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Anthill by Edward O. Wilson
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May 05, 12

bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in May, 2012

ANTHILL. (2010). **. E. O. Wilson.
This was a thinly veiled autobiographical novel about the coming of age of a young man who turned out to be a naturalist with a bent to the study of spiders. Sound familiar? Wilson turned this out as his first novel after a lifetime of writing scientific treatises and philosophical books on the unity of man and nature. His approach to this effort was very much like a scientific paper: 1) Background; 2) Purpose; 3) Materials and Procedure; 4) Experimental Results; 5) Conclusions. It was difficult to tell who was actually telling this story, though part of it was admitted to by Professor Frederick Norville of Florida State University, the teacher of the hero. The hero was Raphael (Raff) Cody, who we meet when he is 15-years old, along with his cousin Junior who is a year older. They take a trip down one of the Alabama rivers to try and see a fabled monster said to live in it. We also follow an earlier Raff as he was growing up under the influence of his father who wanted him to be a man, not one of those sissy people who the Earth seemed to be covered with. Early scenes where his father is taking the boys out on their first hunting trip shows that Raff has a horror of killing anything. His professor tells us of Raff’s first interest in insects, while Raff is trying to classify everything in his neck of the woods – especially the spiders. The book is capably written, but the author never defines who his audience is. With a little more effort, this could have been a very good young adult novel, particularly since it ends up showing the interdependence of all creatures within a particular biota that bears heavily on man and his survival. In all, the author should probably stick to his scientific endeavors and leave this kind of writing to those who can truly move the reader by means of character and plot.
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