Forget extraterrestrials arriving in spaceships powerful enough to scorch Earth. The “war with no name” has begun, and our own pets are the ones turning against us.
The mastermind of this attack is the queen of the Colony. For centuries, ants have been refining biological warfare with the goal of eradicating the violent humans from the face of the planet. The time has come to put the plan into action, and a key element of the attack is to give all animals human-like intelligence and self-awareness, as well as the ability to walk on their hind legs. Upon realizing what humans have done to them throughout history, many animals turn on their former owners.
At the center of the story is a former housecat named Mort(e). He rises through the ranks of the military, always volunteering to go into the most dangerous missions. He and his partner are are also determined to understand the cause of EMSAH, a biological weapon the humans produced to fight the animals. But really, Mort(e) is really just a cat looking for his best friend, Sheba, a dog he knew and loved before the war with no name began.
Mort(e) is not my usual type of book, but the cover grabbed my attention and the description called to the Animal Farm-lover in me. I was not let down. Robert Repino begins the first few chapters from the matter-of-fact perspective of a housecat; a not-yet-aware Sebastian — Mort(e)’s pet name — curiously watches household drama unfold as the outside world falls to pieces. The fear of ant attacks becomes palpable as the danger comes closer to home, and then suddenly, Mort(e) can walk, talk, and understand everything. For such a farfetched plot, the anger the animals have towards their former is entirely believable. I’ll admit I looked at my cats a few times while listening to this book and asked them, “You’d never kill me, right? Right?”
In that regard, I loved the book. I loved it unquestioningly about 75% of the way through. Then it took a turn, going from a cool sci-fi-Animal–Farm-on-steroids apocalypse with animals intent on revenge to a weird commentary on cult-like religious faith that I still haven’t exactly wrapped my head around.
But even with that weird hiccup, the book is creative, thought-provoking, and just plain entertaining…when you’re not hating your fellow humans for being so horrible to animals. I’ve never read anything like Mort(e), and I’m willing to be that you haven’t either.
Mort(e) was published in January 2015 by Soho Press. I listened to the audiobook version.