In common with the previous reviewer, I am been a great admirer of Wilson and too was intrigued, if not a bit puzzled, by his publishing a novel.
Before reading it, I was a little wary of taking it too seriously as a literary work, but Wilson has made the transition from fiction to non-fiction easily and it reads very well. It is clear that much of the narrative derives from Wilson's own upbringing and personal philosophy, resulting in both an inspirational character and a fascinating portrait of the American South and its culture. Much of what is so endearing about the novel is born of Wilson's own character. This is easily appreciated by imagining if Richard Dawkins wrote a novel.
The plot centres around Raff, I suspect a semi-autobiographical character, who is a brillaint child naturalist with the good fortune to have his interest nurtured and encouraged by a professor from Florida State Uni (narrater). The novel follows him through all his growing up and education and his eventual involvement in saving the wilderness of his childhood. Without further revealing the plot, much of the novel's success derives from the personal experiences and an intimate knowledge of the places and culture by the author. I found it a real page-turner and read it in three days and, finding it a largely brilliant read.
However, Wilson still manages to educate the reader about ants. Some readers not interested in ants may find this a needless digression from the narrative, but I found it fascinating and an excellent way to learn natural history. A sizable chunk is taken up by a sub-plot featuring the ants and Wilson skilfully brings the reader right down to the their level and view of the world.
The only things, which are being pedantic, but probably because I'm a zoologist by training, is that he says poisonous when he means venomous and one bit about ants reproducing for the continuation of their species grated, particularly as I know full well that is not what he meant. Individuals, or colonies in this case, reproduce for the continuation of their own lineage.
As a whole though, I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read and am planning to recommend it to many friends. I am left wondering whether Wilson will venture to write another novel should this one prove a success- if so I will surely buy it.