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Summary

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

Security consultant and former wrestler 'Jane Smith' receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and clues leading her to a taxidermied salamander. Silvina, the dead woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of an Argentine industrialist. By taking the hummingbird from the storage unit, Jane sets in motion a series of events that quickly spin beyond her control. 

Soon, Jane and her family are in danger, with few allies to help her make sense of the true scope of the peril. Is the only way to safety to follow in Silvina’s footsteps? Is it too late to stop? As she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, time is running out—for her and possibly for the world. 

Hummingbird Salamander is Jeff VanderMeer at his brilliant, cinematic best, wrapping profound questions about climate change, identity and the world we live in into a tightly plotted thriller full of unexpected twists and elaborate conspiracy.

©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)

What listeners say about Hummingbird Salamander

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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An intelligent and thought provoking thriller

Absolutely loved it, one of the few books I read in just a few days.

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If you like noir...

... then you may well like this. Even though I went in knowing this wasn't his usual genre I just couldn't get into it. I kept wanting it to just get to the point so I think people who enjoy detective novels will probably enjoy this much more than me. The main character is great through and the narration is very good.

The Southern Reach Trilogy are some of my favourite books of all time and this didn't get anywhere near those for me in terms of story or tension.

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a great listen

thoroughly enjoyed, and made me uneasy about the state of the world. A very current setting.

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lovely book, brilliant narrator, thanks

we need more of all of you involved in these wonderful productions. keep them coming x

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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.