I have no finished book or watched movie for this week’s Book/Movie Review post, so I’ll just tell you about what I’m currently reading.
Over a month ago, I began reading Night of the Animals, by Bill Broun, for the book club. It has an intriguing premise: in the year 2052, an 80-year old man named Cuthbert Handley believes he possesses “The Wonderments”, an ability to communicate with animals, a gift passed down to him by his grandmother. He believes he must use this gift to free all the animals in the London Zoo, and quick, because their lives are in danger from the suicide cults prevalent at this time. The problem is, Cuthbert almost certainly is insane-brought on by the death of his brother Drystan when they were children (who he believes is not really dead, only “missing”); the severe beatings and abuse of his horrible father; and his hallucinogenic addiction to a drug called Flot.
There’s plenty of insanity going on here-the suicide cults sweeping the globe believe that the comet Urga-Rampos passing by is their vehicle to the next life; they also believe that animals have no souls, are “empty vessels” and are therefore dangerous, as their own departing souls may “fall into” an animal’s body on the way out. Huh.
Since the story takes place in the future, the author has the difficult task of presenting this world to the reader-a British world run by the new aristocracy and the king “Harry 9”; a new form of communication called Wikinous, with skin panels and eye implants; where mental illness (or just a simple desire to escape) is dealt with under “Nexar Hoods”, where a person is basically reduced to a lump of jelly; and where Indigents (the extremely poor) are marginalized and scorned like pariah. It’s all a bit overwhelming in the first 100 pages or so, and my two other book club members just couldn’t get through it and decided not to continue with the book.
I understand their decision, and I almost put it down myself. But I pushed on, wanting to give the book a chance, and also because I simply love crazy Cuthbert and have to find out what happens to him. The book evens out after the first few chaotic chapters, and I especially enjoyed the section that flashes back to Cuthbert’s youth with his brother and his grandmother.
It seems to take forever for Cuthbert to actually get into the zoo to do the deed, and once he does, he engages in long, crazy conversations with the animals (entertaining at first, and then a bit tedious). My attention was once again refreshed by the introduction of a new character named Astrid, a young park officer who may or may not be linked to Cuthbert, and who is a recovering Flot addict herself (she’s approaching the dreaded “second withdrawal”, a good ten years after the first).
So that’s where I’m at-Cuthbert wandering around the zoo with his bolt cutters, looking for his long-dead brother Drystan, talking to animals and unleashing some chaos, while Astrid has shown up along with the park officers, the media, and the much-feared Red Watch, who will neural-pike you first and not even bother to ask questions later. The comet is coming and the death cults are stirring. What will happen? I’ll let you know when I finish!
I’m also reading The Wonder, by Emma Donaghue (of “Room” fame), about an Irish girl in the mid-1800’s who seemingly can live without eating food. Lib Wright, a nurse who trained under Florence Nightingale, has been called upon to help observe the child and confirm whether or not she’s a living miracle. I’m hoping to have that book finished by next week, and I’ll give a review.