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Fragment is a 2009 s-f novel by Warren Fahy, described by one reviewer as "an eco-thriller with teeth."
A group of scientists on the reality show Sea Life discover a distress signal from a near uncharted island in the South Pacific. Called Henders Island, the island itself is poorly known, and no one has ever reported exploring the interior of the island. The crew land on the island not only with the hope of rescuing whoever sent the signal, but also possibly discovering new species of plants and animals (and in one case, pumping ratings back into the failing show).
They soon find out why no one has ever explored Henders Island.
Turns out the island is a remnant of an ancient supercontinent from the Precambrian era, where everything has been evolving separately for 700 million years and the ferocity of the island's inhabitants has been turned up to eleven. Terrestrial mantis shrimp roam the interior, while the island itself is in an orgy of violence as the food chain is thrown out the window, and everything eats everything.
Naturally, the military gets involved, and the U.S. attempt to study the island, bringing in not only the only two survivors of the Sea Life expedition to the island, but two scientists from the mainland. One is a rather nice guy with the token unusual theory which gets proven over the course of the book, while the other is a popular doom-saying scientist who does thing more for the money than for science. Eventually, the island's fauna is determined to be too dangerous, and the government nukes the place. But not before the protagonists discover sentient life on the island, and have to get it off the island and into safety before the above money-hungry scientist has them killed to render his theories unfalsifiable.
This series provides examples of:
- Always a Bigger Fish: Er... mantis shrimp. However, sometimes the bigger fish is a smaller fish, as can be seen when a terrestrial mantis shrimp the size of a grizzly is attacked and severely wounded by three smaller badger-sized animals. No, really.
- Being Watched: Yeah, you really have to wonder how observant these people are when a giant mantis shrimp sits outside their door and stalks them. Oh, and Hender was watching them the entire time. Heck, he called them.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Frequent references are made to how Henders Island fauna is so strange and so alien, except that it's all Earth-based.
- Call a Smeerp a Rabbit: Henders "rats" aren't. Not even close.
- Complete Monster: Thatcher. Although it's steadily implied he's a Jerkass, it really starts to become obvious when he kills his own two year old son because he didn't want to be bothered by child support or the harm a love-child could bring to his career. Also he tried to destroy the human race.
- Death World: This could be the epitome of said trope.
- Designated Hero: Geoffrey Binswanger. Despite spending most of the story at a university mocking the existence of the island where the other main characters endure great dangers and suffer the loss of many friends, he is clearly set up as a hero who gets the girl despite only showing up in the third act and doing almost nothing heroic.
- Devil in Plain Sight: Thatcher. Though the other characters ignore him less because they think he's innocuous and more because he's annoying. The threat from him comes from just how far he is willing to go to preserve his book deals.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Ranging from Tyrannosaurus-sized terrestrial mantis shrimp up to and including the plants. Especially the plants. They drink your blood.
- Eyes Do Not Belong There: Henders "rats" have a second set of eyes at the middle of their backs.
- Foil: Thatcher Redmond and Geoffrey Binswanger. The former is an older, isolated scientist only concerned with being proven right and the money that comes with it. The younger is a handsome, charismatic scientist who enjoys surrounding himself with equals, having his theories challenged, and is more concerned with discovery itself than the accolades.
- Gentle Giant: Hender and the Hendropods. They could very clearly wipe out the humans, showing skills at dealing death that easily make them the equal of the deadliest predators on the island, but they're actually kind, sensitive, intelligent creatures who do their best to protect any innocents on the island.
- Heroes Love Dogs: How do we know for sure that Hender is a friend? Copepod LOVES him.
- High Octane Nightmare Fuel: Up to Eleven. Mantis shrimp the size of eighteen-wheelers, spiders that dwarf saber-toothed tigers, worms that burrow into your eyes, trees that drink your blood... this is arguably the most horrific Lost World ever created.
- Kill It with Water: In one of the oddest plot-twists, it turns out that contact with salt water is tantamount to instant death for Henders Island creatures.
- Laser-Guided Karma: After Thatcher escapes, he accidentally releases anaesthetized specimens and is eaten horribly. Why would he even have them?
- actually, they were live bioluminescent hender's island bugs trapped in jars. the Hendropods used as lanterns. they'd used them earlier to signal the ship, and must have left them in the boat by accident. the anaesthetized specimens were all Hender's Rats, which Thatcher released onto the ship before his escape in order to kill the people on board
- Lost World: The entire premise of the book.
- Moral Event Horizon: Thatcher arguably crosses it right off the bat when we find out how he set up the death of his own son to remove the inconvenience of a love child. However, if this doesn't count, he steps over once again when he deliberately releases Henders Rats onto the ship, hoping that they'll lead to the extinction of humanity.
- Nerds Are Sexy: Dr. Binswanger falls pretty firmly into this trope, having a legion of adoring fangirls turning out to hear him discuss evolutionary theory.
- Precision F-Strike: From the President of the United States, no less! But entirely justified, under the circumstances...
- Somewhere a Paleontologist Is Crying: Henders Island is populated by a lot of Ediacaran Fauna, in addition to various arthropods and Cambrian fauna. The problem? All of the weird Ediacaran fauna died out before the big Cambrian diversification. Not to mention the fact that the book suggests that all arthropods all the way down through mantis shrimp evolved there (which means that the death-by-saltwater Henders Island animals would have had to of left the island over a dozen times!)
- Although Ediacaran fauna surviving past their "official" extinction is certainly plausible. It's happened multiple times in real life...
- It's possible that the idea of mantis shrimp (but probably not all arthropods) having evolved from the Henders organisms is a Shout-Out to the first ever "alternate evolution" Mockumentary, The Snouters. In that book, the author traces the origins of the perfectly-ordinary taxon of flatworms to its mythical Rhinogrades as a joke.
- The Woobie: Andy probably qualifies as this.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The early subplot involving Nell's nightmares about her 'monster' and her mother's death, sort of vanished and was never mentioned again. Then again, maybe she repressed those memories to focus on the other monsters on the island.
- Also, Otto's injury. Quite a bit was made of the fact that no one knew what an infection from a Henders' species would do to a human being, and then it turned out to do... nothing. Otto's hand was mentioned a few times, but otherwise he was fine.
- You Fail Biology Forever: Okay, large animals generally take time to get to their huge size. So how can an island where the average lifespan of an animal is oftentimes measured in days or hours find the time or nutrients to grow to be the size of a Tyrannosaurus? And suddenly they become pack hunters? When there is nothing else on the island which they would need to band together to hunt?
- Moreover, if all of the Henders Island creatures die horribly on contact with salt water, then how did the mantis shrimp escape from the island?
- And why didn't the whole ecosystem get wiped out by some ancient mega-tsunami? Surely there's been at least one Pacific wave high enough to overtop the island's cliffs in half a billion years.
- And why/how would every species evolve this kill switch in the first place?
- Answer to all of the above: The author wanted to out-Jurassic Park Jurassic Park.