Another belated posting of an older piece, this one from mid-January. Spell checked and published to, hopefully, get me back into the thick of things.
It’s a quiet evening, and I have all the weariness you would expect in a body after working and then coming home and washing dishes for an hour. And yet, there is a strange thread in my limbs that is screaming for action. It is this silent, insistent need to create which has sent me here, to drivel across the page. So here I am, driveling away.
It’s a strange task to assign to a list-maker: to wander aimlessly down a page meant for other people to view. No outlines, no matching topic sentences. Just words leading to words leading to . . . well, nowhere really.
It’s so unnatural I just have to stop and fill up space with something. Something like, say, a review of Arthur Heizorg’s The Swarm, a la 1975.
Now here is a book to discuss. It is, in essence, a beach book. A mass market thriller full of the imminent destruction of man kind. Or at least, of people in the USA – for some reason the bees were very respectful of the Canadian border.
Yes, The Swarm is about bees. Specifically it’s about jumbo, mutated African bees (old adansonii) that have adapted to use plastic in their hive walls in order to survive the winter, and military grade, top secret chemicals in their sting in order to better survive us. Or out survive us, as the characters in the book start to fear. The whole thing should have been one long eyeroll. Instead I feel quite educated. The book is written to be as histor-real as possible, with footnotes scattered throughout to properly cite and defend all scientific information. Real citations, too, or at least this one was. This is a fast paced, high stakes, drama peopled with the lowest of the nerd pool – entomologist, geneticists, chemists, and medical practitioners. And not one person ever bemoaned or otherwise called attention to their narrow, intellectual way of life. In a world in which geek and nerd have become utterly meaningless, I found this refreshing. The atmosphere of the book was excellent.
As an aside: It also had an interesting perspective on females and their position in the world. The token female (she generated maps of the bee invasion) was a highly capable scientist in her own field and yet was continually disrespected and outright ignored by the majority of her peers. Living in a wonderfully uncomplicated subsection of the universe, a large number of social issues seem rather too dramatic to be taken seriously. This kind of understated writing lent credence to a concept I normally find surreal.
Nothing is perfect, of course, and there were some bits of the book that I appreciated less. The use of the bee’s long forgotten genetic origin, instead of their Latin name, vaguely annoyed me toward the end. And the obligatory love-story was both off-screen and yet too present. I realize this is what I expect from sci-fi books – the outline is all that’s needed since the relationship is not the main focus of the story. In some ways I respect this, but I think the better answer is just not to include it at all. The worst thing about this book though is its ending. The last third of it felt like an all-nighter – indeed, the cast pulled quite a few to fill it. The characters died for stupid reasons, their plans failed for stupid reasons, and the whole nation was saved by some stupid reason or other. The delicate balance of terror and hope that managed to exist in the first part of the book crumbled as the bees toppled one obstacle after another like a never ending wave of over-powered heroes gone bad. With the falling away of suspense went the need for hope – the magical trance in which I had been held could not sustain itself alone for very long. I lost belief in the world, and with belief went enjoyment.
My favorite of all the silly things in the book was that the whole attack plan was manned by dozens and dozens of faceless laborers and about five specialists. As the months dragged on and the crisis grew, those five people struggled on in forced hermitage (about three hours away from D.C.) with less and less sleep. Two people died for no other reason than the lack of personnel. For this alone the bees probably should have won.
This was my first TBR book of 2016. I’m pledging for twelve this year, and saying that eight of those have to be non-fiction. Like all the future books I’ll read, this book was a gift from my grandfather. Curious to see what I’ll read next? So am I.