Sunday, January 24, 2016

Empire of the Ants

By Bernard Werber

A man gets stung to death by wasps and, in his will, his nephew inherits his apartment. The apartment has a cellar but there is a sign on the cellar door to never go into the cellar. But then the family dog gets in and the man goes in search of the dog.
He is gone for hours and finally returns with the body of the dog, which killed by the rats inhabiting the cellar. His wife and son are upset, the son because of the loss of his pet and the wife because of living above a cellar full of rats.
The man puts a new door on the cellar and then returns to it. He never comes back. The wife calls the police, they go into the cellar and vanish. The wife goes into the cellar and vanishes. The son goes to an orphanage but runs away, and, of course, goes into the cellar and vanishes. Once more the police go into the cellar and vanish, as before.
Meanwhile, in the nearby woods, a colony of russet ants are coping with the usual ant crises of their own: invader ants, mysterious deaths of fellow ants, political intrigue, gathering supplies and food, and just being ants.

This was kind of a strange book. The whole "people disappearing in the cellar thing" turns out to be something rather stupid and unbelievable and it brings about the ending of the story and really has very little to do with the ant story other than the stupid plot twist at the end. I think the book would have been just fine without the human part of the story.
The story of the ants was, compared to the drama in the cellar, more interesting and more believable, if somewhat fantastic. These ants do things that no ant has ever done, like using beetles as aircraft. But that is just part of the fantasy and actually more believable than the cellar story.
But the book was not originally written in English, I assume it was written in French since that is its locale. It was translated by Margaret Rocques and maybe it lost something in the translation.
It was an OK read.

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