Reviewed by Abram Van Engen

Insect Theodicy

Who sent the locusts? And who exterminated them?

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As the book closes, however, Lockwood's crazy love seems to get the better of him; after explaining the locust's extinction, his solid writing disintegrates into flighty, quasi-religious reasoning. Lockwood compares sanctuaries and sacrifices of humans and animals—glossing over minor details like volition and consciousness—in order to lament the locust's loss. A puff of logic would blow him away. Still, he leaves an interesting question lingering: At what point does irrevocable alteration of the natural world (the extinction of the locust, for example) become an acceptable tradeoff for the welfare of the human race? Lockwood's locust love decides him on this point. But after so many awe-filled pages of destruction, I remain unconvinced. For a long while, it seems, an answer has been assumed, but perhaps the question deserves restating: Can extinction ever be good?

Consider that as you pick up Lockwood's Locust and immerse yourself in a fascinating and shocking swarm of biology, biography, politics, and religion.

Abram Van Engen will begin doctoral studies in English at Northwestern University in the fall.

Related Elsewhere:

Locust is available from and other book retailers.

Philologos Bible Prophecy Research has compiled all the biblical references to locusts.

Plaguedomes offers a disturbing take on snowglobes.

More information on locusts is available from the Orthoptera Species File Online, the Orthopterists' Society, and the Tree of Life Web Project.

Lockwood has a page at the University of Wyoming web site.

Books & Culture Corner appears every Monday. Earlier editions of Books & Culture Corner and Book of the Week include:

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