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After the “war with no name” a cat assassin searches for his lost love in Repino’s strange, moving sci-fi epic that channels both Homeward Bound and A Canticle for Leibowitz.

The “war with no name” has begun, with human extinction as its goal. The instigator of this war is the Colony, a race of intelligent ants who, for thousands of years, have been silently building an army that would forever eradicate the destructive, oppressive humans. Under the Colony's watchful eye, this utopia will be free of the humans' penchant for violence, exploitation and religious superstition. As a final step in the war effort, the Colony uses its strange technology to transform the surface animals into high-functioning two-legged beings who rise up to kill their masters.

Former housecat turned war hero, Mort(e) is famous for taking on the most dangerous missions and fighting the dreaded human bio-weapon EMSAH. But the true motivation behind his recklessness is his ongoing search for a pre-transformation friend—a dog named Sheba. When he receives a mysterious message from the dwindling human resistance claiming Sheba is alive, he begins a journey that will take him from the remaining human strongholds to the heart of the Colony, where he will discover the source of EMSAH and the ultimate fate of all of earth's creatures.

358 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2014

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About the author

Robert Repino

12 books172 followers
Robert Repino grew up in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. After serving in the Peace Corps (Grenada 2000–2002), he earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Emerson College. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize among other awards, and has appeared in The Literary Review, Night Train, Hobart, Juked, Word Riot, The Furnace Review, The Coachella Review, JMWW, and the anthology Brevity and Echo (Rose Metal Press). Repino is the pitcher for the Oxford University Press softball team and quarterback for the flag football team, but his business card says that he’s an Editor. His debut novel Mort(e), a science fiction story about a war between animals and humans, was published by Soho Press in 2015. His novella Leap High Yahoo was published as an Amazon Kindle Single later that year.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 893 reviews
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
398 reviews2,167 followers
May 10, 2017
A terrific, wholly original story. Brutal, straightforward and unflinching yet really fun at the same time. It had elements of Planet of the Apes and Heinlein, but with a lot more heart.

Mort(e) did that thing that only SF can do so well. It told a story about humanity and all the things that we get wrong, transplanted into a totally unfamiliar POV, so it's not too obviously preachy. Repino really pulled off that mix wonderfully.

I'll be looking for more from him in the future.
Profile Image for Jack.
Author 4 books126 followers
June 28, 2017
Ummmmmm...no. Just no. That's the thought that kept repeating in my head as I read through Mort(e). I kept waiting for the story to "click" with me, but it never really did. Generally, I don't have a problem with suspending disbelief, and I even get the appeal of anthropomorphic animals at the center of a story. But with Mort(e) I just couldn't buy in. Though I grew to tolerate Mort(e) as a protagonist, I felt no investment in the tale being told.

Is there a decent story within these pages? Sure, to an extent. If nothing else, it highlights the horrors of war nearly as well as other "conflict" novels. Disassociation, numbness, difficulty adapting to civilian life, trauma, loss, and solitude are all represented here in some form, and I grew weary alongside Mort(e) as the conflict dragged on. But while I could find traction with the war aspects of Mort(e), the rest left me wanting.

The whole reason for the evolution of the animals? Nope. Did not work for me. I mean, come on, opposable thumbs and fully formed vocal chords just magically appearing on animals because of some underground genetic engineering, all orchestrated by the ant Queen in her underground lair? Puh-lease. One or two animals being modified in a lab through painful experimentation I could buy. It would be awful to read about, as the animal lover within me would be pissed, but I could buy it. So yeah, with the main conceit already rubbing me the wrong way, it was up to the characters and situations to carry the tale.

And...that result was very hit or miss for me. Mort(e) has moments where he's engaging and someone I wanted to root for. But just as often, he got on my nerves and I felt no sympathy or connection with him. It was strange for me to have conflicting feelings on a main character, as it usually doesn't happen. I admire his devotion to Sheba, for sure, and maybe cats would be this fatalistic if they became sentient (it's more a probably than a maybe), but ultimately Mort(e) just didn't "move" me. He didn't have the depth I was looking for in a leader.

As for to other characters, they were all over the map. Wawa and Culdesac were fleshed out, multi-dimensional, and imminently readable. And after his varied interactions with Mort(e), I can see why Culdesac has his own side-story. The "villain" of the tale, Hymenoptera Unus, also gets a few moments to shine, and her rage and hatred towards humans is conveyed in a way that makes sense. She was a tragic antagonist, and even though I called bullshit on how she accomplished pretty much all aspects of her plan, I still felt she was an effective "big bad". But those are the only characters of worth. Bonaparte, The Archon, Briggs, and Tiberius all should have been just as exciting and interesting as the characters listed above. But alas, they were not. At all. Missed opportunities, every single one of them. Especially Tiberius, as he had the potential to be a truly standout character, and the mark was seriously missed. In fact, the backstories of these characters are much more interesting than the characters themselves.

