- Roughcut: 384 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (April 5, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393071197
- ISBN-13: 978-0393071191
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 98 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,405,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Anthill: A Novel
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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.
Top customer reviews
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the rest of the book isn't so great, as it is mostly a treatise on conservation through legal techniques. Mr. Wilson is preaching to the choir, and he is only competent, not brilliant.
again, i think Section IV is marvelous and worth every penny i paid for my used, hardback copy.
now i will donate my copy to Goodwill so they can sell it again.
For me, Anthill was a lovely, lovely book. I read it overnight and it is now installed amongst my top ten ever.
I was curious to see what sort of novel E.O. Wilson would produce. I feared that it might be stilted and contrived, since he his primarily a scientist of very seasoned vintage. He writes his scientific books so well, however, that I should not have expected anything stilted. Would he be able to create a successful and original plot? The answer is yes.
Why did I choose to read a novel by E.O. Wilson? I was looking for answers that the book seemed to promise, about the problems of wilderness and biodiversity disappearing under the jackboot of 'progress' i.e. property development in the service of overpopulation. I didn't really think that Wilson would provide anything new, so I was gratified when he did. He kind of fleshed out ideas that had been hovering in my mind about how to deal with property developers. His chief character felt as I do. His creation provided a form of solidarity to me. It more than entertained me; it inspired me.
I am not very inclined to compare authors but Wilson's way of drawing the reader in actually reminded me of Anne Tyler and his style in creating atmosphere reminded me of Trueman Capote's Grass Harp. However, the substance of the novel was oh so much more than Tyler's or Capote's (of course). As other reviewers have noted, Wilson manages to make the reader think like an ant, which is quite an experience. We see the land described in the book from the points of view of a naturalist and then that of ants. I felt as if I was there and walking with the main character. The things that Wilson picks from the environment are very like those that I notice in my own, so his book was able to engage me well beyond my mind. It took me into itself and kept me there until the last page. Because of this skilled capacity to spellbind me, I experienced the drama and conflict as gripping.
Like another reviewer here, I am an Australian. In Australia we don't have the overt religious right wing elements that crop up in Anthill, however, sooner or later we get every bad thing from the US and Britain in terms of corporate treatment of the natural environment. Australia is already in a very bad way with massive population growth forced on us by a growth lobby led by property developers who have amazing influence over our governments, state and federal. Religious influence has been growing here, where once we were a pretty secular, scientific society, and, in truth, I have spoken to Australian politicians who truly think that the world is there for humans alone and who envisage maybe allowing as little as 5% to survive pan-industrialisation. So, I guess that the religious difference between Australia and the US isn't really such a difference anymore, unfortunately.
As well as painting a character with a deep love of a natural place, who values other species as co-travellers in this life, Wilson also canvases some of the political differences and conflicts that come up among environmentalist groups. He is as skilled in his depiction of human groups as he is in his depiction of ant groups. He is also skilled in his depiction of personal motive and conflict. I feel that he is truly motivated to help other environmentalists in all his books, including this one and I am very grateful to him for continuing to write for us.
I look forward to his upcoming book of letters to a young scientist.
How can a book with so many flaws be so compelling to me that I shortened my sleep time to be able to finish it? It was not only preachy, it was politically stretched to the max -- a thesis on everything America is going through plus a treatise on science as well as a painterly version of varying scenes of Southern conservatism versus Harvard University elitism. The book was Bouillabaisse Soup with a Smoothie thrown in. I can imagine that most of the people I know would have given up reading it somewhere between the Queen Ant's chamber and the overly stylized version of corporate culture sparring with environmental extremism. However, I liked it anyway, probably because of my own background.
I'm a tax lawyer who paid her own way through undergraduate studies and law school. I never applied to Harvard because I would have been as out of place there as a fire ant would be out of place with a mild-mannered pavement specimen. The protagonist, Raff, is somewhat likeable, but never attains the ethical stature of Ayn Rand's Fountainhead character, Howard Roark, whose unshakeable devotion to his version of purity never caves in to pragmatism. Raff is a conniving, although rigorously nature-oriented, plotting soul. He gets his higher education totally paid for by his uncle who exacts a promise from him which he accedes to with a moral asterisk. His odyssey from backwoods waif to prominent environmentalist is barely credible, as is his aversion to sexual distraction.
The whole fictional tale is rambling, somewhat well-written, leftist-leaning and contrived. Yet I enjoyed it because I love the study of nature myself. As a child I too explored the woods and wandered through country terrains because they represented a peaceful haven from human activity. I also have some training with firearms -- yes, that subject is thrown into the mix also.
In short, I recommend this book to science-lovers and authors who are learning their craft because the work is a treatise on how to break a bunch of rules about fiction writing and yet appeal to a niche of enthusiastic issue-gatherers. Reading it did not change my opinions about environmental extremism one single iota, nor did it help me in my desire to reconcile the political forces shredding the US today.