January 6, 2015

Book Review: Mort(e) by Robert Repino

Ever pick up a book, knowing even before you start that you're destined to love it?

Ever have it exceed even those lofty expectations?

Mort(e) was sent to me several (many) months back. I'd been chatting with a PR person at SoHo Press about a different book I'd reviewed, and she mentioned Mort(e). "It's about a war...with ants...and sentient house pets..."

Or something like that.

Of course I was all, "Yes! Yes please! Send it! Send it! Send it!"

Because ants? Waging war against humanity? I mean, Them is only my absolute FAVORITE of the 1950s atomic-fear sci-fi flicks. And that's about ants! Giant ants! Giant ants that take over the desert!

So yeah. You had me at ants, SoHo. You had me at ants.

Mort(e) by Robert Repino
SoHo Press
January, 2015
Here's a confession: I read Mort(e) six months ago. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but as it wasn't set to release until January of 2015, I figured: wait until then to write the review.

Writing the review while the material was still fresh in mind was the other, smarter option, but it wasn't the one I chose. Because I also wanted to see if the book would stick with me. If it could make me remember, to wonder, to think about it for months to come. Because that, to me, is the mark of a really good book - a book I'm destined to love and re-read again and again.

Mort(e)....did it. I loved it. And it stuck.

I honestly feel like I read Mort(e) last week. It's stayed very fresh in my mind, coloring the ways I think about animals. The ways I interact with animals. And, most importantly, the ways I behave with my very own dogs and cats.

Because in Mort(e), a giant, mutated, sentient queen ant has decided to wage war on humanity. There are all sorts of complicated reasons for why she does it, and you can learn more by reading the actual book. But the long and the short of it is: she wants revenge.

Somehow, in her all-knowing, all-seeing state, she manages to create a serum that gives self-awareness to animals. It makes them grow, morph, become human-like in all but their original furry faces.

And the animals are pissed off at people.

I mean, think about it. Think about how you really treat your pets. Example: I walk my dog several times a week. He's not so great at "heeling," so I often have to tug on his leash to keep him on track. This pulls on his neck, sometimes jerking him off-balance. All in the name of getting him to behave.

When I leave the house, I put him in a crate - a box - to keep him out of trouble. I control when and what he eats. When he goes outside. I control everything.

And I'm a nice dog owner! Those are things a nice dog owner does!

Imagine what the mean ones do!

So it makes perfect sense to me that the animals, once sentient, rise up against the humans, killing the literal hands that fed them.

At least until Mort(e) comes along.

Mort(e) is a cat. He had decent owners that never really did anything too terrible to him. He managed to not kill them in his initial state of heightened awareness...mainly because Mort(e) loves Sheba.

Sheba is a dog, a neighbor's dog, and she disappears almost as soon as Mort(e) becomes self-aware. His life becomes a mission to find her.

Along the way, he becomes a soldier, a killer, a rescuer, and he uncovers a plot....

Never mind. You don't want to know. You're going to want to find out for yourself.

Repino is a fun writer. His prose is tight and focused, and his humor is black as night. He makes an obese, undulating queen ant seem almost sympathetic, until you care what happens to her almost as much as you care about what happens to the cat who wants to save the world.

Two weeks ago, I was asked to submit my favorite books of 2014 to the LitReactor staff picks...I wanted to put Mort(e) on that list. I loved it that much. Too bad it wasn't actually released yet.

I think I need to re-read it in the new year, mainly so I can put it on my 2015 lists. Because this book is that fun. That entertaining. That much of a ride.

So you, you sci-fi fans, you animal-fans, you book fans - you should read it too!