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Anthill: A Novel


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Product Details

  • Roughcut: 378 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (April 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393071197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393071191
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A Pulitzer Prize–winning nonfiction author and Harvard entomology professor, Wilson (The Ants) channels Huck Finn in his creative coming-of-age debut novel. Split into three parallel worlds—ants, humans, and the biosphere—the story follows young Raff Cody, who escapes the humid summers in Clayville, Ala., by exploring the remote Nokobee wilderness with his cousin, Junior. In one adventure, sneaking onto the property of a reputed multiple murderer to peek at his rumored 1,000-pound pet alligator, 15-year-old Raff faces down the barrel of a rifle. Raff's aversion to game hunting, ant fascination, Boy Scout achievements, and Harvard education all support his core need to remain a naturalist explorer. A remarkable center section meticulously details the life and death of an ant colony. Nearing 30, Raff's desire to preserve the Nokobee reserve from greedy real estate developers galvanizes an effort to protect the sacred land and a surprise violent ending brings everything full circle. Lush with organic details, Wilson's keen eye for the natural world and his acumen for environmental science is on brilliant display in this multifaceted story about human life and its connection to nature.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

While critics unanimously praised Wilson's pioneering scientific work, they had mixed reactions to his debut novel. Wilson captures the carefree bliss of boyhood, and his vivid descriptions of the forest's flora and fauna will transport readers to the wilds of Alabama. The 70 pages comprising "The Anthill Chronicles" feature some of the novel's most eloquent and mesmerizing prose. (A portion of "The Anthill Chronicles" was published in the New Yorker as "Trailhead" and is available at newyorker.com). However, some critics complained that the prominent biologist neglects key elements of fiction, such as characterization and dialogue, and strays too often from his plot. Despite these concerns, Wilson's foray into creative writing allows him to explore the spirituality of nature, and readers open to its ecological message will find Anthill an intriguing and inspiring book.

More About the Author

Regarded as one of the world's preeminent biologists and naturalists, Edward O. Wilson grew up in south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, where he spent his boyhood exploring the region's forests and swamps, collecting snakes, butterflies, and ants--the latter to become his lifelong specialty. The author of more than twenty books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Ants" and "The Naturalist" as well as his first novel "Anthill," Wilson, a professor at Harvard, makes his home in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Book club selection.
Dickbe
That part of the story lacked plot development and took away from what could have been a much better developed ending.
Zoology Teacher
I was curious to see what sort of novel E.O. Wilson would produce.
Nerodog

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Martin Chandler on April 27, 2010
Format: Roughcut
The fictional weaknesses have been noted, though I for one quite enjoyed the human side of the tale. The descriptions of social and political conflicts, and their relation to ecology, seemed to me accurate and informative. The ant side of things constitutes one of most enjoyable pieces of science writing I've read. One key to the book is found in the prologue where Wilson writes: "There are of course vast differences between ants and men. But in fundamental ways their cycles are similar. Because of it, ants are a metaphor for us, and we for them." Does the rapaciousness of the Supercolony have any parallels among humans? In what ways are ecological imbalances created by ants similar to those created by humans? In what ways are they different? Wilson's quiet allusion to Steinbeck and Burns is apt. In both ants and men, the "best laid schemes...gang aft agley," presaging further selective extermination in ants, catastrophy in men, and permanent degradation in the third "world," the biosphere, as a result of the out-of-control second. This book does not scream; most of the time it allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions, in other words, to think. For these reasons I recommend a thoughtful perusal of the entire book.
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86 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Darcy Moore on April 7, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"The cycles of other species can be destroyed, and the biosphere corrupted. But for each careless step we take, our species will ultimately pay an unwelcome price - always"

I have just finished Anthill, set mostly in Alabama and occasionally underground, by two times Pultizer Prize winner and first time novelist, aged 81, E.O. Wilson.

Pre-ordered ages ago, it arrived on my Kindle Monday and was enjoyable enough that it took less than 48 hours to read. If I had waited for the Australian release in June, from my favourite bookseller in Sydney, I would have parted with $32.95 (+ postage) rather than the $11.99 paid for the Kindle edition. The old publishing model is obviously just not sustainable, as well as being environmentally undesirable.

Structured in six sections, the number of legs an ant posseses, the story opened somewhat disappointingly, in fact it was quite boring and reminded me of many a teen novel with simplistic themes about adolescent identity. Quarter of the way into the novel (remember the Kindle does not have page numbers but percentages) it was like some kind of contemporary antebellum tale and not my cup of tea at all.

Then, all changed.

The Anthill Chronicles, the middle section of the novel, is the most interesting and engaging on a number of levels and I wish there was more of it. Wilson, in the acknowledgements, says that he is trying to "present the lives of these insects, as exactly as possible, from the ants' point of view". It is decent prose and explores the environment that Wilson knows more intimately than any of us.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jim Duggins, Ph.D. on April 25, 2010
Format: Roughcut Verified Purchase
One is never quite certain how to categorize E. O. Wilson's book, "Anthill": a novel? narrative or creative non-fiction? But, no matter what you call it, "Anthill" is a spendid and engaging work. It is the biography of a naturalist in his boyhood explorations of a virgin forest area of northeast Alabama adjoining northwest Florida.

This story is that of Raff Cody, who falls in love with the land and its wildlife,especially ants, of the Nokobee Forest. The human side of the plot follows the young scientist's life through his eduction in science and finally law school with an emphasis on environmental law. In addition, author Wilson portrays the southern social contect of the day in that part of the country (e.g., lower middle and upper middle class families in the American south during the second and third quarter of the twentieth century). "Anthill" also describes Raff's long, single minded pursuit of his law degree and professional placement where he can save the Nokobee Forest from developers. Although intriguing, that part of the story seems a little too easily accomplished and with two few glitches. Likewise, in an escape from murderous evangelical Christians who hate Raff for his advanced education and conservationalist ideas, the trio chasing Raff are slaughtered by a paranoid hermit who lives in the woods. In my opinion, the narrative also suffers from too much narrative telling with too little "showing" of character development.

It is not surprising,considering author Wilson's resume, that it is the description of living creatures and botanical species that pushes the book "over the top" in reader engagement. The description of ant habitats (i.e.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Zoology Teacher on May 4, 2010
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Part one, the story of Raff was well written and interesting.(four stars). Part two, 'The Anthill Chronicles' was as entertaining as anything I have ever read on insects, and the 'superorganism' concept was well explained to even a reader without a biological background. (five stars). Part three, I found disappointing. (two stars). It would have been better to stick to the ecological dilemma, and not get involved with a subplot of crazy whitetrash psycho religious fanatical murderers. That part of the story lacked plot development and took away from what could have been a much better developed ending. It was as if Wilson ran out of steam, got tired, and lost his way. The distracting LeBow subplot took attention away from a much more important message that deserved more focus, which weakened the ending for me. I would have liked the storyline to have taken a turn from ants, to humans, to a stronger biosphere perspective. While the compromise between development and a green community is realistic, if we were talking environmental law, what happened to the ESA?

I am a huge fan of E.O. Wilson. I loved 'The Diversity of Life', and everything he has ever written on the topic of sociobiology, including 'On Human Nature'. I will not be surprised if 'Anthill' sells copies just on the power of the ants' storyline, which was as creative as it was factual.
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