"William E. Emba"|
This is a fascinating first novel. Published in France under the title "Les Fourmis" in 1991 and translated into English as "Empire of the Ants" (not to be confused with the H G Wells story
or movie based on the Wells story) in 1996. Half of the story is
told from the ants' point of view. Something is seriously
wrong in the anthill, and the ants who are aware of the great
danger and try to warn the others discover several problems.
First, their fellow ants are mostly unthinking slaves of the
queen. Second, the usual predators and competitors are as
relentless as ever. And third, there seem to be special
assassins among the ants who do not want the message spread,
successfully coming off as formicine versions of James Bond
The other half of the story is told from an unusual family's
point of view. An eccentric naturalist has died in the wild,
leaving his spacious apartment to his nephew. The basement
has one broken door sealed off with extreme "Do Not Enter"
warning signs. Of course, one by one, the nephew and his
family and then their rescuers disappear through the doorway.
Most do not come back. Those who do are unable or unwilling
to say anything.
Obviously, the two narratives must converge. Seemingly
impossible, the individual storylines have an extra tension
as they must somehow be aimed towards each other. One
wonders, could this convergence be science fiction, horror
(and does horror mean horror for humans, horror for ants or
both?) or just something merely strange? In the end, there
is an unusual and perhaps frightening resolution, which boils
down to a simple question: is there room for two dominant
species on Earth?
The main problem with the novel is its stiff writing. This
may be because Werber is a science journalist and this is
his first novel, or it may reflect a lack of verve by the
Mathematics has a small role in the novel. There is one
recurring geometric puzzle that turns out to be important
at one point. The person who solves it does so while
recollecting her delight at the thinking outside the box
moment she had experienced in school when she first learned
about negative numbers.