In fact, missed opportunities is now my subtitle for this book. Many of the interesting events are alluded to, happen off-page, or simply never materialize. For a war story, there's surprisingly little action, and what is here isn't really expanded on. The Purge had an opportunity to parallel some real world history, but it ended up being anti-climactic. The whole "messiah" plot line was just awful. There were other events I thought about mentioning as well, but the further I get into this review, the less I feel like taking the time to jot them down. Sorry, but my "give-a-damn" tank is empty.

So, yeah. Despite all these paragraphs of negativity, I didn't actively hate the story. I just didn't "like" the story. In the end, I was mostly just indifferent. I suppose that my Mort(e) apathy could be because I've been sitting in an airport terminal for the past 3 hours, and I finished the book during the 4 AM ride to the airport. Could be...but I doubt it. Plenty of books have captured my attention regardless of location or state of alertness. Oh...I didn't DNF it, which says something, but it was a close call on several occasions. With all the great books out there, featuring stronger characterizations and more entertaining plot lines, I simply can't recommend Mort(e).
Profile Image for David Katzman.
Author 3 books440 followers
February 10, 2021
This is a review of all three books in the War with No Name series: Mort(e), Culdesac and D’Arc.

This series is an interesting new spin on Planet of the Apes. It surrounds a war between evolved animals and humans. The greatest foe of the humans, responsible for the mutation of the animals, is a giant ant queen. The ant queen grew larger and larger over thousands of years, existing deep underground in Africa served and fed by its growing colony and absorbing human knowledge from the surface. The queen sent out ant troops across the world to infiltrate and learn about human technology and pass knowledge back to the queen. The queen invented an advanced scent-based language that allowed it to communicate across the world using headsets. It went further to invent a chemical that would warp the DNA of the majority of animal species to become as intelligent and as capable as humans. At the same time, the queen grew its own ant legions to increase the size of its soldiers—to be as large as SUVs or vans.

And then when it had everything ready, the ant queen strategically released the chemical to evolve the animals and simultaneously launched its giant armored ant troops across the world to wipe out humanity. Animals, as they evolved, wreaked chaos across the country. Dogs and cats that had been pets suddenly felt like they had been “enslaved” by humans and many, but not all, turned around and slew their former owners. It was a very clever plan, and many of the freed animals that had grudges against humans joined the queen as elite troops.

The main characters are relatively well-crafted, flawed beings. And the plot is pretty exciting—it’s a war story thriller. I felt that one of the most interesting aspects of the premise, the various motivations for the war as expressed by different animal characters, is a bit ambiguous and never wholly satisfying. Which in some way perhaps made it more authentic. The queen saw her anthills stomped on and burned by humans across an entire country. She also despised human religions as the enemies of logic and nature. One bobcat saw his brother slain by hunters. A dog’s pups were killed by a human. Farm animals ended up in slaughter houses.

Here’s the thing. I’m a vegetarian and prefer reducing the suffering and death of other animal species. But many of the animals who turned against humans—in fact most—are not vegetarian. For example, the bobcat loved the hunt and slaughter and got a thrill from it. It also perpetrated what could be considered “rape” towards a female of its species (before the evolution occurred). One can consider the story of a female praying mantis that eats her mate after fertilization. In other words, these animals killed and enjoyed killing to survive. Cats kill rodents or birds. Dogs hunt in packs except when domesticated. Their personal motivation to hate humans is a bit hypocritical or at best, oblivious. The animals that would have the greatest motivation to hate humans—barnyard, farmed creatures are only lightly involved in the story. The biggest reason to hate humans is briefly touched on, the fact that our species treats the natural world as a toilet for all our garbage, pollution and poisons. But one interesting thread throughout the story is that the great warrior of the title, Mort(e), believes that if the animals win…they will eventually become just like the humans. An interesting perspective. Humans are a destructive species but would another species that became dominant be any better? While self-destruction isn’t necessarily inevitable, it’s perhaps very likely. I wonder on other planets in the universe whether there are intelligent species that could live in balance and restraint without eating up all their resources and self-destructing. Perhaps certain restraints are required—whales might very well be as intelligent as humans, but they lack the kinds of limbs required to build technology. Is it our fingers that doom us?

