Summary and book reviews of Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer

Hummingbird Salamander

by Jeff VanderMeer

Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer X
Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2021, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 5, 2022, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Daniela Schofield
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

[0]

Assume I'm dead by the time you read this. Assume you're being told all of this by a flicker, a wisp, a thing you can't quite get out of your head now that you've found me. And in the beginning, it's you, not me, being handed an envelope with a key inside … on a street, in a city, on a winter day so cold that breathing hurts and your lungs creak.

A barista leans out onto the sidewalk from your local coffee shop to say, "I almost forgot."

The before of those words and the after, and you stuck in the middle. "I almost forgot." Except the barista didn't forget, was instructed to make it happen that way. "Time sensitive."

You turn in surprise to receive what someone has left for you, but you don't refuse it. Bodies don't work that way—a person hands you something, you take it. A reflex. You worry about what it is later.

Or who wants you to have it. Because the barista doesn't know. No one in the coffee shop knows. From the night before. A different shift. No chain of evidence....

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In Hummingbird Salamander, readers are confronted with the physicality and fragility of both the natural environment and human existence, as well as how the latter exploits the former. Jane describes herself as a large woman who dabbled in amateur bodybuilding and wrestling in her youth; she increasingly relies on her bodily strength as the plot moves her away from working in a digital world to investigating the contradictions of analog existence. Through this investigation, Jane takes the reader on a journey of environmental decline that includes climate change, animal extinction and pandemics. The story is simultaneously comparable to our present world and one step closer to environmental ruin in a plausible warping of reality that will be familiar to fans of VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance)...continued

Full Review Members Only (699 words).

(Reviewed by Daniela Schofield).

Media Reviews

Washington Post
If you thought Rumaan Alam’s apocalyptic Leave the World Behind was too creepy, perhaps you shouldn’t read VanderMeer’s new speculative thriller, in which a woman called Jane Smith receives a note and a key from a dead eco-terrorist. No spoilers, but it’s safe to say the fate of the world is at stake, and you won’t look up even once while you’re reading.

Los Angeles Times
Like your favorite Hollywood blockbuster, Hummingbird Salamander features ecoterrorists, evil corporations, a race to defuse doomsday weapons, gunfire, fisticuffs, action sequences and hair-raising escapes.

Library Journal
VanderMeer brings his trademark atmospheric and heavily lyrical writing style to the arena of species extinction and climate degradation. He shows that, in a creepily curious way, taxidermy and extinction are intertwined fates for doomed animals. There is an implied connection to the present COVID-19 pandemic, with dire consequences. Recommended for fans of the author, though mainstream readers may find the story deliberately inscrutable.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A] striking mix of thriller and biotech speculative fiction...Exquisite prose pulls the reader deep into the labyrinthine plot. VanderMeer reinforces his place as one of today's most innovative writers.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The prolific VanderMeer moves from fantasy into noir territory with this version of an eco-thriller...A daring change of genres, and an entertaining whirlwind at that.

Booklist (starred review)
Riveting...VanderMeer is a marvelous craftsman. Every word here feels carefully chosen; every sentence has a purpose; every plot point causes ripples felt through the rest of the story...The author's devoted fans will flock to this novel, and they will be richly rewarded. Switching genres with aplomb, VanderMeer knocks his conspiracy thriller out of the park.

Author Blurb Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Glass Hotel
Hummingbird Salamander is harrowing, gripping, and profound. It's both a thriller and a requiem for a disappearing world. I expect this novel will haunt me for a long time.

Author Blurb Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of Mexican Gothic
A strange, seductive eco-thriller ripe for our era.

Author Blurb Chuck Wendig, bestselling author of Wanderers
This is an astonishing book, topical and madly compelling. A timely, unsettling novel of obsession and descent?a thriller equal parts ecological and psychological, whose puzzle warns of a natural world on the edge of ruination. There's an urgency to it, but it's not preachy. VanderMeer shines in revealing our current dystopia.

Author Blurb Omar El Akkad, award-winning journalist and author of American War
Hummingbird Salamander is a profound and incendiary thriller hurtling backward from the end of the world. Jeff VanderMeer's tale of ecological and personal obsession inhabits that strange, surreal space where the natural world and human ambition collide – a space almost no other writer has chronicled with as much reverence and imaginative lucidity. The result is a detective story unlike any I've read before, futuristic in bearing but deeply relevant to this present, dangerous moment.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Wildlife Trafficking in Latin America

Jaguar in Brazil In Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer, the main character is left a taxidermied hummingbird as a clue. Early on in the book, it is revealed that this hummingbird belongs to a now-extinct species; wildlife trafficking and environmental degradation both become themes of the novel.

Although poaching and wildlife trafficking in Latin America have not always received as much attention as those phenomena in other parts of the world, and the term "endangered species" is often more commonly associated with animals in Africa or Asia, recent reports indicate that exploitation of animals in the area risks pushing its species toward extinction.

Latin America is one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth and home to approximately 60 ...

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