In Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff Vandermeer, the world is at stake. In the noir mystery novel, the world is becoming more ecologically unstable as time goes on. “Jane Smith”, a security consultant is mysteriously sent a note and key from a known eco-terrorist, Silvina. This leads to a storage locker that contains a taxidermied hummingbird and clues that lead to a taxidermied salamander. As it becomes apparent that she is in danger, events spin out of control and lead her into the dark corners of Silvina’s world. By the author that brought us the Southern Reach Series, and Borne, this new novel centers around what our world could look like as things begin to unravel.
Jeff Vandermeer has a unique eco-horror take on things that runs through all of his novels and Hummingbird Salamander is no different. This noir take on the world leading up to eco-disaster was unique from his other novels in that it wasn’t so fantastical. Up until the very end, you could see how the world that these characters were in was still our world, just darker. I can’t say I enjoyed any of the characters or even the story, but it kept me reading steadily. Just out this month, Hummingbird Salamander will be one of the most unique novels of 2021.
This book wasn’t as horrifying to me as some of Vandermeer’s other works. Some of the worst images were of family trauma and the horrifying nature of taxidermy. It was interesting and incredibly sad at moments but not as blatantly horrific as some of the psychological scares in Annihilation or some of the body horror of the Borne world. I have to agree with someone I saw on Twitter who described Hummingbird Salamander as the pre-prequel to Borne. I think they could definitely be the same world, and possibly the same one as the Southern Reach. All of it could cohesively enough go together.
I recommend these books if you’re looking for a surrealist noir novel that highlights ecology and nature.
I received an e-book arc of Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff Vandermeer from the publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux & MCD.
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