Out of Eden

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion, Alan Burdick presents an unusual book about invasive species—those plants and animals not native to the areas where they are found, but which were introduced and grew so prolifically that they present a threat to the ecological balance. He traveled to places where scientists were studying the interlopers, and in a journalistic style similar to a travelogue, he tells the background history of how the organism arrived, how it thrived, and how it is now eradicating native species. The primary drawback of the book is the lack of index and table of contents, which makes it impossible to use for ready reference. There is no denying the author's knowledge of the subject, though.

Burdick first covers terrestrial invasions, including a great deal of information on the brown tree snake in Guam and feral pigs in Hawaii. He covers some species’ arrivals in lesser detail, such as Hawaii's fruit flies and yellow jackets. Next he tackles the marine invasions, often brought via ballast water in ships. Some biographical information on the scientists is included, and the end of the book addresses NASA's attempts to avoid moving organisms from one moon or planet to another in the course of space exploration. This book is not a quick read, but it is worth the time required to absorb it.