Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer

I’m honestly not sure if I liked that or not. I think overall I did but there were definitely parts that I struggled through.

The book is narrated by an unnamed woman who just calls herself Jane Smith. She lives a fairly normal life with her husband and teenage daughter, and works for a cybersecurity consulting company. She is left a note by someone called Silvina, which leads her to a storage facility where she finds a taxidermied hummingbird. This all starts a chain reaction where her life is upended and she gets involved in things that has potential to impact the whole planet.

‘Jane Smith’ must be one of the most unpleasant main protagonists I have ever read. I’ve been trying to think why in that I have definitely read about characters that were so much worse in almost every singe way. However I think it’s a mixture of the setting and apathy that really made me dislike her. She literally doesn’t really care about anyone in her life except for a dead brother and a woman she has never met, both of which have the advantage of not being around.

The other thing is the setting which seems basically like ‘now’ in our world, there is even a pandemic that is mentioned and I am so curious as to whether the author had already included that or added it later in the process of writing. Being set in our world it just makes her seem more realistic which then makes her apathy even harder to take. I’m sure there are people like that around but luckily enough I don’t know them. Also kudos to the author for creating a very believable character.

The writing is almost stream of thought and is very atmospheric. In the beginning it was quite tense as you and the protag start to realise that there is actually something big happening that will change everything for her. The middle dragged a bit and then it picked up again towards the end. Again I was ambivalent towards this style, parts I felt worked well, and as mentioned, other times it dragged. To be fair though I was very interested throughout as to where the whole thing was going.

This is not an easy read and will probably not be for everyone but it is rather different which is always a plus. I’m not even sure this is a science fiction book or just a straight forward thriller. This is an unsettling read and is very on point for what is going on around us right now and though I had issues with it, I’m glad I read it. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy of this.

3.5 stars rounded down.

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