s writing. This book, however, VanderMeer’s writing is more direct with shorter sentences and less awesome descriptive writing. Though I will acknowledge that having that kind of writing wouldn’t have fit into this book.

I did enjoy the commentary on how humans and our behavior, without bothering to realize, are slowly killing the Earth by ruining fragile and important ecosystems. Which in turn tends to make us more fragile and less likely to be able to adapt to major changes in our natural environment; where we don’t stand a chance when something like a pandemic hits. This book clearly was published at an interesting time and hits fairly close to home with current events.

Mother Earth is slapping us upside the head right now y'all--LISTEN UP!

However, the whole of the book was too meandering for me. I didn’t much care for our MC “Jane Smith” and because of that I disliked the parts where she tells a story about her childhood; those parts rarely felt necessary to me and while meant to be a look into the characterization of Jane, I rarely cared.

Honestly, I think this is going to be one of those books where a reader will either enjoy it or not enjoy it. Even though I find myself in the middle, I’m not sure that the characters and overall plot matter so much as the social commentary that VanderMeer makes.

I definitely will be interested in reading other’s reviews!

Is VanderMeer’s latest on your TBR list?

Thank to Netgalley and publisher MCD (division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux) for kindly providing me a free copy in exchange for an honest review. This has not impacted my review in any way.

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