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Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  1,908 ratings  ·  512 reviews
 Bats of the Republic  features original artwork and an immaculate design to create a unique novel of adventure and science fiction, of political intrigue and future dystopian struggles, and, at its riveting core, of love.

     In 1843 Chicago, fragile naturalist Zadock Thomas falls in love with the high society daughter of Joseph Gray, a prominent ornithologist. Mr. Gray s
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published October 6th 2015 by Doubleday
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Chandler Smith
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Eavers Sure. This seems like something a 15 year old could really like. I probably would have enjoyed it more at 15 than I did at 31.

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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  1,908 ratings  ·  512 reviews

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Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
The author of this book has a great moustache. Five stars.
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book nearly two hours ago, and yet there's no way I can stop reading about it. As I scoured the internet looking for clues and analyses, I skimmed through it again, searching for relevant pieces I'd forgotten. I re-examined the dust jacket (including with a mirror); I checked all the front-papers, and studied the map and character tree. Why haven't more people read this yet? My theories and I, we're waiting.

This kind of single-mindedness after finishing a novel is a delightfully
Jack Tripper
What a gorgeous-looking book this is, filled with cool illustrations, maps, astrological charts, hand-written letters and documents, newspaper clippings, etc.* But for me this novel felt more like I was studying for an exam than anything. While I liked some of the ideas presented within -- the stories within stories, time loops, and just all the historical adventure-meets-wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff in general -- I never felt connected to any of the characters at any point and never cared a ...more
Nov 10, 2015 marked it as to-read
Some guy on the bus is reading this and he looks like an okay guy, so why not?

Also dystopia. Yes.
Elizabeth A
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
This book is a physically beautiful object, and the author makes creative use of an assortment of documents, books within books, maps, notes, illustrations, and more to tell two stories set about 300 years apart. The only problem is that all the beautiful packaging is only skin deep. The writing is not compelling, the characters are uninteresting, and while I enjoyed the setting of stories within stories, and how it is tough to tell which is the present time, and how time folds back on itself, I ...more
May 09, 2015 marked it as to-read
i read about 150 pages of this, but with all the ephemera and inserts and doo-dads, i think i'm going to pause it for now and wait for the real deal to come out in october. i feel like it will be better experience to enjoy it as a finished product than as an ARC.
AmberBug com*
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it review
Dear Reader,

The fun I had with this book! It reminded me of my time as a kid reading a 'choose your own adventure' book. It was borderline mixed media - not many loose leaf breadcrumbs or anything out on the www to connect to the pages. The art, though! Brilliant. I loved the feel, look and touch of this book. The spine was velvet lined (which ended up filled with cat/dog fur by the time I was finished). Have you seen this Author by the way? Check him out (pic to the rig
Tandava Brahmachari
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Having an actual sealed envelope marked "Do Not Open" at the back of the book was hugely intriguing, and I always love the idea of creatively constructed/illustrated books. But unfortunately the story itself just wasn't all that great. I could never work out how the life stages system between the city states could be a reasonable idea, and that was distracting a lot of the time. And there seemed to be an awful lot of writing and paper going around in a society that had supposedly banned all that ...more
Jan 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
Just a colossal disappointment. This is a beautiful book with beautiful colors, beautiful type, and nice artwork. It was also a dystopia whose sole quality was that it was a dystopia. Nothing was explored in any meaningful way. I never got a firm grasp on the world, the characters, or why things were how they were and how seriously I was supposed to take anything; at the same time, it was utterly humorless. It sort of reminded me of a hipster dressing up in corduroy and standing around at an abs ...more
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it

What a weird and wonderful novel! I requested a review copy based solely on seeing the "An Illuminated Novel" subtitle, and didn't even know what it was about until I received it! "Bats of the Republic" is a back and forth and twisting and turning narrative between an amateur naturalist in the 1843 Republic of Texas and a Senator's heir in a 2143 dystopian steam-powered Republic of Texas.