Of the three books, if the premise interests you, Mort(e), is the only one that I recommend as worth reading. Culdesac is nothing more than a short story that provides a backstory and more detail on the life of one of the characters from Mort(e). D’Arc picks up where Mort(e) left off. A continuation of the story that unfortunately loses its way. It felt aimless and seeking a reason to exist. Mort(e) is contained and tells a story in full. The other two books unnecessarily stretch out the world beyond what is necessary. Mort(e) is worth reading for the unusual perspectives it presents. I think the aspect that I enjoyed the most, and that kept me coming back, was the story being told from an inhuman POV.
Profile Image for Laura.
3,645 reviews95 followers
December 31, 2014
This book should come with a warning: if you share a home with four-legged companions, watch out. I spent a lot of time assuring mine that they were much beloved members of my family, not "slaves".

To be honest, I've never been a huge fan of animals-as-people adult books (eg, Watership Down), although the Thornton Burgess books are among my childhood favorites. But Mort(e) is not one of "those" books - it's a riveting read, with Sebastian/Mort(e) as a flawed hero. His love, and search, for Sheba is inspirational and rings so true. The ending was a little messy, with a ton of action that doesn't really seem to fit with the previous pacing and tone; as climactic battle scenes go, it's a good one.

One of the things I loved most was the sense Mort(e) had that no group, not the ants, nor the animals, nor the humans, would ever get it "right" and that society (made up of whatever species) was fatally flawed. His only lodestar was Sheba, and one hopes that at the end, they live happily ever after.

ARC provided by publisher.
Profile Image for Lincoln Eddy.
39 reviews1 follower
May 11, 2015
An interesting entry in the dystopian science fiction genre, this novel took two premises that usually populate the most cliche kind of sci-fi (giant ants and animals becoming intelligent), and treated them with the utmost seriousness. That alone made me want to love this novel but there were a few things that held it back.

The main character, Mort(e) ne Sebastian, is a house cat that has mutated to human proportions in the aftermath of a colony of giant ants declaring war on humanity. To help in their war, the ants released a hormone that mutated all mammals, reptiles and birds into soldiers, fighting on the side of The Colony. Mort(e), a war hero, finds himself facing something much more insidious now that the fighting has begun to die down: a human bioweapon called EMSAH.

The writing was engaging, the premise was interesting, the characters were written well. But those same characters, through the fact that they were evolved animals, suffered from a strange thing: a lack of character development. Mort(e) is a good example. His driving mission throughout the novel is to find his friend Sheba, a dog he met before the change. And we get some wonderfully written pre-change scenes of why he feels so strongly about Sheba. But it just isn't enough. They feel too short, and because of this, he feels a little shallow. Wawa, a pitbull he meets later in the novel, in some ways feels better fleshed out through her backstory, despite being a secondary character.

That's not to say you should ignore this book. Far from it. It's enjoyable for anyone who likes science fiction or good adventure tales. But there are a few things that keep it from reaching the realm of some other novels of a similar bent.
Profile Image for Janice.
773 reviews6 followers
February 19, 2015
This book annoyed the hell out of me.

It started out entertainingly enough. I was interested in the ants' method of advancing the animals to become sentient, and actually more human-like.* I was even ok with the war against the humans.

But when the whole religion thing came up, the book lost me.

I'm a literal sort of gal, so I'm pretty blind to symbolism. But a lot of this story read to me like something what an earnest high school student could write about. I'm still not sure if it's pro-religion or anti-religion. (I think it's probably the latter, but I kinda stopped paying close attention because I was so annoyed.)

The character of Mort(e)/Sebastian was pretty good, though. Too bad he had to live in such an annoying story.

I liked the story of Balaam's ass that was at the beginning of the book. It's been a long time since I read that, and had forgotten it. And it was pretty apropos to the story too. And the first part made me think of Kij Johnson's story The evolution of trickster stories among the dogs of North Park after the Change , and that's never a bad thing.

But seriously: bah. BAH. Still annoyed.

*Side note: I'm still waiting for the book that doesn't make uplifted animals into humans. I'd rather read a book where the animals become more sentient BUT retain the strengths of their animal natures. Humans in animal suits just make me yawn.
Profile Image for Leah Rhyne.
Author 8 books37 followers
January 7, 2015
Ever pick up a book, knowing even before you start that you're destined to love it?

Ever have it exceed even those lofty expectations?

Mort(e) was sent to me several (many) months back. I'd been chatting with a PR person at SoHo Press about a different book I'd reviewed, and she mentioned Mort(e). "It's about a war...with ants...and sentient house pets..."

Or something like that.

Of course I was all, "Yes! Yes please! Send it! Send it! Send it!"

Because ants? Waging war against humanity? I mean, Them is only my absolute FAVORITE of the 1950s atomic-fear sci-fi flicks. And that's about ants! Giant ants! Giant ants that take over the desert!

So yeah. You had me at ants, SoHo. You had me at ants.

Here's a confession: I read Mort(e) six months ago. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but as it wasn't set to release until January of 2015, I figured: wait until then to write the review.

