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.
This was my first book by Jeff VanderMeer. And it’s a clever, clever one, which I’m still thinking about.
You have to be in a special kind of mindset for Hummingbird Salamander- it is enigmatic, confusing, thought-provoking and complex. I didn’t find it easy to get into the story (too many run-of-the-mill, predictable thrillers recently), but the writing was so good that I just had to continue trying to wrap my mind around this mystery. It is as if the book had a special kind of rhythm, keeping me alert and paying close attention, and then dulling my senses with the foreshadowing I wasn’t ready for. Eventually, everything becomes clear and you see how well-plotted this book is. My biggest enemy were my own expectations of what the book is going to be about or rather how it is going to approach me- appeal to my emotions? logic? current events?
‘Jane Smith’ is a security systems analyst. There aren’t many women in her position and she seems to enjoy her work. The story begins with Jane receiving an envelope, left for her in her favourite bar by a mysterious customer. Inside the envelope there is a key to a storage unit and a note from a woman called Silvina. Intrigued by the note implying that Silvina is dead, Jane visits the storage unit and finds a box with a taxidermied hummingbird that belongs to a very rare, now extinct species. Jane discovers that Silvina was a very unusual person, an alleged bioterrorist. Jane takes up the challenge set by Silvina’s note, although it quickly becomes apparent that she has got herself into something very dangerous.
Jane is a unique character in many ways and I’m not talking about her striking appearance. For most of the book you are led to believe she has this strange emotional disconnect from the world she lives in – her family, her parents, her colleagues. Is it really so? She keeps dropping hints at some future events and talking to you about the change that is happening in her, but you are caught in all the smoke and mirrors of the thriller part, until the true meaning of the journey from the hummingbird to the salamander and back is revealed.
It isn’t easy to classify this book- an ecological thriller? mystery? noir? conspiracy? sci-fi? There are some very pertinent questions about our world and its future and there are some profound philosophical reflections. As you keep reading, you get more and more pieces to help you understand the protagonist and you are drawn more and more into the story. Just go along with the author’s brilliant writing. I promise you the book is one of a kind.
Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux forthe ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.