Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer: A Review

“Maybe it’s the heat in your body giving itself over to the cold in a rush, something to do with absolutes, but you can’t withhold a surge of raw, rough emotion. Not alone.”

When I tell you I audibly shrieked when I was accepted to receive an e-arc for this book, I mean it. Like, I was in a public place, I saw the email, and I squeaked. People looked at me funny. People are always looking at me funny, but for once, there was a really valid reason for this.

It’s interesting how much Jeff VanderMeer novels have stuck with me. A few of my closest friends and family have heard me go on and on about how much I love his books. I listen to Annihilation to fall asleep. I dunno, something about going into a foreign environment and slowly becoming a part of it has the same relaxing effect on my mind that Hozier’s “In the Woods Somewhere” does.

I wanted to like this book, I wanted it to be absolutely perfect. I think my expectations led me to find issue with it more; but these issues are not issues with the book, exactly, but with my own desires and expectations.

This book centers around “Jane Smith,” which she says is not her name, but a name with which you can associate with her. I always love the way VanderMeer plays with names- Silvina has many meetings that connect with “rooted,” and “forest,” which is a fun little thing to note while you’re reading. Jane proceeds to blow up her entire life in pursuit of the mystery of a woman named Silvina.

I don’t think this book was very science fiction-esque. It feels more eco-thriller than eco-fantasy. If you’re going in expecting Annihilation or Borne or even A Peculiar Peril, you’re not gonna get it. I was disappointed because of this, but I don’t think this makes the book objectively bad.

This book is tense, uncomfortable, and real. It hurts to see lines that terrify me that connect more to reality than to some fictional dystopia. Our world is falling apart; is that not as dystopian as it gets?

I would recommend this book to people who haven’t read VanderMeer or didn’t like his other books, but love thrillers and need a little motivation to care about the Earth. This shows off all his talent in writing while also punching you in the gut with all that existential dread.

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