Writing the review while the material was still fresh in mind was the other, smarter option, but it wasn't the one I chose. Because I also wanted to see if the book would stick with me. If it could make me remember, to wonder, to think about it for months to come. Because that, to me, is the mark of a really good book - a book I'm destined to love and re-read again and again.

Mort(e)....did it. I loved it. And it stuck.

I honestly feel like I read Mort(e) last week. It's stayed very fresh in my mind, coloring the ways I think about animals. The ways I interact with animals. And, most importantly, the ways I behave with my very own dogs and cats.

Because in Mort(e), a giant, mutated, sentient queen ant has decided to wage war on humanity. There are all sorts of complicated reasons for why she does it, and you can learn more by reading the actual book. But the long and the short of it is: she wants revenge.

Somehow, in her all-knowing, all-seeing state, she manages to create a serum that gives self-awareness to animals. It makes them grow, morph, become human-like in all but their original furry faces.

And the animals are pissed off at people.

I mean, think about it. Think about how you really treat your pets. Example: I walk my dog several times a week. He's not so great at "heeling," so I often have to tug on his leash to keep him on track. This pulls on his neck, sometimes jerking him off-balance. All in the name of getting him to behave.

When I leave the house, I put him in a crate - a box - to keep him out of trouble. I control when and what he eats. When he goes outside. I control everything.

And I'm a nice dog owner! Those are things a nice dog owner does!

Imagine what the mean ones do!

So it makes perfect sense to me that the animals, once sentient, rise up against the humans, killing the literal hands that fed them.

At least until Mort(e) comes along.

Mort(e) is a cat. He had decent owners that never really did anything too terrible to him. He managed to not kill them in his initial state of heightened awareness...mainly because Mort(e) loves Sheba.

Sheba is a dog, a neighbor's dog, and she disappears almost as soon as Mort(e) becomes self-aware. His life becomes a mission to find her.

Along the way, he becomes a soldier, a killer, a rescuer, and he uncovers a plot....

Never mind. You don't want to know. You're going to want to find out for yourself.

Repino is a fun writer. His prose is tight and focused, and his humor is black as night. He makes an obese, undulating queen ant seem almost sympathetic, until you care what happens to her almost as much as you care about what happens to the cat who wants to save the world.

Two weeks ago, I was asked to submit my favorite books of 2014 to the LitReactor staff picks...I wanted to put Mort(e) on that list. I loved it that much. Too bad it wasn't actually released yet.

I think I need to re-read it in the new year, mainly so I can put it on my 2015 lists. Because this book is that fun. That entertaining. That much of a ride.

So you, you sci-fi fans, you animal-fans, you book fans - you should read it too!
Profile Image for Scott.
288 reviews291 followers
February 7, 2022
Before you read this review, you should know that I like cats.

Actually, that's understating things.

I grew up with many cats. I used to show cats as a child (my cat was crowned for having the 'best head' at one particular event). When I see a cat on the street I stop whatever I'm doing and get me some random cat-pats.

I currently live with a spoiled tabby, and he and I are prototyping a cat toy for commercial sale.

I really, really like cats.

As a result, I may, just may have enjoyed Robert Repino's Morte(e) more than the average non-cat obsessed person.

The main character of Repino's very entertaining novel is a cat, a cat who through the magic of a forced evolutionary virus walks on two legs, is about the size of human and is currently involved in a genocidal war against humanity.

His comrades are fellow man-cats, an elite team of cat soldiers fighting their former masters in an army of former animals. Guiding this army is a colony of intelligent ants, who have been planning humanity's downfall for millennia.

The cat - Mort(e) - wasn't always a soldier, or bipedal. He was once a housecat, declawed, neutered and imprisoned in a suburban home. He was a loved family pet, living his life from sunbeam snooze to sunbeam snooze, and relishing the occasional visit from his neighbour's dog, Sheba, who he blissfully snuggled with.

In that life, Mort(e)'s name was Sebastian, and he lived in the moment, never planning, never thinking beyond the next meal. This past life as a pet, and the comforting memories he has from it, haunts him as he roams the new world his army is creating.

While he takes some comfort in the friendship of his new comrades, he knows that the happiest he has been was as a simple animal sleeping next to his friend Sheba, and he will use all his strength and wits to find her again in the strange new world the fall of humanity has left behind.

And so we follow Mort(e) on his search through the strange new world of animal dominion over Earth. It's a rollicking ride, full of vivid characters and scenes, and with a lot to say about the unthinking and selfish way that we humans treat our fellow Earthlings.

I really dug Mort(e) as a character, and the internal battle he fights with his memories of being a loved pet while he hunts humans to near extinction makes for great reading. Some of the central concepts reminded me of Adam Roberts' Bete - a brilliant concept novel I consider to be among the best in SF - and I raced through the story, gobbling it up as fast as I could read.

