A wild riff on interspecies warfare sure to make pet owners think twice the next time their tabby cats dart by.

MORTE

A war novel/religious allegory about cats, dogs and giant ants driven by a hive mind. Yes, really.                    

So, let’s imagine W. Bruce Cameron’s silly and maudlin A Dog’s Purpose recast as a violent and frightening post-apocalyptic global battle for the souls of Earth’s survivors, layered with a messiah prophecy that makes The Matrix look simplistic by comparison. If that’s a bit much, maybe just think Animal Farm re-imagined by Orson Scott Card. Either way, you end up with this devilishly entertaining debut about anthropomorphized animals caught in a conflict between an invading army of insects and the planet’s few remaining humans. The novel begins from the point of view of Sebastian, an aloof but observant house cat whose only true companion is a dog named Sheba. Through animal eyes, he describes Earth’s descent into chaos as giant ants—that’s Hymenoptera unus to you—break through the planet’s crust to wreak havoc on human civilization. At the heart of their plan is the decision to release a virus that gives all animals self-awareness, a bipedal structure and better-than-human intelligence. After the change, Sebastian recreates himself as the cat-warrior Mort(e), the hero of a breakaway army called The Red Sphinx. “Don’t you all know who this is?” says his superior to a new crop of recruits. “This is Mort(e). The hero of the Battle of the Alleghenies. The Mastermind of the Chesapeake Bridge Bombing. The crazy bastard who assassinated General Fitzpatrick in broad daylight. This choker was killing humans before some of you were born.” After a while the story gets kind of messy with a memetic virus called “EMSAH,” the aforementioned prophecy and the preordained battle to end all wars, but it’s still awfully good sci-fi that imagines a world where humans are no longer at the top of the food chain.

A wild riff on interspecies warfare sure to make pet owners think twice the next time their tabby cats dart by.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61695-427-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

A somewhat fragmentary nocturnal shadows Jim Nightshade and his friend Will Halloway, born just before and just after midnight on the 31st of October, as they walk the thin line between real and imaginary worlds. A carnival (evil) comes to town with its calliope, merry-go-round and mirror maze, and in its distortion, the funeral march is played backwards, their teacher's nephew seems to assume the identity of the carnival's Mr. Cooger. The Illustrated Man (an earlier Bradbury title) doubles as Mr. Dark. comes for the boys and Jim almost does; and there are other spectres in this freakshow of the mind, The Witch, The Dwarf, etc., before faith casts out all these fears which the carnival has exploited... The allusions (the October country, the autumn people, etc.) as well as the concerns of previous books will be familiar to Bradbury's readers as once again this conjurer limns a haunted landscape in an allegory of good and evil. Definitely for all admirers.

Pub Date: June 15, 1962

ISBN: 0380977273

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1962

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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some White people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only White avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, White people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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