Book Review: Mort[e] by Robert Repino

Synopsis: After the “war with no name” a cat assassin searches for his lost love in Repino’s strange, moving sci-fi epic that channels both Homeward Bound and A Canticle for Lebowitz.

The “war with no name” has begun, with human extinction as its goal. The instigator of this war is the Colony, a race of intelligent ants who, for thousands of years, have been silently building an army that would forever eradicate the destructive, oppressive humans. Under the Colony’s watchful eye, this utopia will be free of the humans’ penchant for violence, exploitation and religious superstition. The final step in the Colony’s war effort is transforming the surface animals into high-functioning two-legged beings who rise up to kill their masters.

Here are some of my initial thoughts/notes I took on this book:

1) I didn’t like the absurd importance placed on genitals in this story. Mort(e) is a neutered cat, which would have made for some interesting commentary on his social status in contrast to ours and on sexuality, but instead it didn’t say much about how genitals don’t make up a person. Mort(e) seemed pretty white-male hetero, to me. A macho “man.” I don’t mean to say that his neutered-ness was never mentioned, but the fact was never explored and fleshed out to my satisfaction. Instead, we do hear a lot about the balls of other males, if I remember correctly.

2) The author, Robert Repino, also didn’t seem to know much about animal rights issues. The reason the animals are angry at humans in the book seemed very melodramatic, given what their anger was based on. The grandiose reasons for war could have been based on the million little things in reality right now: Factory Farming, Animal Testing, Etc. Instead, the animal-people hate humans for far stranger reasons, it felt like. Maybe I missed something.

3) What was meant to be a shocking backstory about abused animals in a human’s dog fighting system felt melodramatic as well. It wasn’t serious enough for me. In fact, it was boring. The chosen horrors of the past for the animal characters were nothing compared to what really happens in these types of situations. Animal slavery and subjugation were never explored to my liking in this story.

4) The writing style seemed bland–like Repino was holding back. Just like he didn’t really want to tackle heavy animal rights issues, he also didn’t want to make his prose creative. And so it didn’t really stick with me as a style.

5) This would have worked better as a graphic novel. Probably because of the prose thing. Plus, look at all that potential trapped in the cover. TRAPPED.

6) It got really weird in the end. Not in a great way. But not that I wasn’t necessarily not on board with it. But it turned out to be a whole statement on religion (basically the one thing Repino was OK with exploring fully) and it just didn’t fit naturally with the rest of the story. And and and.

Overall rating: B-

P.S. if my cats became humanoid, I don’t think they’d kill me.
P.P.S. Bojack Horseman had hands. And horses have hooves. It could have worked.

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