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Publisher's Summary

A speculative thriller about the end of all things, set in an unnamed part of the Pacific Northwest. A harrowing descent into a secret world. 

Another winter morning in a city in the Northwest. 

Where, exactly? I won’t tell you. 

Who am I? I won’t tell you. Exactly. 

But you can call me Jane. 

Jane Smith, if that helps. 

I’m here to show you how the world will end. 

‘Jane Smith', a software manager in her late 40s who lives in the Pacific Northwest, receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit inside. In the storage unit is a taxidermied hummingbird and salamander. Along with a list of five more animals, signed ‘Love, Silvina'. The hummingbird and salamander turn out to be among the most endangered species in the world, the taxidermy commissioned by a notorious wildlife trafficking criminal. The message is from the daughter of an Argentine industrialist who has recently died, someone who became radicalised and is thought of in some quarters as an eco-terrorist. Jane does not know Silvina and has never met her, but just by taking the items from the storage unit has set events into play over which she has no control. 

Set against a very near-future backdrop of severe global warming events and domestic and foreign instability due to predatory government actions and an intrusive security state.

Why me? This was the question that tore at me, made me unable to sleep. Why me? What was so special about me? 

'You’re trying to destroy my life.'

'No. I’m trying to save your life.'

©2021 Jeff VanderMeer (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"An existential mindf--k cleverly disguised as a thriller. Though the plot never stops rocketing forward, this astonishing novel continually shifts and expands in scale, until the puzzle the narrator is tasked with solving at the outset becomes an almost Matrix-like invitation to open herself up to a new and shattering understanding of her world, and ours. Visionary, dark, beautiful, and strange, Hummingbird Salamander is that rare novel that coaxes you into imagining the unimaginable." (Kristen Roupenian, author of You Know You Want This: Cat Person and Other Stories)

"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." (Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Glass Hotel)

"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." (Omar El Akkad, award-winning journalist and author of American War)

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Profile Image for Jethro Wegener
  • Jethro Wegener
  • 04-22-21

Unsympathetic Main Character Ruins Good Writing

This is the first Jeff Vandemeer book I've experienced. It might well be the last.

I tried to like this one. On the surface it has everything I love.

Weird fiction. Science fiction elements. Spy thriller elements.

Plus, it's message is a very pertinent one. This may well be how the world ends, as our beautiful planet dies around us and we try to keep going until we can't anymore.

But "Jane Doe" is too much of an unsympathetic, unengaging character for me to care about her or her story.

She's dismissive, aloof, nasty, biting, and at times, downright mean to those around her. She insults a taxi driver early on in the book for no reason, other than that she can, I expect.

Her internal monologue is self-obsessed. Her views on the world around utterly bleak and hopeless.

And while it is indeed a hopeless world created here, I don't see the point of continuing with a story that has no likable characters in it to root for.

I've read a lot about how this work subverts the genres it has slotted itself into. About how it's telling us if we don't get our act together, then we're all doomed like these people in this book.

But if this is humanity as it is in real life, I don't care enough to want to save it. None of these characters are good. Least of all Jane and her awful family.

The writing itself is good. Vandermeer can obviously write well.

The rest of it, however, is unengaging and dull. Even the set pieces fail to impress.

Perhaps the worst of it is that this is a novel with a message. An important message. But the awful leads, heavy handed handling of the message itself, and general lack of any sort of hope means that the ones who most need to hear this message won't.

All in all, I wasted my money on this work and I really wish I hadn't.

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Profile Image for reba
  • reba
  • 04-20-21

narrator: please just read?

trying to listen but the narrator is over-emoting so much, loading so much affect into sometimes arbitrary words that i can barely follow the story or enjoy the writing for what it is.