It's a fun, entertaining story, and as it is the start of a series, I'm very much looking forward to reading book two.


Four self-aware, angry and genocidal (but still cuddly and cute, yes?) cats out of five.


P.S. The fact that Mort(e) is a giant cat, and I was constantly thinking about how cool it would be if my tabby grew to his size and was able to hold a conversation, did not have any influence on my enjoyment of Repino's novel. None at all. It would be cool though...
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book1,643 followers
January 30, 2019
At turns touching, whimsical, original, thoughtful, hilarious. Best of all the book was wonderfully entertaining. For most of the novel you are in the mind of a neutered house cat...but you also take a turn in the minds of a former attack dog, a pig, a bobcat, and the ancient queen of an all-powerful ant colony. The story of how these creatures evolve and find meaning and develop into moral creatures makes this book much more than a romping page turner, although it's that, too.

Repino manages to pay homage to the history of sentient-animal stories in the loveliest and most subtle ways, as well--for example the pig chooses the name Bonaparte "because there are too many Napoleons," a nod to Animal Farm. I both enjoyed the story for its own sake, and also felt a very thoughtful authorial presence, a thematic resonance, in how Repino chose to shape the story. I'm a fan.
Profile Image for SK.
44 reviews1 follower
March 16, 2015
This was a book I read in about four hours on a drizzley final day of vacation. The pages and their story moved briskly and I enjoyed it. Later, when asked what it was about, I said:

"It's about a cat who really, really, really wants to find his doggie friend. Also ants take over the earth in an almost successful human genocide. Also cats and all the animals can talk and think. Not surprisingly, it's actually about the folly of religion."

I'll give you a spoiler, by the end you can't be bothered to still root for the humans. They are desperate and a bit pathetic, like an awkward 8th grader at a private school dance. I won't tell you if the cat finds his doggie friend. You have to read it.
Profile Image for Rissa.
1,380 reviews48 followers
October 9, 2017
The main character is a cat... what more could you want from a book!?

This book was adorable, I dont think he intended it to be adorable but it was. Im a major cat lover and it was just so cute!
Oh and theres fighting between humans, cats and dogs, and ants.
I really enjoyed the story and cant wait to continue.
Profile Image for Skyler.
308 reviews13 followers
December 14, 2015
What an overall batshit crazy book. To continue with this review would mean I'd have to keep thinking about the book, and I'd rather not.
Profile Image for Aleshanee.
1,375 reviews93 followers
May 24, 2020
Sehr gute Ideen über die Problematiken der menschlichen Gesellschaft - allerdings kam ich mit Stil und Umsetzung leider nicht klar ...

Ich lese ja ab und zu auch sehr gerne "Tier-Fantasy" und die Idee hier hat mich total angesprochen - zum einen die Invasion der Ameisen, Mort(e) selbst als Katzenliebhaberin und natürlich die Fiktion, dass die Tierwelt sich gegen die Menschen "zur Wehr setzt". Viele Rezensionen hab ich nicht dazu gefunden, aber sie waren alle durchweg positiv, dem ich mich leider nicht so ganz anschließen kann.

Die Geschichte beginnt mit Mort(e)s Leben als Hauskater und beschreibt, wie die Veränderungen recht plötzlich über sein beschauliches Leben regelrecht hereingebrochen sind und ihn von seiner Hundefreundin Sheba trennt.

Diese Trennung beschäftigt ihn viele Jahre, in denen er im Krieg gegen die Menschen eine gesonderte Stellung einnimmt. Irgendwie scheint er aber dem ganzen Vorhaben immer mit Skepsis gegenüber zu stehen, denn er merkt immer wieder an, dass sich die Tiere nicht nur im Aussehen den Menschen angleichen, sondern auch im Denken und Handeln.


Ich bin mit dem Schreibstil leider gar nicht warm geworden, der recht einfach und oft auch etwas "ungeschliffen" rüberkommt. Also sehr nüchtern und rational, was zwar zur Situation passt, ich mich dadurch aber schwer einfühlen konnte. Vor allem auch zu Mort(e) selbst konnte ich wenig Verbindung aufbauen, auch wenn seine Sicht der Dinge gut dargestellt war.
Andere Figuren wurden ebenfalls genauer unter die Lupe genommen, wobei ich hier ebenfalls schwer an sie herangekommen bin.
Der Stil war hier wirklich ausschlaggebend, denn die Erzählweise empfand ich als äußerst anstrengend und unspektakulär, ich hab mir das alles komplett anders erwartet. Ich bin beim Lesen immer wieder abgedriftet und konnte mich schwer auf die Handlung konzentrieren - auch empfand ich es öfter als schwierig den Dialogen zu folgen, da nicht immer ersichtlich ist, wer gerade das Wort hat.

