Empire of the Ants by Bernard Werber
Back again after a break, I really have had no time to blog before now. Although I spent most of my free time writing my final piece of assessment I did manage to read ‘Empire of the Ants’ by Bernard Werber.
I was lent this book from a member of my book group who had recently read it; he had enjoyed but described it as a bit strange and thought I might like it. I am still not sure whether I did like it or not. The book is based around two stories, one of a family who inherit and move into a basement flat in Paris but as part of the will the ‘crazy old’ uncle had stipulated not to go down into the cellar. Obviously they ignore this after a while and discover a set of stairs that keep going down and down and down… The other story is that of a few ants; it describes how and where they live, what they do and there is a story running through the novel of the journey these ants take through their lives. The two stories are intertwined throughout the chapters, sometimes switching alternately and sometimes not. The first plot line is very intriguing and I found compelled to read more of the book to get to these parts. The second plot line I did not feel the same way. Although the story of the ants was interesting, seemingly well researched (I don’t know enough about ants to know whether some of the social and biological elements of the story were accurate) and moved at a reasonable pace, the book did have a lot more of this story in it. All the time I was reading about the ants I wanted to know what was happening in the human world.
I don’t think that this was particularly down to not knowing anything about ants; I do think that the human story was just plain better. The book could easily have just been about the family and the staircase winding down into the depths of the Earth. There was so much intrigue to this side of the story, yet in the ant world I was getting a bit bored, especially because as the book continued the ants were given more anthropomorphic features. It probably didn’t help that I was often reading this book in short bursts, a few pages here and there, also late at night when my attention was not at its height. Saying all this, if the book were more interesting, I may have read for more prolonged periods of time.
I would say to other people to give it a shot, but if you’re not keen on the ant thing from the beginning then not to worry about continuing too much. The ant story makes up about 70% of the book. If you’re a slow reader too I would say give it a miss, life’s too short and there are much better books out there (although I can’t think of any ant related ones!)
Hopefully, now that I have finished my studies, I will be able write more often and read more prolifically! Until next time…