According to Google, approximately 62% of households have at least one pet. While dogs and cats make up the majority, pets run the gambit from the very large to the very small. For countless years humans and animals have lived side by side, one relying on the other. What if one day however, that all changed?
In Mort(e) by Robert Repino we are presented with that ‘what if?’. A war with no name has been waged with the extinction of humans as its goal. Instigated by a race of intelligent ants called the Colony, for thousands of years their Queen has been plotting and waiting. They create a type of hormone that turns domestic animals in to sentient beings and when unleashed they decimate the human populace.
The book follows Mort(e), a former house cat now turned fighter. He has become a war hero known for his bravery and for taking on the most dangerous missions to fight the humans. Mort(e)’s motivation isn’t to eradicate the humans however, but is to find his friend from the days before the Change – a dog named Sheba. It is the thought that one day he will find his friend that keeps him going. But as the strange human bioweapon EMSAH starts to claim more and more animal lives, Mort(e) wonders if he will ever see his friend again.
Things change when Mort(e) receives a message from the dwindling human resistance claiming Sheba is alive. It beings a journey for the cat from the final human strongholds and ending in the heart of the Colony itself. Mort(e) will be forced to question everything he knows and believes as he learns the source of EMSAH and the ultimate fate of all creatures.
As an animal lover and pet owner, I found myself greatly intrigued by the ideas brought forth in this book. Like other reviewers, to me this book felt like a post-apocalyptic version of ‘Animal Farm’. Animals rising against their human overlords only to find themselves falling in to the same traps and roles the humans created. The strong lord over the weak. The meek submit to the cruel. In all of this, how could one lone cat find his canine friend?
Mort(e) himself is a very interesting character. He starts the story with the name ‘Sebastian’, but like many animals after the Change, he chooses a new name for himself. It is in his previous life that he befriends Sheeba and in his current life that he searches for her. She is his reason for continuing on even when things seem their more bleak. It is the thought of her and of meeting up with her again that keeps him going as the novel progresses.
Mort(e) is a sweeping tale and Repino’s first novel – difficult to believe considering how well it is written. The story is a kind of morality tale, highlighting not only the violence we humans are capable of inflicting on others but on ourselves as well. It is a story that speaks of the strength of friendship and love and belief.
For a first novel, Repino has done exceptionally well. Personally I would love to see a sequel to Mort(e). Something perhaps several years down the road after the war. Bring back familiar characters and introduce new ones.
For now though, I will go hug my dog and let her know just how much I love her.