Dafür greift der Autor viele gesellschaftliche Probleme und Irrwege auf, zum Beispiel den Versuch der Kolonie (den Ameisen), die ja diesen Krieg gegen die Menschen initiiert haben, mit Waffengewalt und Säuberungsaktionen gegen diese vorzugehen. Solche Vergleiche gab es eine Menge, auch mit brutalen Szenen, die deutlich machen, wie grausam unser Handeln teilweise ist und wie "leicht", anscheinend, dafür immer wieder eine "gute Begründung" aus dem Hut zu zaubern.

Dennoch hat mir einfach die Spannung gefehlt, denn trotz der vielen Veränderungen und abwechslungsreichen Perspektiven blieb es eine Aneinanderreihung von Ereignissen, die mir zu wenig Emotionen rübergebracht haben.
Sehr kuriose, bizarre Geschichte, die sicher ihre Leser findet, mich in dieser Art aber nicht überzeugen konnte.

Weltenwanderer
Profile Image for Zedsdead.
1,065 reviews65 followers
August 14, 2015
An ancient colony of intelligent giant ants wages war on humanity, driving us to the brink of extinction. The Ant Queen creates an army of allies by transforming the animals of the world into speaking, thinking, vengeful bipeds. A war hero, a former housecat by the name of Mort(e), searches endlessly for his friend Sheba, who fled on the day of Mort(e)'s transformation.

I found Mort(e) frustrating, initially. It purports to be science fiction...humans use advanced weaponry, ants communicate chemically and technologically, etc. But "a hormone" is used to change all of animal-kind into reading, talking bipeds with opposable thumbs? In one night? A hormone that works on mammals, and amphibians, and birds, and reptiles? Without causing a global ecological cataclysm? Better to just call it "ant magic".

Once I accepted that premise, everything else fell into place and I was able to appreciate the story. The pre-transformation animal perspectives are excellent. Repino's descriptions of how a housecat or an abused pit bull might experience their lives are utterly believable.

There's a lot of Animal Farm here, I think. The animals are enraged at the way they've been treated as possessions or toys, often mutilated--neutered, declawed, cropped--simply for style or convenience. They rise up, intending to create a better society, but in the end behave just like their human predecessors.
Profile Image for David.
809 reviews26 followers
February 15, 2015
I saw this book at an indie bookstore, and after the owner made a comment, "That's a book about about talking cats and ants taking over the world," I knew I had to pick it up. I must disclose dystopian literature is among my favorite genres, so my review will surely be biased. This isn't your average dystopia, and takes place in two stages, which I won't elaborate on in case you choose to read it. It is also a fascinating commentary on religiosity and the attempt to stomp it out in favor of reason, and the interaction of the two (for better or for worse). I tore through it quickly, and enjoyed it greatly. It seems like this book hasn't received much press, especially given the volume of dystopian YA drivel that has come out lately... I'd suggest picking this one up; I think you will be delightfully surprised at how good this boundary pushing dystopia is, I certainly was.
Bonus: It is a gorgeous hardcover, kudos to whoever designed it.
Profile Image for Ian.
673 reviews10 followers
March 24, 2015
How did something this bad get a cover this cool? Furthermore, why didn't I give up after the first 50 pages?
Profile Image for Matt Williams.
53 reviews1 follower
March 17, 2018
TL;DR: utterly joyless.

If you have bipedal cats with guns fighting a war against humanity, and you know that human beings use laser pointers as part of modern small-unit tactics, you are guilty of literary malpractice if you fail to include a scene where your feline warriors are distracted by laser pointers. If you actually have a scene where a human being paints a target with a laser pointer, and you still leave the joke lying in the doorway like an eviscerated rat carcass, well...

There isn't a single joke in this novel. In this novel about bipedal cats with guns. Who became bipedal because of a sentient ant queen seeking revenge against humanity for some sort of pest/plague encounter. I mean, I understand that the author had some points to make about religion (do I understand the point he was trying to make? I do not!), but there are jokes aplenty right there in the premise, low-hanging fruit ripe for the plucking like the Joads would talk about in Grapes of Wrath.

Also, as I spent my college days working with actual entomologists, who held an annual "insect fear film festival" where they spent as much time explaining how ant physiology (and a phenomenon called "atmospheric hypoxia") creates an upper bound on the size of insects, the fact that the fearless stormtroopers of the antagonist queen were giant ants called "alphas" who were invincible, faceless, fearless killing machines until the plot demanded that they become both fearful and vincible, well, Marion Zimmer Bradly once said that "Willing suspension of disbelief" does not mean "Hang by the neck until dead".'