Throw in a dash of mysticism and oodles of maps, notes, letters, transcripts, naturalist sketches, and ev
I enjoyed this... uniquely written book. I hesitate to say story because it really is a collection of several that mirror, echo, and contain each other. I have a feeling a lot of people would hate this book. It is written in a variety of ways: hand written notes, personal letters, straightforward prose, secret police transcripts, and books within books; very post-modern in structure. There are also some wonderful drawings in this book that add nicely to the setting and the characters.

So there ar
May 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: tob16
2.5 out of 5.
I almost feel like the object is too beautiful - or that it is beautiful to a fault. It's so painstakingly crafted that it feels, at times, like a grad school presentation, one of those innovative book-redesigns you see on Tumblr sometimes that make for an instant reblog but aren't real; they just serve as a calling card for aspiring young designers. The novel itself is tremendously uneven, to the point of sometimes being cringe-inducing... and yet, also, to the occasional point of
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Aug 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
For starters, I should make it known that I don’t read sci-fi (ever), steampunk (ever), and rarely read dystopian. And some have called this story metafiction – something I also don’t dabble in.

My draw to the novel was multi-faceted though: 1) in addition to the above genres, this book includes a parallel historical story – my thing! 2) It includes bats – also my thing! (I have participated as a ‘citizen-scientist’ in a nectar-eating bat study over the past 5 years… So I was happy to see the Me
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
It’s almost impossible to review this without spoiling the sense of discovery that is so important for this story to succeed. The book itself is a beautiful artifact that adds to the enjoyment of the reading experience but you need to pay attention. The narrative switches from a 19th century novel and a steampunk future dystopia with asides and tangents aplenty. Finishing the book I was left wrestling with an abundance of “plot holes” for lack of a better word that may have simply been a result ...more
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was quite the experience. Two eras of a troubled Texas, 300 years apart, one in the past and one in the future. Both of them may be fictional. There might be time travel? Definitely time cycles. And bats. Bats are awesome.

I got an ARC of this book due to librarian superpowers. I can't wait to buy a copy in October - I bet it will be beautiful. I can't recommend this book enough. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your library (librarians). I think this will be the sort of book that will show y
Wart Hill
holy shit that was cool
Jan 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016
Much creativity but dreadful writing and definitely bit off more than he could chew. My first foray into steam punk, and perhaps my last. Full review to come when time permits, but I respected the ambition while longing to stop reading.

Edit: I understood that this book required more graphic involvement (maps, illustrations, facsimile handwriting) than could be done with my Kindle, so I read it on the Kindle app for iPad which has far better graphics. Still though, as this book is (apparently) at
Darn it all to heck. I wanted to like this book so much!

It's GORGEOUSLY designed, with maps, drawings, transcripts, and even a sealed envelope containing a mysterious letter! AND a ribbon bookmark! It's booklover crack! But so much time was spent on the design, the story seems to have been allowed to fall by the wayside. I got to the end and realized that it MADE NO SENSE. It was one of those Emperor's New Clothes situations, where I think, am I just terribly stupid, or did this actually not wo
Angus McKeogh
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book ekes out a fifth star by being so surprising. Several different dystopian narratives wander along and then converge. The recommendation for this novel was an Amazon "We thought you might like this book." I knew nothing of this book, this author, or this story before jumping into it. So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out being much much better than I had anticipated. Definitely among the top 3 books I've read this year. I'll be looking for this author's next book.
Kimberly [Come Hither Books]
Bats of the Republic is a beautifully constructed book. With naturalist style drawings, color used throughout the layout, and the inclusion of letters and documents, you'll have trouble not picking it up. If you also like experimental storytelling and are open to a mix of genres (historical/mystical and dystopian, to be precise), you'll enjoy it.

