It is I, your humble feline-human attorney, Cat-Man Lawyer. Recently, my official biographer, J. W. Wargo, recommended a book he was planning on reviewing by our mutual author friend, Kevin Shamel. I must confess I am not much of a book reader, especially of the Bizarro type (I'm not into all that "weird" stuff), but Mr. Wargo has a cat-like sensibility about him that was all the convincing I needed to give it a pounce.
Well let me tell you, right from the start this book had me by the tail. A whirlwind, take-no-prisoners assault on the mind, my lawyer-sense was tingling with delight at all the criminal activity going on! Kidnapping, people murdering animals, animals murdering people, incessant sex, drugs, and violence, all served up with a generous portion of profanity and perpetrated by the most degenerate group of animals this side of Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles. Mr. Shamel has a rare tongue and this cat got it. The snappy dialogue, the exotic locations, all penned with a "Here it is, this is it and if you don't like it, TOUGH." attitude.
I'm not afraid to admit: I did not land on all fours when Rotten Little Animals blew me away.
(dictated but not read)
Awww, CUTE!!! Look at the little rats and chickens making a film, they think they're people too. What a lovely fable of neighborhood animals making a zombie-cat movie... Huh? Who's that kid? Hey kid! Get out of there!! Humans can't know the animals most guarded secret!!! Oh no, they kidnapped him! Stupid drunk bird! Why weren't you looking out for little kids who might happen by. Oh well, crisis averted. Sorta. What are you gonna do with that kid now, huh? Kill him?
...Oh. Well I suppose it is the only way to keep your society a secret. But wait, the dog has an idea. Oh shit, they're gonna film the abduction and turn the whole crime into a fictomentary! But what about the boy? Oh, still gonna kill him when you're done? Well, I suppose it's better than having the animal authorities discover what really happened, and you're sure to have a whopper of a film for entry into the Animal Academy Awards.
Poor kid, hope you find a way out of this mess...
It took me nearly half the book to get a feel for the main protagonist, Cage. While his story begins right away, with his kidnapping, the character himself didn't really express much to me outside of fear. Once the story spent enough time with him, however, I began to see how much his abduction had screwed with his senses and sanity.
The animal film crew is a grab bag of some of my favorite domesticates, including chickens, rats, a dog, a pig, two cats and a Steller's Jay.
Stinkin' Rat, as the director, heads up the group with his son and production assistant, Julio. While Stinkin' Rat is the epitome of greed and hedonism, Julio represents the moralistic side of animals, rarely agreeing with anything his father decides. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of father/son and reading how differently they reacted to the same situations.
Itsy the dog appears calculated and controlled at first, but his true nature comes out in a most unexpected way later in the story.
Some characters, like Filthy Pig, fill a very specific role and are not expanded upon very much. Scaredy and Stripey, male cats and hinted at lovers, are used in much the same manner, sometimes providing comic-relief during otherwise tense moments.
There are few human characters in this story, but one who stood out for me was Arrrgh, a character who doesn't show up until later in the book. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that he is a brainwasher of Bizarro caliber. A self proclaimed "Wizard of Wisdom", his job is to turn boys into men through intense drug regiments, ingestion of ungodly amounts of pork and beans, and puppet shows.
Rotten Little Animals style is aggressive and staccato-like, never lingering too long on a scene and sometimes spending only a couple paragraphs describing events that take place over weeks or months. The book's plot progression stands out, beginning with a light and playful, but still edgy, tone and, about halfway through the book, skewering your senses as it documents the breakdown of the protagonist's family leading to a scene that literally shocked this reader.
All the animals in this story have been anthropomorphized to the point of having a separate, underground society no human is aware of. They speak English, ingest drugs, make films and do all the other things modern humans are accustomed to. One thing I appreciated about the dialogue is that it wasn't "stylized". These animals speak like everyday joes on the street, and the writing reflects this: They say "ya" instead of "yes", and "fuckin'" instead of "fucking".
I believe exploitation to be the strongest theme in Rotten Little Animals. A lot of the text concerns the exploiting of Cage's life for monetary gain, a subject quite in line with the unending piles of "reality" television shows being shit out by our real world network and cable production companies. In the book, the human film industry attempts to profit off of Cage's traumatic experience at the hands of Stinkin' Rat Productions and the only consideration given to the boy is to have him brainwashed so a sequel can be filmed.
That is a scary thought, one that made me cringe while reading. Somehow I don't believe any of the actions taken against Cage are that far off from reality.
My recommendation? Next time you walk by a group of animals congregating in your neighbor's backyard, just keep walking...
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Rotten Little Animals at Amazon.com
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