Mort(e) by Robert Repino
“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. As a final step in the war effort, the Colony uses its strange technology to transform the surface animals into high-functioning two-legged beings who rise up to kill their masters.
Former housecat turned war hero, Mort(e) is famous for taking on the most dangerous missions and fighting the dreaded human bio-weapon EMSAH. But the true motivation behind his recklessness is his ongoing search for a pre-transformation friend—a dog named Sheba. When he receives a mysterious message from the dwindling human resistance claiming Sheba is alive, he begins a journey that will take him from the remaining human strongholds to the heart of the Colony, where he will discover the source of EMSAH and the ultimate fate of all of earth’s creatures.”
While the idea behind this story is interesting—what would happen if animals became intelligent and rose up against humans?—the execution doesn’t live up to it. I think this is because there are too many digressions from the main plot. As I saw it, the story revolved around Mort(e) and his quest to find Sheba, a dog that he knew before the uprising. Early in his search, he falls in with one of the animal armies working with the ants to eradicate humans, and from there, the story starts to wander. Mort(e) never loses sight of his desire to find Sheba, but he gets involved over and over again in activities that don’t advance that goal.
Something else that slows down the plot is the way the author inserts the backstories of other characters into the narrative. One the one hand, it gives readers a somewhat broader view of the animal uprising; on the other hand, things went pretty much the same wherever the characters were. It’s not necessary to know that the canine Wawa was owned by a man who bred dogs for pit fights, nor is it necessary to know that the bobcat Culdesac accepted human sacrifices from a frightened group of humans trapped in a church.
This novel doesn’t quite reach the heights of other anthropomorphic stories that have come before. I think this is because books about animals tend to have something to say about humanity, and I don’t think that Mort(e) achieves this. Other anthro stories delve deeply into the lives of the animals as they are, independent of any human influence, and obviously, this book doesn’t do that either. It exists in an in-between state that does the story no justice.
While I’m pleased that someone is venturing into the anthropomorphic genre, this novel doesn’t exemplify what can be so compelling about such tales. The sequel will be out soon, and I wonder in what direction Repino will take his story.
This book was a personal purchase.
(Description nicked from Goodreads.com.)