Empire of the Ants by Bernard Werber

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Here is the stunning international bestseller in the tradition of Watership Down but with a dark, original twist. Unique, daring, and unforgettable, it tells the story of an ordinary family who accidentally threaten the security of a hidden civilization as intelligent as our own--a colony of ants determined to survive at any cost....

Jonathan Wells and his young family have come to the Paris flat at 3, rue des Sybarites through the bequest of his eccentric late uncle Edmond. Inheriting the dusty apartment, the Wells family are left with only one warning: Never go down into the cellar.

But when the family dog disappears down the basement steps, Jonathan follows--and soon his wife, his son, and various would-be rescuers vanish into its mysterious depths.

Meanwhile, in a pine stump in a nearby park, a vast civilization is in turmoil. Here a young female from the russet ant nation of Bel-o-kan learns that a strange new weapon has been killing off her comrades. To find out why, she enlists the help of a warrior ant, and the two set off on separate journeys into a harsh and violent world. It is a world where death takes many forms--savage birds and voracious lizards, warlike dwarf ants and rapacious termites, poisonous beetles and, most bizarre of all, the swift, murderous, giant guardians of the edge of the world: cars.

Yet the end of the female's desperate quest will be the eerie secret in the cellar at 3, rue des Sybarites--a mystery she must solve in order to fulfill her special destiny as the new queen of her own great empire. But to do so she must first make unthinkable communion with the most barbaric creatures of all.

Empire of the Ants is a brilliant evocation of a hidden civilization as complex as our own and far more ancient. It is a fascinating realm where boats are built of leaves and greenflies are domesticated and milked like cows, where citizens lock antennae in "absolute communication" and fight wars with precisely coordinated armies using sprays of glue and acids that can dissolve a snail. Not since Watership Down has a novel so vividly captured the lives and struggles of a fellow species and the valuable lessons they have to teach us.

About Bernard Werber

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Bernard Werber is a scientific journalist who has studied ants for fifteen years as an avocation. He lives in Paris.
Published February 2, 1998 by Bantam Books. 264 pages
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Horror, Education & Reference, Science & Math. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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 Empire Of The Ants ($23.95; Feb. 9; 256 pp.; 0-553-09613-3): First published in France in 1991, this ingenious anthropomorphic fantasy draws disturbing parallels between the rigidly structured ``empire'' in which ants work, multiply, make war, and survive and the less ordered lives of their mos...

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Empire of the Ants

AV Club

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Its protagonists are ants with names like "the 327th male laid since the start of autumn," and 327th is a russet ant with a serious problem: His entire beetle-hunting expedition was wiped out instantaneously by unknown forces, possibly a horrible new weapon developed by pesky dwarf ants.

Mar 29 2002 | Read Full Review of Empire of the Ants


But an ant's idea of the wind could serve equally well to describe what it's like to read Bernard Werber's entomological fantasy: it picks you right off the ground of your human experience and puts you down in the "goodness-knows-where" of ant life.

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