Self-publisher Payne, whose Nick Twisp series is making a splash (see below), creates his own Animal Farm in a fable of escaped lab animals that can’t give up booze, tobacco, and whatchugot.
Petey, Honky and Robin, pigeons at the University of Southern California lab at Berkeley, are being fed sherry, various brands of cigarettes, and Hygienic Pigeon Chow as part of a test group. The girl caring for the three reads to them from The Maltese Falcon. Robin, the narrator, who thinks they’re all human, leads the trio when six black-garbed Animal Rights Forever activists liberate the birds. The hungry pigeons enter the revolving door of San Francisco’s posh Palace Hotel and land on the buffet, where they find all manner of new food. Meanwhile, they would kill for a cigarette and at first just eat a butt off the ground, along with the fuzzy filter. At Sam Spade’s Mystery Book Shop, they actually meet The Black Bird and Joel Cairo and are chased by Pinkerton the Cat while all Frisco trembles under the attack of the blood-spattered Killer Pigeons. They join the homing pigeon Darla and Mr. Gerigar, a mental-health parakeet who quotes Freud, in their cozy billboard home. And they meet Wallace, a dead pigeon from the lab, who has marvelously returned to life. Will love and domesticity ever come to our feathered friends? Will Robin ever successfully integrate a Jungian identity and recognize that he’s not human?
As parodies of human excess, the pigeons simply chase after the same promises in life. Amusing? Barely. Some may lap it up but few will find it as riotous as the Nick Twisp saga.