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...you write a novel about it,
This review is from: When the Killing's Done (Paperback)
The novel is about the struggle of man and his environment - of one day (19th century) introducing non-native animals to an environment and totally obliterating species that didn't know how to cope, and years later (21st century) trying to undo the damage this introduction did by killing the non-native creatures and re-introducing the native animals that weren't wiped out.
This is the main story of the book with the real life events of the extermination of rats from Anacapa island and afterwards the extermination of pigs from Santa Cruz island (both islands are off the coast of California). Alma Boyd Takesue is the environmental scientist who takes on this challenge and is our heroine, while Dave LaJoy is the antagonist, a self proclaimed eco-warrior attempting to stop and sabotage any attempts at wiping out any animals no matter what. To this end he pickets Takesue's campaign to wipe out the rats and when that fails, he does everything he can, going further than before, to stop the extermination of the pigs.
I've been a huge fan of T C Boyle's writing for years now and strongly recommend his short story collections After the Plague, Tooth and Claw, and last year's Wild Child, as incredible examples of the short story medium and Boyle's own mastery of writing. That said, I've never been able to finish one of his novels before "When the Killing's Done". Not sure why that is but one reason I'm sure of that made me finish this book was the story and the writing.
Boyle does a marvellous job of pacing an interesting story and turning it into a thriller. The pages fly by with events unfolding at a furious pace, the spaces between chapters sometimes signalling a shift of several years and Boyle often jumps backwards and forwards in time to give the reader background to a situation, sometimes going back to the 19th century then the 20th, then the present day. The impression is of a whizz-bang tour of the history of the region and coupled with Boyle's indeible prose makes for a compelling read.
The characters of Alma Takesue and Dave LaJoy are also fascinating. It's clear who the reader is supposed to side with and who Boyle himself favours but we nonetheless get a vivid portrait of two obsessive individuals who feel they are doing the right thing. Alma, for all her surety as a scientist and rigid world view, is challenged by events in the book that happen in her personal life and we see her grow realistically as a character. Dave is a more fascinating character just because he's so extreme in defending animals that it blinds him to human beings and drives him to do ridiculous and dangerous things. As the reader spends more time with him we get to see the various sides of his character and the contradictions of his life, work, and goals.
This was my favourite novel of 2011. An original novel featuring events and themes relevant to us today filled with characters and a level of writing that showcases a master writer at the top of his game. Utterly engrossing, memorable, and hugely enjoyable, I loved this book and am more convinced than ever at T C Boyle's abilities, it's a shame he's not as popular in the UK as he is stateside. If you're a fiction fan looking for an exciting, contemporary read, "When the Killing's Done" is for you.