cover image Mort(e)


Robert Repino. Soho, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-61695-427-7

With sly references to Orwell’s Animal Farm, debut novelist Repino puts a nicely modern postapocalyptic overlay on the fable of animals taking over the world. Enraged by the anthropocentrism of humans, ant queen Hymenoptera develops a race of super ants while simultaneously releasing a pheromone causing all animals to become humanlike. Former house cat Sebastian, now over six feet tall and capable of handling firearms, adopts the name Mort(e) and becomes a ruthless soldier for the revolution. Steering clear of allegorical artifices, Repino effectively harnesses animal emotions within the anthropomorphic context, using Mort(e)’s quest to rescue a canine playmate from his former life to introduce the all-too-human messiah complex that will doom Hymenoptera’s vision of a posthuman world. This is an affecting, intriguing shift from the traditional “power corrupts” destruction of utopia, allowing an empathetic melancholy to rise along with Mort(e)’s disillusionment as supposedly free animals begin to commit suicide. Even horrific Hymenoptera, ferociously single-minded in the face of endless unpredictability, reveals an aching loneliness in her absolutism. This ambitious debut falters a bit at first, but quickly becomes an engrossing morality tale with unexpected depths. (Jan.)