I did not. At first, the eclectic mix was a jigsaw to piece together. Characters in different time periods track down/deliver the same letter. The produ
Matthew Catania
Sep 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Those endings sure were cop-outs!
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Huh. Well. I loved this book as I was reading it. Absolutely LOVED. But I am forced to remove a star because, upon finishing it, I'm not sure I completely understood what it was I'd just read. I don't know if I just didn't read deeply enough, or if some of the things in which I was most interested were deemed unimportant by the author (that map of the US! Louisiana! Florida! greyhounds? what?!), or what but yeah, GREAT book but not entirely satisfied with how it ended. Or ... what that even was, ...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
No book can ever get more meta than this. I've loved it's circularity and the way it made me think about books and fiction. I love the books that need paper in order to be read because it means that something very special awaits me regarding it's form and content. And Bats of the Republic certainly is too gorgeous, too complex and too layered, to exist in any other format but paper, at least for the time being.
Eva Nebbia
May 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Finally an original dystopian novel! Dodson beautifully weaved adventure, science-fiction, and history in this exciting and sweeping novel. Suspenseful, engrossing and truly enjoyable to read!
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: folks who like a blend of sci-fi & fantasy
Recommended to Amy by: TOB shortlist
ehhh... 3 or 4 stars... I could go either way. On one hand, there isn't really anything quotable (sometimes the author seems to be aiming for the opposite as with the old-timey lovers writing god-awful sonnets to each other) and the story arc doesn't truly feel compelling or complete.

On the other hand, it's a wonderfully weird and addictive book that had me paging back and forth between text, diagrams, drawings, maps and such. There are many mysteries contained: such as 'when the text has gone t
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'm going to be disgruntled and give this book a 2 star review. I had high hopes for it - I tend to like books with lots of fun drawings and pictures. And it was interactive! And had a cool string bookmark thing like all old books used to have. I didn't have to dog ear my library copy once! However, for all the window dressing this book did just not do it for me. The plot, while interesting at the onset fell super flat. I don't think the world building was done very well and while there was impr ...more
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
The format is brilliantly creative with all the handwritten letters, excerpts from old books, drawings, and transcripts of conversations.
There are two parallel stories that take place in 1843 and 2143, and those plot lines were interesting.
I liked the historical references in 1843 and how the author inserted his character into that time period. His use of language from that era was excellent.
I also enjoyed the Steampunk travel methods and weaponry in 2143, as well as his the author's vision o
Aug 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to Katy by: Vine
My Thoughts: Overall I did quite enjoy this story. The various levels and layers, past and future, the Victorian novel (is it true or fiction?), the mysterious contents of the envelope. Sweeping ideas, but the whole thing didn't quite pull together for me. The ending was confusing, because I don't know if this ARC actually showed the materials in the envelope included with the final copy of the book, so it's possible that I'm simply missing that last bit. Edit : The final letter was not included ...more
Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)
Books like this are such fun to read. I really enjoyed switching back between the different stories here and slowly seeing how they pieced together, stitching time up in a new and interesting way. A discussion on these multi-faceted/mixed media/involved/experimental sort of books would be remiss without mentioning Danielewski's classic House of Leaves, so, there, I've mentioned it. Of that book, I'd only add that I cannot recommend it more highly, assuming you haven't heard of it, which you prob ...more
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015-reads
If I were grading sheerly on aesthetics, Bats of the Republic would get full marks. The dust jacket (and its reverse) are a work of art, the binding beautiful, the endpapers as gorgeously rendered if they'd been done by William Morris - and that's before we even get to the text itself, with its impeccable art design and luscious pen and ink Aububon-esque illustrations, all of which appear on paper stock that's at least two steps up from what you regularly see in novels. It is, in a word, pretty ...more
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Dystopian Society: Main Book of May 2017 1 8 May 01, 2017 06:40AM  
Play Book Tag: Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson - 5 stars 2 16 Oct 24, 2016 05:11AM  
Differences in Zadock's original letters and the copies 1 10 Aug 02, 2016 06:21AM  

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Zach Dodson co-founded featherproof books in 2005, a small press in Chicago. He is most often a book designer, but sometimes an author too. He went to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and lives in Helsinki now.

Articles featuring this book

With hand-drawn illustrations, a novel-within-a-novel, and even a sealed envelope the reader must not open, Bats of the Republic is a feast for the...
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