Set in a world far along the path to ecological and political breakdown, this striking mix of thriller and biotech speculative fiction from VanderMeer (Dead Astronauts) charts a seemingly mad quest by its anonymous narrator, who suggests the reader call her Jane Smith. One morning at a coffee shop in an unspecified city in the Pacific Northwest, where Jane does somewhat nebulous work at a security firm, a barista hands Jane an envelope with a storage unit address, a key, and a note. In the storage unit, Jane finds a box containing a preserved hummingbird and a note with the words Hummingbird and Salamander, signed Silvina. Thus begins Jane’s quixotic effort to discover the whereabouts and fate of probable ecoterrorist Silvina Vilcapampa, as well as the salamander mate to the hummingbird. Jane’s traveling to New York City in search of Silvina alerts mysterious foes. Attacks on Jane and her work colleagues as well as surveillance of her home prompt her to abandon her husband and teenage daughter and embark on a yearslong, possibly fruitless quest to discover the truth. Exquisite prose pulls the reader deep into the labyrinthine plot. VanderMeer reinforces his place as one of today’s most innovative writers. Agent: Sally Harding, CookeMcDermid. (Apr.)
"You won't look up even once while you're reading."
The Washington Post
"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."
The Los Angeles Times
"This inventive and surprising page-turner may be the purest demonstration yet of VanderMeer’s knack for dressing up fascinating philosophical conundrums in the clothing of a taut, breakneck thriller."
"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." BOOKLIST (starred review)
"Set in a world far along the path to ecological and political breakdown, this striking mix of thriller and biotech speculative fiction from VanderMeer charts a seemingly mad quest by its anonymous narrator. . .Exquisite prose pulls the reader deep into the labyrinthine plot. VanderMeer reinforces his place as one of today’s most innovative writers."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"VanderMeer moves from fantasy into noir territory with this version of an eco-thriller. . .Jane has a number of things in common with Stieg Larsson’s heroine: She can pound most dudes into tapioca, and she’s pretty handy with a gun and a computer, too. . .It wouldn’t be a VanderMeer story, no matter what the genre, without a post-apocalyptic turn, and after all the assorted villains (one of them in particular very evil indeed) and oversized amphibians and mad-scientist taxidermists and exploding heads, it’s sort of nice to get to a future that no one will surviveone that strongly resembles 2020, for that matter."Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"[T]he news cycle may be chaotic right now, but we've got book news to offer a balm especially for Jeff VanderMeer fans. The best-selling Annihilation author will be releasing another deliciously dark tale, this time covering everything from conspiracy theories to endangered species."Seija Rankin, Entertainment Weekly
"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." Emily St. John Mandel
“Jeff VanderMeer's Hummingbird Salamander is an existential mindfuck 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
“A strange, seductive eco-thriller ripe for our era.” Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of Mexican Gothic
“This is an astonishing book, topical and madly compelling. A timely, unsettling novel of obsession and descenta 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.” Chuck Wendig, bestselling author of Wanderers
“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.” Omar El Akkad, award-winning journalist and author of American War
“This gripping eco-thriller pulls readers into a world of danger, mystery, and obsession. Surprising, suspenseful, and compelling, Hummingbird Salamander is in turns insidious and explosive, heartrending and beautiful. Riveting.” Meg Gardiner, Edgar-Award-winning author of the UNSUB series
VanderMeer's latest is a departure from his previous work (Borne; Ambergris; the "Southern Reach" trilogy") in that it is less ostensibly science fiction. The story centers on a narrator who calls herself Jill, though this is not her real name. Jill is mysteriously contacted by old friend Silvina, who sends a note directing her to a storage space containing a taxidermied hummingbird. Jill is compelled to investigate Silvina and discovers a network of ecological initiatives and possible bioterrorism funded by her wealthy family. (Silvina means "of the forest" in Latin, so her character is aptly named.) Suddenly, Jill is plunged into a dangerous web of murder and violence perpetrated by former colleagues of Silvina's, which continues until Jill narrowly escapes death and loses everything. Revelations about Jill's family lead to a simmering conclusion. VERDICT 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.—Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA
The prolific VanderMeer moves from fantasy into noir territory with this version of an eco-thriller.
The natural world always takes a front-row seat in a VanderMeer yarn—see, for example, Borne (2017) or Dead Astronauts (2019)—even if it’s a natural world that has suffered at human hands and by human tinkering. That’s true of this story as well, which opens with a tantalizing puzzle: A mysterious woman named Silvina has left behind a coded message for a security expert who suggests that we call her “Jane Smith” and who adds that she is “here to show you how the world ends.” That clue involves a taxidermic hummingbird, the last of its kind, and, following a few ellipses in the accompanying note, the word salamander. No, not Salander, though Jane has a number of things in common with Stieg Larsson’s heroine: She can pound most dudes into tapioca, and she’s pretty handy with a gun and a computer, too. The story, as it develops by twists and turns, involves a very, very wealthy South American bad guy who’s been raping the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest and doing a little exotic wildlife smuggling on the side while his daughter has become an eco-warrior who doesn’t mind the detonation of a few bombs in order to save wildlife. Naturally, the bad guy isn’t entirely bad, the good woman isn’t entirely good, and their stories intertwine in nicely tangled ways. It wouldn’t be a VanderMeer story, no matter what the genre, without a post-apocalyptic turn, and after all the assorted villains (one of them in particular very evil indeed) and oversized amphibians and mad-scientist taxidermists and exploding heads, it’s sort of nice to get to a future that no one will survive—one that strongly resembles 2020, for that matter.
A daring change of genres, and an entertaining whirlwind at that.