When the Killing's Done cover image/ courtesy: Viking

tc title T.C. Boyle
In his latest novel, T. Coraghessan Boyle considers the real life story of the National Park Service’s systematic slaughter of wild animals. To be clear, the species in question at the center of When the Killing’s Done are the invasive rats and non-native pigs whose presence has disrupted the ecological balance on Anacapa and Santa Cruz, two of the Channel Islands off the Southern Californian coast. Getting rid of these pests, according to the argument presented by the Park Service, would enable a return to the conditions as nature intended, before the arrival of sheep herders and shipwrecked gold prospectors introduced the undesirable creatures in the first place and set off a chain of habitat-altering ramifications.
     Using this highly contentious campaign to frame the story, Boyle constructs a fictional tale of characters touched by the arguments over which lives are worth saving and just when it is reasonable to play God. Alma Boyd Takesue, the good-intentioned Park Service biologist who supports the extermination process, is pitted against the hotheaded and dreadlocked animal rights activist Dave LaJoy and his band of perfervid followers. The battle lines are drawn, the passions are intense, and nearly everyone, no matter their position on the killing, is out for blood.
     Animals verses animals, humans taking on animals, and finally, humans up against humans – the conflicts presented here make this only the latest in Boyle’s literary explorations of the complexities present where fights over nature occur.

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