Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer

My first exposure to Jeff VanderMeer was my purchase of City of Saints and Madmen in May of 2006. I was in my mid-20s and exploring more surreal literature; strange fantasies and bizarro being the two genres I was most greedily diving into. Upon reading that peculiar assortment of strange tales and explorations of the fantastic city of Ambergris, I could hardly wait to read more of his work.
I’ve been a fan since that time 15 years ago, and VanderMeer has not disappointed me since.
Hummingbird Salamander is a bit different from his other works, taking place neither in a feverish land of nebulous division between dreams and waking life nor in a future version of our world, transformed by otherworldly forces. Instead, this novel takes place in the here and now, though perhaps not quite the way you or I would recognize it in subtle ways.
We are first introduced to a mildly paranoid digital security consultant who serves as our unreliable guide through the events that unfold as she begins her journey to unravel a mystery that remains at least somewhat unclear as you reach the final page. It should be said, that if you go into one of this author’s books expecting clarity and a tidy resolution, you’re probably in the wrong place.
Elements of mystery and layered narratives are far from uncommon within VanderMeer’s work, but this particular story showcases the excellence of the suspense form when lovingly crafted by his mind and hands.
Familiar themes from his work are on vivid display within this narrative, ecological concerns, curious uncertainties relating to identity and the self, and suggestions that what is real might not be quite so clear as we commonly understand it to be.


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