By E. O. Wilson
Narrated by Kevin T. Collins
E. O. Wilson is a two time Pulitzer Prize winning non-fiction author. “Anthill”, however, is a work of fiction.
“Anthill” is compared by some to a Mark Twain saga. In comparison to Twain, “Anthill” is not particularly funny nor is it adventurous.
The hero, Raff Cody, fails to meet the threshold of identification with a hero; a reader does not get much emotive satisfaction in Raff’s journey from childhood to adulthood. Finishing the book is like finishing a newspaper article; i.e. a little interesting but not something you would tell a friend about.
Raff is raised in a distantly related aristocratic Alabama family. The aristocratic family that he is a part of (a family that finances his education) is associated with a development company that plans to destroy a naturalist enclave called Nokobee reserve by building a residential/commercial community. Raff, after graduating from Harvard, becomes the land developer’s corporate environmental attorney. He has a clandestine plan to preserve the Nokobee property. Nokobee is partially saved by incorporating the reserve into the new development. Raff becomes a successful environmental attorney with a slight stink of cooptation about him.
This seems like a true story but it fails the test of hero success or hero tragedy. A reader does not feel either elated by a hero’s success nor downcast by hero’s failure. In a piece of fiction, one looks for heroic lessons in life, not life compromises.
Expectation is a cruel mistress. If one begins listening to a story about ants and expects some revelatory enlightenment about entomology, human comparison to ant colonies, or the environment, it is not here. Raff Cody matures to become a pragmatic environmentalist that saves an ant hill and part of the Nokobee reserve.
If Wilson had developed more of the ant hill entomology, if Wilson had made Raff more rebellious, if Wilson had compared more of ant hill growth to humanity, if, if, if, this could have been a better than average story.
Time travels too fast and knowledge is too precious to put “Anthill” on one’s reading list.