Literature: Fragment

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 things 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.

Has a sequel called Pandemonium, which deals with another isolated hostile ecosystem, this time in an enormous cave in Russia, as well as the survival of organisms from Henders Island in the underground city nearby.

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.
  • Artistic License Paleontology:
    • 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.
  • Being Watched: Yeah, you really have to wonder how observant these people are when a ten-foot mantis shrimp sits outside their door and stalks them. Oh, and Hender was watching them the entire time. Heck, he called them.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: In the first book, there the Hender organisms, which technically count due to being arthropods (although looking very little like arthropods), with the mega-mantis getting special mention.
    • The sequel goes full though, there are giant gammarids, colonial centipede chains, and sea spiders.
  • 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.
    • For example, the wheel-like "ants" are actually thousands of individuals in themselves, carrying several generations of offspring in their.... something. If they trip, the offspring eat them.
  • Bizarre Alien Locomotion: The white "bugs" are wheel-shaped, and can roll on their edges.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": Henders "rats" aren't. Not even close. Meanwhile Henders "ants" are more like tires than ants.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: At the end of Pandemonium The cave's lake spills into the underground city, which has become infested with Henders organisms; and the two deadly ecosystems battle it out (Pandemonium having a huge advantage; being immune to saltwater, so they easily won).
  • Death World: Er, island. In any case, this could be the epitome of said trope, as your total remaining life expectancy can be measured in minutes while venturing into the island.
    • To put it into perspective, if even one mite-sized animal got off the island, it would cause the extinction of all life on Earth.
    • The sequel brings us Pandemonium, a death cave just as deadly as Henders Island, partly because none of its inhabitants are vulnerable to saltwater.
  • 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's Squishier with Cephalopods: In the sequel there are firebombers (flying, venom-raining, jellyfish-like animals), and ghosts (goo-shooting puppeteer parasites).
  • 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.
  • Flying Seafood Special: The sequel has these.
    • Space Whale: Well, kind of. They're not whales exactly, but whale-like and while they don't live in space, they can fly.
  • 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.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: The hendropods see things differently than humans, both in their thoughts and literally (they have a much wider colour spectrum than humans).
    "[Hender] couldn't understand what humans meant by "black-and-white" movies. Hender saw lots of colors in them."
  • The Hunter Becomes The Hunted: A pack of badger mantis-shrimps chases a group of Henders rats, but when one of the badgers trip, the rats turn around and devour it, followed by swarms of wasps and ants; then everything is eaten by a dog-sized animal that springs from the canopy, bringing this trope Up to Eleven.
  • Infant Immortality: Both Fragment (Copepod the bull terrier) and its sequel (Ivan the Samoyed) have a dog in it, and both dogs survive to the end.
  • 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 (it being the reason they've been unable to escape the island).
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After Thatcher escapes, he accidentally releases anesthetized specimens and is eaten horribly.
  • Long Lived: Every life form native to Henders Island is biologically immortal because they get killed off to soon for aging to be required to prevent inbreeding.Except the Hendropods.
  • Lost World: The entire premise of the book and its sequel.
  • 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.
  • Older and Wiser: Both subverted and played straight by the Hendropods. Since they've spent centuries or more on the island, they're very knowledgeable about it, but totally clueless about everything off it.
  • Old Master: The Hendropods. Each of them has lasted centuries a miniature Deathworld, and don't get weaker as the age. An example is near the end of the book, where they lock themselves in with a group of Henders Rats, and casually pulp them.
  • Precision F-Strike: From the President of the United States, no less! But entirely justified, under the circumstances...
  • Really 70 000 Years Old: The hendropods are really really old (their civilization dates back to at least the Late Jurassic), but you would never be able to tell because they don't really age.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: In Pandemonium, both Otto Inman and Andy Beasley are killed off rather unceremoniously via gunshot midway through the book.
  • Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: In Pandemonium, Kuzu turns out to be the book's main villain.
  • 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.