Summary and book reviews of Anthill by Edward Wilson

Anthill

A Novel

By Edward O. Wilson

Anthill
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2010,
    378 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2011,
    384 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

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Book Summary

Inspirational and magical, the story of boy who grows up determined to save the world from its most savage ecological predator: Man himself.

"What the hell do you want?" snarled Frogman at Raff Cody, as the boy stepped innocently onto the reputed murderer's property. Fifteen years old, Raff, along with his older cousin, Junior, had only wanted to catch a glimpse of Frogman’s 1000-pound alligator.

Thus, begins the saga of Anthill, which follows the thrilling adventures of a modern-day Huck Finn, whose improbable love of the "strange, beautiful, and elegant" world of ants ends up transforming his own life and the citizens of Nokobee County. Battling both snakes bites and cynical relatives who just don’t understand his consuming fascination with the outdoors, Raff explores the pristine beauty of the Nokobee wildland. And in doing so, he witnesses the remarkable creation and destruction of four separate ant colonies (“The Anthill Chronicles”), whose histories are epics that unfold on picnic grounds, becoming a young naturalist in the process.

An extraordinary undergraduate at Florida State University, Raff, despite his scientific promise, opts for Harvard Law School, believing that the environmental fight must be waged in the courtroom as well as the lab. Returning home a legal gladiator, Raff grows increasingly alarmed by rapacious condo developers who are eager to pave and subdivide the wildlands surrounding the Chicobee River. But one last battle awaits him in his epic struggle. In a shattering ending that no reader will forget, Raff suddenly encounters the angry and corrupt ghosts of an old South he thought had all but disappeared, and learns that “war is a genetic imperative,” not only for ants but for men as well.

Part thriller, part parable, Anthill will not only transfix readers with its stunning twists and startling revelations, but will provide readers with new insights into the meaning of survival in our rapidly changing world.

1

Two weeks before Labor Day, Raphael Semmes Cody sat with his cousin Junior in Roxie’s Ice Cream Palace. Both were scooping out almond crunch ice cream covered with butterscotch syrup and sprinkled with chopped walnuts. Outside, heavy air grown humid from passage over the Gulf of Mexico and torrid from radiant heat off the Florida Panhandle had come to rest upon the little town of Clayville. The Alabama sky, mercilessly clear, offered no promise of an afternoon shower. Customers entering the Palace plucked at shirts and blouses stuck with sweat to their bodies.

“My Lord, it is hot out there,” said a linen-clad businessman with a sigh as he pushed through the door.

A farmer sitting on a stool laughed. “Yeah, hotter’n a bucket of red ants.”

Junior didn’t care. He said to Raphael, “I got a great idea. Let’s go see if we can find the Chicobee Serpent.” He meant Alabama’s equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster. Over the ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

What makes Anthill a rare novel, and an exciting one, is the span of fiction, nonfiction, science, conservation, politics, and business. If readers have an interest in even one of these subjects, Anthill will entertain not necessarily for its flawless grasp of the subject—with the exception of entomology—but for its interesting take on the topic in relation to other subjects. Wilson pairs business with social activism, law with ecology, and storytelling with biology. Anthill is not just fanciful bedtime reading for biologists; it poses valuable, essential questions to the American public.   (Reviewed by Elizabeth Whitmore Funk).

Full Review Members Only (811 words).

Media Reviews
The New York Times Book Review - Barbara Kingsolver

Melville gave us whales and obsession, Orwell gave us pigs and politicians. Now Wilson suggests with winning conviction that in our own colonies, we proceed at our peril when we cast off mindful restraint in favor of unchecked growth. It's hard to resist the notion that as we bustle around with our heads bent to the day's next task, we are like nothing so much as a bunch of ants.

Library Journal

Though his characters come off as one-dimensional, Wilson excels at describing the pungent smells and tranquil silence of the disappearing wetlands of Alabama.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Wilson's keen eye for the natural world and his acumen for environmental science is on brilliant display in this multifaceted story about human life and its connection to nature.

Booklist

Starred Review. With lyrical exactitude, empathy for all life, and a shocking conclusion, Wilson’s wise, provocative novel of the interaction between humankind and the rest of nature expresses a resonant earth ethic.

Author Blurb Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute
A triumphant epic of life by the world’s greatest naturalist. This is War and Peace - among the ants, the land developers, and the environmentalists and preachers. Marvel at E. O. Wilson’s wondrous and captivating creation.

Author Blurb ill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
If Edward O. Wilson were actually an ant, he'd be the warrior and the drone and the queen and everyone else too. Anthill will remind people of all of his gifts and introduce them to some new ones!

Reader Reviews
Deby Coley

Anthill
This coming of age tale grabs you from page one and will not turn you loose until the last page. Not only will the reader find himself mesmerized by the activity of the ants, but it's message acts as a cautionary tale for today's reader. A short ...   Read More

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E. O. Wilson, the Scientist

E O WilsonOne of the aspects that makes Anthill unique is author E. O. Wilson's long career in biology and entomology. Anthill merits recognition for its literary merits alone, but the author's unique qualifications for the novel's subject matter deserve attention as well.

E. O. Wilson's long career as a natural scientist began in the late 1950s at Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. While most of Wilson's work has concentrated on the classification and ecology of ants in New Guinea, other Pacific islands, and the American tropics (where Anthill takes place), he has also played prominent roles within the fields of chemical ecology, island biogeography, conversation biology, biodiversity, and sociobiology, a discipline that he ...

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