Genre: Speculative fiction Published: Hodder & Stoughton/Sceptre, July 2022 My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
“This novel is set in the near future. However, to minimise any need for mental arithmetic on the reader’s part, sums of money are presented as if the euro has retained its 2022 value with no inflation. This is the sole aspect in which the story deviates from how things will actually unfold.”
So begins one of my most anticipated summer-releases of the year. A speculative eco-thriller packed to the brim with satirical humour and brilliant ideas, that does at times overexplain its message a bit.
Venomous Lumpsucker is set in a disturbingly plausible near future, ravaged by climate change and overrun by capitalist mega-corporations. With ecosystems collapsing all around, the world governments must take action in the only way they know how: by enforcing protocols and financial penalties. Enter the Extinction-credit: a price to pay when exploiting an endangered species habitat. That price increases drastically when the species in question is deemed to be “intelligent”.
What began as a protective measure, soon became a buyable freepass to wipe a species off the face of the planet. After all, it’s only 13 bucks, right?
Until one day in the 2030’s, a cyberattack skyrockets the price of Extinction-credits, finally forcing “big-corpo’s” attention their way. This kicks off our plot following an unlikely team of a nature-conservatists and a morally bankrupt mining executive in a wild goose-chase through weird landscapes of this ravaged world. She, on a mission to prove that the titular fish is intelligent, he on a mission to prove that it is not…
There’s a lot to love about Venomous Lumpsucker, especially for fans of speculative eco-fiction (which I consider myself to be as well). The world Ned Beauman creates is incredibly well thought out: mixing the familiar with the disturbingly alien. Where once were lush eco-systems now lie toxic wastelands, and political systems built on ideologies now only thrive of monetary gain. It’s terrifying because it’s plausible… Luckily Beauman balances out these moments of acute observation about our near-future with some satirical humour that brings some light to the situation.
My only big complaint with the novel is that it did, at times, overstay its welcome a bit. As interesting as Beauman’s ideas are, not all of them required a novel-length exploration. The message becomes repetitive, edging on heavy-handed and at times dissipates the plot. The same goes for some of the passages about the animals that are on the brink of extinction. As an example: there’s an extensive description of the Adelognathus marginatum; the parasitic wasp that lays its eggs inside the body of a living ant. There’s a fairly interesting metaphor in there, but a more concise reference would’ve been more powerful than the pages upon pages of back-story on this wasp that we got.
Ned Beauman’s message about greed an consumerism is clear: less is sometimes more. At times throughout the novel I wished that philosophy had been implemented a little more throughout the writing as well.
Overall, 3.5/5 extinction credits for the Venomous Lumpsucker; it’s very intelligent, but a little lippy indeed… Recommended for fans of Jeff Vandermeer's Hummingbird Salamander.
Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can find this book here on Goodreads.