We Are the Ants starts opens on January 28, 2016 and starts off by telling the reader the world is going to end tomorrow, January 29th (I happened to start this book on January 28th, which seemed a bit foreboding). Henry Denton has been getting abducted by aliens, who he calls sluggers, on a semi-regular basis since he was thirteen, now they’ve given him the option to stop the end of the world by pressing a button. Seems like an obvious choice, but Henry isn’t so sure and the first time the button is offered he doesn’t press it.
While the book opens up as science fiction (and has interspersing sections describing how life on Earth could end – a meteor, nuclear war, a lack of bees, giant bugs, etc.) it’s really about people and humanity. Henry’s first boyfriend, Jesse, killed himself last year and his not talking to his former best-friend Audrey, Marcus, the new guy he’s secretly “seeing” harasses and torments him on a regular basis in public, his dad took off years ago, his mom is running herself ragged taking care of Henry, his older brother Charlie (who beats on him regularly, dropped out of college, and just found out he’s going to be a dad) and her increasingly senile mother, and then there’s Diego, who just moved to town (under mysterious conditions) and seems to be interested in Henry (even though he has an ex-girlfriend).
As stories and characters develop Henry tries to decide not only if there’s a reason to save the world, but what (if anything) in life matters. We Are the Ants covers some more serious issues (suicide, assault, dementia), but the (mostly) humorous end of the world interjections break up the intensity. Henry might be Space Boy and Sluggers may be planning to bring about the end of the world, but Hutchinson‘s books is mostly about people. This reader found it to be a compelling book.