Oh, and this was so heavily influenced by The Matrix that the ant queen literally hands Neo, erm, Mort(e), a blue pill. I mean, she's offering him the choice that Neo was given in the second Matrix movie, but she does it by offering him a blue pill. To save Trinity the MacGuffin Dulcinea Sheba, exactly like in the second movie.

How did the author write two sequels to this book? The dumb half-point about religion has been made (or not made?) by the end of the novel and the against-all-odds triumph. The war is over. The antagonist is dead! What's left to do? Angels fear to tread.

As a bonus, the Slate review of this book invokes Raymond Chandler, and uses the phrase "marvelously droll", which just says way more about Slate than this book.
Profile Image for Alex.
149 reviews14 followers
November 18, 2016
The premise of this story is fantastic; This is a world where super-intelligent ants have created a pathogen that transforms animals into large, bipedal, sentient beings. Their paws turn into hands and their minds fill with knowledge. This starts the war against humanity and ushers in a time of sentient-animal/ant dominance over our planet. We follow Mort(e),a newly sentient cat who joins the war and quickly sets himself apart as a war hero.

That's the premise, but that's not the story. The story is about love, it's about thousand-year-old grudges, it's about religion, and the nature of humanity. All interesting topics worth a deeper dive.

And yet, I found myself slugging through the later half of this book. The author has trouble executing parts of his story in a way that feels natural. Characters change allegiances or transform their motives on a dime, which became frustrating. He skips over interesting bits of the story and states the outcome instead of showing us in order to get to the next bit, stealing the drama from certain moments and taking the emotional punch out of many of the things he's building up to. One example, Mort(e) is a war hero, but you never see any of his exploits or get to know him as he becomes that hero. The book simply asserts it and I was left feeling like he didn't earn the title.

Maybe the thing that bothered me the most was the portrayal of religion. I kept wanting to give the author the benefit of the doubt, but in the end his portrayal of religion is extremely one-dimensional and condescending. It significantly weakens what should be the most interesting part of the story: two worldviews colliding with one another as they head toward the same goal.

All of this is unfortunate. The ideas in this book are really interesting and worth exploring and the author flirts with some great thoughts. But the execution starts to fall flat about half way in when the characters become slaves to the story, loosing their depth and motivation and doing only what's necessary to get to the next plot point.

If you like interesting concept books, you'll probably enjoy reading Mort(e) with friends. It's not a long book and the ideas expressed here are worth talking about. The overall story he wants to tell is really creative, but the execution struggled and that's why I had to rate it so low.

2/5
Profile Image for Melissa Bennett.
741 reviews8 followers
February 1, 2022
4.5 Stars
I was so overly impressed with this book. I was expecting an entertaining book involving animals but what I got was a more complex story with wonderful characters and non-stop action. There were some really horrific scenes, some really sad scenes and some really beautiful scenes. It had all the feels. The only thing I could find negative about the book was the believability but that was a minor point for me.
Profile Image for James Morpurgo.
181 reviews8 followers
December 31, 2022
This could have finished at the end of chapter one and made for a great short story.

Doing what this book is doing (dystopian, talking animals, etc) it would be impossible not to draw comparisons to Animal Farm and it is no way near as thought provoking or of the same quality - all books with talking animals are equal, but some are more equal than others...

Despite some pacing issues and going on a bit too long, it was a fun take on the end of civilisation as we know it. Sometimes a popcorn, switch off and enjoy movie is preferable to a black and white arty film loaded with serious themes. Mort(e) definitely sits in the former category and is perfectly fine if that's what you are in the mood for.

The book cover design is great and probably influenced me rating half a star more and picking it up in the first place..
Profile Image for J.A. Ironside.
Author 57 books309 followers
March 23, 2015
I'm not sure how to describe this book. Animal Farm meets The Plague dogs via starship troopers? However you play it, this isn't quite like anything else. Do not go into this book expecting Watership Diwn or a cute comedic spoof where the animals are animalian but a bit brighter and conspiring against the system. While this is darkly comedic it pulls no punches on the war front, is an often scathing satire on the state of human society and is brutal and unflinching in it's descriptions of how the entitled and arrogant humans look at and treat 'lesser species'.
Mort(e) is a great character who grows and changes (in more ways than one) throughout the book. The war and his own emerging sentience make him hardened and cynical but at the same time he is courageous, clear sighted and resourceful. In fact the book is peopled with animals that are humane but not human, and far more engaging than the human characters. Even Hymenoptera Unus has a distinct and engrossing viewpoint as the mind of the hive and the living goddess of the dirt.
I really don't want to spoil this by saying to much. Suffice to say that you'll be with Mort(e) on his quest to locate his first and only real friend, Sheba, all the way - through plague, mania, religious cults and bloodbaths.
This is simply a cracking good read.
38 reviews25 followers
October 15, 2015
Mort(e) is a phenomenon. It should not work. It is a marriage of such disparate elements that on the surface it seems like it should be incapable of being telling a story deeper than its components (in this case sentient cats, giant ants and theology).

