Read PW's Starred Review of Mort(e) & Buy the Book

Repino’s Mort(e), a literary science fiction novel about a war between humans and animals, began as a dream. “I started to think about what such a conflict would look like. I started learning more about insect life and dog behavior and weird things like that,” he says.

Though Repino has always been interested in science fiction and fantasy, he began his writing career on a more literary track. His MFA thesis at Emerson College, he says, “was one of those novels you have to get out of your system. Since then I’ve been moving away from more realistic fiction, quote-unquote.” He says he wants to use SF to investigate what it means to be human and to ask whether humans are special. “The [animal] characters [in Mort(e)] are rejecting that idea—while, at the same time, they are becoming like humans themselves. The main character feels this is the inevitable flaw that all sentient beings have—that they resort to tribalism and superstition [and] dictatorship when they’re scared.”

The manuscript for Mort(e) came to Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency unsolicited. Jennifer Weltz, Repino’s agent, says, “Someone in my office looked at the chapters and said, ‘This is about ants and cats, but... I think you should read it.’ I’m someone who loves stuff that is different and crazy and unique. Robert’s book was all of those things, but was also definitely a page-turner.” Quoting a reviewer, she adds, “It’s bat-shit crazy.”

Weltz isn’t worried about Mort(e) finding a mainstream readership. “Crossing genres is the future,” she says. “We’re seeing a lot of books that can’t be fit comfortably into one category on a bookshelf. I think that’s quite exciting.”