cover image Bats of the Republic

Bats of the Republic

Zachary Thomas Dodson. Doubleday, $27.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-385-53983-8

Dodson’s debut is a creatively illustrated tale of letters lost and found in the vein of J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst’s S. After a vague catastrophe called the Collapse decimates the United States, the survivors take refuge in seven city-states across the country and establish a totalitarian new regime. Citizens are grouped according to their “lifephase,” all conversations are recorded and stored in “the Vault,” and the country is run by a bloodline of seven senators. When one such senator dies, he bequeaths a sealed letter to his grandson, Zeke Thomas, which could cast doubt on the family’s lineage and prevent him from eventually assuming power. The narrative alternates between Zeke’s story, set in 2143 in a dystopian Texas teeming with political schemers and revolutionaries, and that of his ancestor, Zadock Thomas, set in 1840s Texas. Zadock is a young naturalist who, in order to secure a marriage blessing from his beloved’s father, consents to undertake a dangerous mission for him: delivering a sealed letter to a Kurtz-like Texan general. Despite this urgent imperative, the naturalist redirects his energies and seeks to make a name for himself by documenting the undiscovered species of bats he finds in a vast underground cave. The stories elegantly fit together, but the novel is marred by wooden dialogue and the awkwardly expository nature of the prose (despite being in dire, time-sensitive situations, characters are always willing to recap events or spell out motives). The copious maps, illustrations, and found documents do add some flair, making this volume worth picking up for history and adventure fans. (Oct.)