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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book review: Mort[e] by Robert Repino

I know some people don't like anthropomorphic animals, but luckily, I am not one of them because this book was such a treat! I can't remember the last time I read such an inventive book, and yet it felt very grounded in the real world, or at least it starts off in a world we recognize.

Sebastian is a house cat. He lives with the Martinis. The mother in the family starts to have an affair with a neighbor, who brings along his dog, Sheba. Sebastian loves Sheba. Yes, something is bothering his owners, but overall everything is fine. He has food, sunbeams to lie in, and a wonderful basement to hang out in with Sheba.

One day he grows to human-size, his paws turn into hands, and he can understand the humans talking to each other. Bear with me. See, in the last few weeks/months, the ants have started a war against the humans. And as part of that war, they released a hormone into the water system that causes these effects in mammals. They developed the hormone over centuries of study when the Queen bred scientists ants, who developed ways to keep her alive for centuries (millennia?) and it had this side effect. They also used it to develop 10-foot-tall ant soldiers. Ants are formidable opponents in a war because they can bite through anything, even metal, and they don't care when their compatriots are killed.

Sebastian joins the other cats in fighting the humans with the ants. He takes on the name Mort(e) over his slave name. And partly it does indicate his amazing killing ability (despite the fact that his fingers are short and stubby, due to him having been declawed as a kitten.) But as the war progresses, Mort(e) really only wants one thing: Sheba. Will he ever find her? Will she even remember him? Is she still alive? How will this war end?

This book was so creative, so unique, although yes it does have hints of Watership Down, but as fantastical as it gets, its power is in its grounding in the possible and in a world that looks just like where we live today. Yes, it will make you look sideways at your own cats and wonder about the "slave names" you've given them (Doozy might not be embarrassed by hers but Turkey will resent us) and worry about whether they'd kill you, given the chance and opposable thumbs.

I was thrilled at the end of the book to learn the sequel will be coming out next summer! While the book was pretty perfect and I did love the ending, I can't wait to find out what happens next! Mort(e) is a wonderful protagonist who I'd follow into battle any day.

I checked this book out from the library.

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