Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer [9/10]

The prodigious, swoon-worthy pen of Jeff VanderMeer knows no bounds, and with “Hummingbird Salamander,” he has turned to the sci-fi thriller genre. It may never the same again. The story is of a computer security expert and ex-wrestler who receives, by mysterious means, a taxidermied hummingbird and a taxidermied salamander from a now-dead woman labeled as an ecoterrorist. The time is the near future and the hummingbird and salamander stand as emblems of mass species’ extinctions. The plot kicks off slowly and then zooms into action, as our hero’s family is suddenly under threat, her job gone. What is the true nature of her weird inheritance, why was she chosen, and what does it all mean? Written in a freighted, oblique style that reflects the doomsday ambience, the novel is an adrenaline rush salted with existential dread. I read it in two sittings and was enthralled throughout by the baffling, conspiratorial plot and the view into a possible future world. The mind-blowing climax of Hummingbird Salamander caps off a glorious, deep thriller.

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