Instead of being a parody of itself it utterly transcended everything I expected of it. It's like Watership Down meets A Canticle for Leibowitz with more than a smattering of whatever it is that makes Margaret Atwood's work so god damned special.

It really is a remarkable story of redemption and compassion that transcends species barriers and it honest to god made me tear up on about 7 different occasions. I cannot recommend it enough.
Profile Image for Aaron Lawson.
56 reviews5 followers
May 13, 2020
This book lived up to what I had hoped it would be. I saw this novel online (I love top 10 lists) and had to get it. I have been really focusing on not killing my bank account on books so I waited (very impatiently) for my local library to get it. After I read it, I'm happy I pushed through in getting it! It's a very quick read which I wasn't to happy about (didn't necessarily want it to end) but the writer fit a lot into the book. His character development was lacking in some areas, but the lead up to the climax was INSANE! This novel will throw you thru a loop and make you think differently about your animals. Read it..... Drop what your doing and read this novel NOW.
Profile Image for Eric Smith.
Author 17 books840 followers
December 1, 2014
This book is absolutely incredible, and like no piece of science fiction I’ve ever read. The apocalypse has never, ever been this entertaining. As Reprino takes you through the story, and introduces you to the various beasts that Mort(e) meets in his adventures, you get these incredible, powerful glimpses of this shattered world… and it is as awe inspiring as it is heartbreaking.

More up on BookRiot: http://bookriot.com/2014/12/01/riot-r...
Profile Image for Betty Dickie.
364 reviews7 followers
February 10, 2015
Wow, what to say about this amazing book? From the first page I was hooked, the writing is so GOOD, the characterizations so deft, and the story thought provoking, entertaining, sad, funny, just so so awesomely good. Read it.
Profile Image for Theo Logos.
588 reviews88 followers
March 25, 2022
Discovering Mort(e) was purest serendipity. It was offered for free as part of my Audible membership. I didn’t know the book or the author, but the reviews looked promising, and hey, it was free!

I loved everything about it. Characters, themes, sharp writing - this book served up everything I’m hungry for. It takes some significant logical leaps that you must buy into for the story to work (the extinction level event war between sentient Ants and humanity, the overnight evolution of the rest of the animals) but no more so than most speculative fiction stories, and good writing smooths the way to suspension of disbelief.

Two elements elevate this story in particular. The first is its perspective. Though humans and their fight for survival of their species is a central theme, all of our point of view characters are the other creatures, both the rapidly evolved animals and the deity-like Ant Queen. Seeing and interpreting events through their eyes and backstories allows for a thought provoking shift in our view of the book’s themes. The second is ambiguity. There are no absolute heroes or villains here, no white hat/black hat. Even in the midst of war propaganda and religious fanaticism we are never allowed to truly root for the violence or cheer the destruction of the other. The book never loses sight of the horror of war.

Mort(e) is fresh, entertaining, and though provoking. It takes serious issues of identity, love, ecology, and theology and disguises them within a light entertainment. It surprised and delighted me.

Profile Image for Michael Campbell.
392 reviews49 followers
March 20, 2021
This book on my radar for a while now. I think I purchased it years ago when it first came out on Kindle, and to be honest, I might read one Kindle book a year(much preferring physical or audiobooks). Thus, it's taken me until I noticed it was in audiobook format and at a reduced price due to me owning the Kindle version to read it.

Now, I'm not sure why, but I was expecting a weird and wacky satire, something akin to Animal Farm. That is not at all what this is. It's a story of war, friendship, weaponized belief, and the hive mind versus independent thought.

This book is packed full of heavy hitting thoughts and quotes, and the characters are incredibly well written. It's phenomenal speculative fiction, even if it can be a bit hard to overlook some of the plot holes(especially later on).

Fortunately Mort(e) really kept my interest and made my think, more than enough to make up for the need to suspend disbelief at times.
Profile Image for Nathaniel.
Author 19 books103 followers
July 27, 2021
Oh boy.
This book was very intriguing. I found it on a sale shelf at Indigo and knew that the combination of the cover (which is half cloth and half regular cardboard glossy hardcover material) and synopsis meant it was an immediate buy. One of my goals with my book collection is to fill it with intriguing and unique books. This one had to join it.
I really enjoyed the first 100 pages. They were so much fun. Once it got more into the politics and warfare... I dropped my interest a little bit. However, this is a book that did some things for me. I think that Repino did a good job with the story he was telling. I just wanted it to be done a little differently.
This is good for being what it is. I won't ever read it again, but I think I will always hold onto this copy. Even if it's just to reread the first 100 pages sometime.
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