Pin It

Book Review 

by Sheri Boggs

While the entire rest of the country is settling into David Sedaris' Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, I spent my weekend completely immersed in locusts. Not literally, mind you - that would be gross. But Jeffrey Lockwood's Locust is one of those rare discoveries you find by accident in the bookstore that nevertheless goes on to consume both your imagination and every waking hour until it's finished.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the great plains were regularly besieged by humungous swarms of Melanoplus spretus, or Rocky Mountain locusts. Like tornadoes and blizzards, an incoming infestation would spread across the entire horizon, blocking out the midday sun and sending a dark shadow across modest homesteads and hard-won farm plots. A family's entire livelihood could be wiped out in a day; locusts devoured not only every kernel of wheat and blade of grass in the fields but also wooden tool handles and even the pioneers' clothing (if they didn't make it inside fast enough). Dead locusts infected water supplies and raised a nightmarish stench that writers of the day belabored in long, revoltingly descriptive passages. Relief trains couldn't come through because the tracks were made too slick by "grasshopper grease" and the locusts - as a final biological middle finger - left millions of their eggs in the fields they'd chomped bare. The problem was so bad that in 1876 Congress marked the locust as "the single greatest impediment to the settlement of the country" while many farmers - their only previous experiences with locusts being of a more Biblical, metaphorical variety - wondered if they were experiencing some sort of divine retribution.

Locust reads like a highly engaging suspense novel, a primer of life on the American frontier and a natural history "storm" thriller along the lines of Isaac's Storm and The Perfect Storm. (In fact, Lockwood notes that the Isaac Cline of Isaac's Storm was initially recruited to study how meteorological conditions affected locust swarms). Throughout, Lockwood builds up the premise of a mystery - how did this particular insect become so formidable, and furthermore, how did it pass into extinction just a few decades later? - while exercising his considerable wit and voracious scientific curiosity. This is one to be read outdoors, with a gentle breeze blowing in and the amicable chatter of the crickets heard off in the near distance.

Publication date: 07/08/04

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Token Democracy
  • Token Democracy

    Would letting Washington voters give taxpayer money to politicians reduce the power of interest groups — or just subsidize politicians?
    • Oct 20, 2016

    Breaking down some of the issues you'll get to vote on this year
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Shea's World
  • Shea's World

    As Matt Shea seeks re-election, his presence may be felt more in other local races than in his own
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
National Geographic Live: Rhinos, Rickshaws, and Revolutions

National Geographic Live: Rhinos, Rickshaws, and Revolutions @ INB Performing Arts Center

Wed., Oct. 26, 7 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Sheri Boggs


    From puppies to a new James Bond adventure, there are tons of great reads this season
    • Dec 3, 2015
  • Beer and Branding in PDX

    • Sep 15, 2005
  • Nightlife- Bands to Watch

    Gorilla and Rabbit Aside from the fact that you can't help but watch Gorilla and Rabbit, you really should keep an eye on them. As much of a part of the Spokane scene as the Makers, metal and mullets, these oversized stuffed toys have crank
    • Jun 23, 2005
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • The Do-Over

    After failing to pass a bus service tax hike last year, Spokane Transit Authority has a plan to get you to vote for it again
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • Pants on Fire

    U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers can't see the forest for the trees when it comes to climate change
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

election 2016


green zone


trail mix

Readers also liked…

  • Patrolling While Black
  • Patrolling While Black

    Gordon Grant's nearly 30 years as a Spokane cop have been affected by race, but that's not the whole story
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Whitman Privilege
  • Whitman Privilege

    Why Walla Walla's Whitman College has come under fire for having so few low-income students
    • Apr 22, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation