If you’ve followed me for any amount of time you probably have heard me say that by principle, I don’t read books that have a legitimate Goodreads rating of under 3.7 ish. Rare exceptions are made like when I happen to have time to finally read a Jeff VanderMeer and one is available, and unfortunately I picked his worst rated book by far (3.27).
Guys..don’t be me. Let’s do a quick look at the book first then I’ll share some thoughts
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: Hummingbird Salamander
- Series: N/A
- Author: Jeff VanderMeer
- Publisher & Release: MCD, 2021
- Length: 368 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐ I mean no not really but if you are a fan of the author maybe give it a try
Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:
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
This book tried to be a lot of things. It tried to be dystopian and didn’t succeed. It tried to be an eco-thriller and missed the mark. It didn’t fall anywhere into science fiction despite a lot of bird and salamander facts that ground the plot action to a halt every time he did a facts chapter.
If anything it’s a bit of a mystery and thriller at times and alternate future. I felt like he skimmed over pandemics and chaos and the world devolving but nothing got enough attention or traction to stick with me.
The main character was absolutely terrible too. Not only because she was aloof and anonymous and her arc didn’t make a ton of sense, but she had the nerve to call herself a good wife and mother despite the fact that she cheated on her husband multiple times, almost did it again, and left them both to the wolves when she could have used her skills in security to hide and try to protect them. Mom of the year award, right?
I didn’t even mind all the cryptic language – in fact I liked that. The anonymity and ever progressing loss of identity made sense. It was the random springing from point A to point F that was terrible, and that the narrator really had no motivation to do anything she did (really, you’re just going to sacrifice your family and life and everything for a random mysterious letter?
When the ending came around, even with the mystery kind of solved and the motivations unveiled, even if the main character had known from the start that was what was happening and why…. Would she have done it? I really don’t know.
Basically the premise sounded really good and, yeah, you know, save the trees don’t trash the Earth and wear a mask, etc etc etc
Onwards and upwards
thanks for checking out my book review of Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer. This copy was obtained through Libby and as always, all opinions are my own