cover image Fauna


Christiane Vadnais, trans. from the French by Pablo Strauss. Coach House, $15.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-55245-416-9

Vadnais’s exciting debut immerses the reader into the dreamy and menacing near-future world of Shivering Heights, a flooded wilderness in the twilight of the human race. A biologist, Laura , studies the deaths of animals living along a polluted river and becomes obsessed with the new forms of life she encounters. In these scenes, Vadnais offers the reader dazzling glimpses of newly evolved, semihuman and hybrid species, the result of a pervasive parasite that’s slowly infecting all forms of life, forcing them to either evolve or die. The postapocalyptic tableaux include a flooded spa town haunted by an impish siren and a floating town “cobbled together from old barges and sailboats” whose inhabitants have forgotten life on dry land. As the Earth becomes more and more uninhabitable, the surviving humans, if they can still be called human, grow new appendages, scales, and feathers, and some morph into other creatures including a shark and a polar bear. The sumptuous imagery and limpid atmosphere forms a dizzying picture of a world after human existence. This dark, sensual novel invites the reader to imagine nature thriving in the toxic aftermath of human domination, and makes for an essential addition to the recent crop of eco-fiction. (Sept.)