On the surface, it’s Smith’s growing fascination with Silvina, an industrialist’s daughter turned eco-protester turned bio-terrorist, that drives the narrative — this despite plentiful evidence that she is already dead. The story becomes a gripping kick-the-door-down investigation of wildlife smuggling that expands maniacally to include all that our planet has lost as the sixth extinction gathers pace. This very-near-future, avoid-the-apocalypse plot rattles along reliably enough, leaping from MacGuffin to MacGuffin, but in truth, something far richer is going on. This is natural history as police procedural; and life on Earth as the scene of a crime.
Hummingbird Salamander is an enigmatic eco-thriller that delivers in the same vein and on the subject of worlds – inner worlds such as the biosphere – that are coming apart. ... It’s set in a near future defined by escalating climate breakdown and neighbourhood drone patrols and tells the story of Jane Smith, a cybersecurity consultant, whose staid suburban existence in the Pacific north-west of America is thrown into turmoil when an anonymous barista delivers her a message and a key one morning, pointing her in turn towards the stuffed body of a hummingbird, now thought to be extinct.
Set in the very near future in the US Pacific Northwest, this unusual detective story could be classed as an eco-thriller, as Jane’s investigations touch on the international criminal trade in wildlife as well as forcing her to confront secrets buried in her own past. Jane, who once trained as a wrestler, is a wonderful creation: strong, stubborn, damaged and perpetually angry, frequently unsympathetic, always believable. This quirky, compelling book is likely to gain an even wider audience for its author, without disappointing his many SF fans.