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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

on 16 April 2016
Professor EO Wilson is not only a top scientist but also a great storyteller. Based on his own childhood the author takes you on a journey through the changes we all undergo as we age and then frames the question, what would you like your life to be, one that is connected to nature or one that is away from it? Beautiful reading.
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on 19 April 2014
The writer manages to convey the very human emotion of biophilia, love of the natural world. It is one of our more neglected instincts. He does it without showing any of the ugly misanthropic tendencies so common amongst environmentalists. The type that deplore population and economic growth.
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on 12 November 2016
Everything ok.
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on 25 February 2014
Wilson's protagonist, Raf, grows up in a conservative southern family who wants him to become successful in business. He grows up as a child exploring a tract of wilderness that causes him to become fascinated with nature and as this tract is threatened his driving ambition becomes to somehow protect it. The plot revolves around how these potentially conflicting ambitions come together.

As another reviewer has mentioned, moving from fiction to non-fiction is probably not easy for a writer, but Wilson manages to make a really neat marriage of the two by juxtaposing ants and human society. Some of the most fascinating parts of the book are Wilson's descriptions of the anthills in the wilderness tract that Raf documents for his studies. The human plot of the story is captivating too though as we follow Raf's attempts to manage the conflicting interests and perspectives of his family, rapacious local businesses and the environmentalists trying to save the wilderness tract. A very enjoyable read, especially for those who love nature.
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on 8 August 2010
I have long respected E O Wilson and was intrigued by his decision to write a novel. In many ways the novel is a decoy and the most intriguing parts are the factual stuff about nature and especially ants and it's made me want to read more of the Wilson catalogue. That said, elements of the plot are quite gripping, as are the parallels drawn with the human 'anthill'. The hero, Raff, is a kind of mutation to his family history whereby he doesn't become the corporate money-grubber he was destined to be but something better, and his intelligence, sensitivity and decency civilize the business culture. This happens rather more easily, it must be said, than real life would probably allow but as a prescription for a way life that respects the natural world, and has a conscience about destroying the environment needlessly, it's heart and head are both in the right places. It is also an interesting portrait of the culture of the South, the quirks of family trees, and the conflict between conservation and the more exotic shores of fundamentalist religion. An alternative title could have been: Property Development And The End of Days.
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on 23 August 2010
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.
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on 28 September 2010
Incidentally I like the book, but not all of it -(see in depth description by the other reviewers about the content) it is very nice, until about the time that Raff or rather his thesis about the ants of the title are put to the reader after which it quickly deteriorates towards a quite unexpected, improbable, happy ending. Initially the landscape descriptions and the way in which the story is told reminded me of Earnest Hemmingways The Nick Adams Stories - it really is that gripping and evocative, but then it dragged on a bit and the ending implicit in the way the story is being told by Raff's mentor rather than himself and the hints at tragedy are never fulfilled. So a 5 for the beginning and the anthill storyline, then 3 for the rest = 4 overall.
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