RaveOutside...he gives each cavern and tunnel the same scholarly, poetic treatment as the prettier things above ground ... In each location, Macfarlane travels with at least one expert, and though he’s a seasoned hiker and mountain climber, he easily slips into the role of novice, learning the special techniques for maneuvering around these secret places. These relationships give the whole book a mythological feeling—a series of amiable Charons guiding our narrator across so many Rivers Styx ... the extremes of beauty and risk memorably intersect when Macfarlane is dangled deep into a radiant blue shaft inside a melting glacier, where the relationship between time and matter click into place.
Olga Tokarczuk, Trans. by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
PositiveThe New RepublicThis is the most special element of the book, the way it balances on the fence between genres—there is suspense that comes from wanting to solve the murders, and then another layer of suspense hovering above that, that comes from wanting to know which type of book it will turn out you have been reading: a crime novel or a fairy tale ... There is another thread at work in the book, a sort of essay hidden inside the novel. The murder mystery resolves one way or another, and the questions about killers and genre will be answered in satisfying ways. But along the way, Tokarczuk plants another seed: She wants to think about the rights of animals, to critique the way they have been erased (by most) from the moral world ... harness[es] the propulsive power of the crime genre to get the reader to think with a different logic. Fiction is a good place to consider this kind of radical paradigm shift—a reader of a novel is already imagining other possible realities. Conjuring an enchanted forest and imagining a world without livestock slaughter are not such different mental projects.
Torill Kornfeldt, Trans. by Fiona Graham
PositiveThe New YorkerSome of the projects Kornfeldt writes about are incredibly compelling, given that we are living through a mass-extinction event that threatens the stability of the world’s ecosystems ... It’s this tension—even more than the specifics surrounding the revival of any one species—that carries Kornfeldt’s stories along: she constantly pursues the question of what all of this means for humanity’s relationship to nature ... Reading the science of de-extinction can inspire a lot of hope—not necessarily about the species themselves, but for demonstrating how relatively fast an area of science can develop.
Jason M. Colby
PositiveThe New RepublicIt is a story not just of the orca business, but also of the evolution of Americans’ relationship to the oceans and marine life—the growth of marine parks parallels the shift from an extractive approach to the ocean, as mainly a source of fish, to a recreational one. It intersects, too, with the birth of the modern environmental movement in the 1960s and 70s ... For a generation that grew up on Shamu or Free Willy, anecdotes that Colby shares of orca hunters in \'the Old Northwest\' are shocking ... As the backlash against the industry rises, the irony is clear: The captivity and display industry made people love orcas, and then hate the captivity and display industry. This is the central thrust of Colby’s book, and he returns to the point throughout ... More interesting, to me, than the judgment of history, are the moral compasses of the crying men themselves, who knew—well before Greenpeace protestors and Blackfish and the Marine Mammal Protection Act—that the animals they were hurting were sentient and sensitive; that they were doing something wrong ... it’s also a story of the intellectual hoops that we humans will jump through, like well-trained marine mammals, in order to justify the harm done in the course of making a living, or just doing whatever we want.