Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Dangerous World of Butterflies by Peter Laufer

This book really isn't about butterflies. Really, the full title (The Dangerous World of Butterflies : The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists) should have warned me, but I was curious about the bugs, and it was on the shelf, so I picked it up anyway.

The first couple of chapters focus on the insects, and Laufer does his best to make the subject sound as hard-hitting and edgy as his more usual topics of war and politics--he gets a lot of mileage out of pupal rape. After that, he turns his focus to the collectors and smugglers, at which point tone and topic start to match a bit better, though he never can quite let go of his previous books.

He mentions Orchid Thief once, as a comparable collection of eccentrics and hangers-on in a field, and there are some similarities in subject, and someone who likes one might, in fact, find the other interesting. Trouble is, Susan Orlean has a sense of humor and Laufer doesn't--or at least, not one he shows in the book.

Readable, but not fantastic.

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