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Dane was a reliable guitarist until he got addicted to ants. Now he’s just a giant anteater with an abysmal grade point average. On a date with lead singer, Serena, they witness a gruesome incident. Waking up in the hospital, Dane realizes Serena’s missing. Going to the police only gets him a felony for possession of ants. Now, forced to lick the habit while he tracks down Serena, he’s going to need a little help from the band.

Investigating familiar watering holes (while stopping for one or two drinks) leads him to an underground criminal organization. Is it a coincidence that a feline fatale attempts to recruit him for the mob? Should he expose the dirty underbelly of their society, putting Serena and his band on the line, or try to take them down from the inside? Either way, it’s going to take more than the Komodo dragon on clarinet.

248 pages, Paperback

First published January 2, 2020

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About the author

L.S. Popovich

2 books323 followers

L. S. Popovich is the author of THE ARDEN, which was a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Award 2022.

They are a cat person (a person who like cats, not a cat human hybrid).

Every house needs at least one room overflowing with books, they believe. (Other rooms should contain scattered piles.)

Their short works have appeared in Chrome Baby, Havok, Aphelion, Bull & Cross, Red Fez, Bewildering Stories, The Ansible, 365Tomorrows, Commuter Lit, Farther Stars than These and other secluded places on the internet.

Aside from writing, they enjoy long walks on short beaches, black coffee on the rocks, and level grinding. The IBM Model M and a HHKB Pro 2 are their weapons of choice.

As a registered bibliophile, talking books is always a singular pleasure.

Professional Reader

Writing bios in the third person leads to spontaneous illusions of grandeur, so I'll lapse into first person.

Goodreads, given enough time, will resemble The Library of Babel. To avoid the inevitable bibliopocalypse, I review to aid others in tackling that age-old question: What should I read and why? The question I ask more often is why do we read so many book reviews?

Consuming novels like popcorn, I've found, leads to diminishing returns.


***** Rereadable. Whipped my imagination into a froth, was convincing and convicting. Nothing about it was a chore. The characters live and breathe.

**** Kept me turning pages. May not reward multiple readings but is clearly the product of a skilled writer.

*** Either an established classic with literary merit that was too dry or did not break the mold, or a book that did not succeed in my mind due to subject matter, slow pacing, or intolerable characters. Still worth my time overall.

** Insulted my intelligence as a reader. Certain things didn't add up, make sense, or jive. Cringe-worthy clichés abound. It has already been done, and better, elsewhere. A blurb on the cover says 'fiendishly clever.'

* Unreadable. Reads like a first draft. Characters do nothing but take drugs, drink, and act immoral. Nothing happens for 99% of the book.


To combat the spread of phobias with respect to new and emerging writers on this site, requests, messages, and recommendations are welcome. Translation: If you think I should read your emergent masterpiece or your veritable book-savior, send it to me immediately.

It would be so easy to drown in the shark-infested ocean of modern publishing. Writers need other writers. Maybe if enough of us string our scattered bodies together the resultant raft could sustain World Literature for a while longer...

Interests include: exploring video games, cinema, and music. I play drums, travel, and study Serbian. I draw abstract line drawings and appreciate the phenomena of liminal spaces and nostalgic vaporwave aesthetics. My home library contains 2815 books, 975 manga, and 146 fridge magnets. I play table tennis and chess. I'm selective with the animes and series I watch, and typically abandon them before completion. I am a good cook. I notate with Pentel sign pens and put stickers on things. Currently editing several novels for (eventual) publication.

Other Favorites: Kiyoshi & Akira Kurosawa, Aki Kaurismäki, David Lynch, Jarmusch, Gilliam, Denis Villeneuve, Shaw Brothers, Tarantino, Sammo Hung, Final Fantasy 6-9, Persona 4 & 5, Starcraft 2, Zelda, Hokusai, Moebius, Hayao Miyazaki, Beksiński, Bosch, Dalí, Hiroshi Nagai

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5 stars
31 (55%)
4 stars
13 (23%)
3 stars
6 (10%)
2 stars
4 (7%)
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2 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 32 reviews
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,923 reviews685 followers
December 1, 2019
Surreal and innovative - reminded me very much of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and Mikhail Bulgakov's Heart of a Dog. The author takes the protagonist on a two fold path of discovery - who am I and what is happening to the person I am becoming. Truly original and deeply layered - recommended.
Profile Image for David Katzman.
Author 3 books451 followers
February 7, 2020
Both traditional and experimental at the same time, The Undertones manages to defy expectations and charmed me with its understated wit and irony. What could have been a cutesy tale of anthropomorphic animals instead is pervaded by a melancholy tone, violence and political oppression. It’s like Animal Farm crossed with a noir detective story.

The Undertones is populated with very human animals. Not that humans aren’t animals…we are. But I mean the obvious—cats, owls, foxes, anteaters, Komodo dragons, elephants, and more wearing clothes, working jobs, going to college, playing in jazz bands and dating. Initially I thought The Undertones was going to be a charming twenty-something tale of intelligent animals in college and their Millennial struggles. But the story takes a dark turn when one of the group, a panda, disappears. Her ex-boyfriend, the anteater Dane, attempts to put together the clues and figure out what happened to her.

The Undertones is plot driven, so I don’t want to give away anything more about the story other than to say that the college students get dragged into a dark conspiracy. What’s so interesting about the book is the interactions between the different species and their struggles to integrate into society. These relationships are rough metaphors for racism and immigration between diverse cultures, but if it was only that, it would be too obvious. Popovich doesn’t downplay the unique challenges for each species to fit in with each other and into the dominant culture. The anteater struggles with ant addiction (which is now essentially cannibalism because all animals are considered equal), Komodo dragons have to resist their innate hunter/killer instincts, elephants struggle to fit into small spaces (special needs), and everyone has dietary challenges since they no longer live in nature. In some ways, it is more like alien races with very distinct needs trying to get along in close proximity.

I really enjoyed the characters, the “humanity” of the animals, and the unique social milieu that Popovich has created. The Undertones was an unexpected and very pleasant surprise.
Profile Image for M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews.
4,075 reviews336 followers
October 19, 2019
This was a pretty enjoyable book, with a nice mix of mystery. If you like worlds with sentient animals (i.e. Zootopia) then this is a good book for you. Different species of animals live together in a world with technology equivalent to our own, and through the book there's some exploration of animal instincts and behavior, that I would have liked explored more in depth.

I know I shouldn't be putting too much thought into how animals came to have human technology (same as Zootopia) but I can't help but wonder. Some parts of this story got pretty dark and a little sad, but it's inevitable with the subject and lot.

This story has a definite ending, but there is definitely potential for more stories in this world if the author decides to expand upon this universe. 4.25/5 stars for a fun read.
Profile Image for sophie.connects.the.dots.
127 reviews80 followers
July 20, 2020
Basically, Zootopia meets...well, Zootopia.

Received in exchange for an honest review.

This was really interesting, actually. We meet Dane, our anteater main character, at a jazz bar. After a series of mishaps, he runs the road of political activism

Intrigued yet?

I think this story is essentially a lesson--and if not a lesson, at least an observation of the current world we live in. The choices we make, the reasons behind them, why the world is the way it is. You don't have to like or agree with everything in this novel or anything like that--it's not a preachy one about how to live perfect in an imperfect world. It's just there to make you think abstractly about the every day things you see.
Profile Image for Rick Harsch.
Author 20 books194 followers
April 21, 2020
Christ I'm tired--fourth night in 8 with 2 hours sleep. Rough stretch. But at least I had Undertones, a crime novel in which animals from tarsier to platypus populate the city, to read. Silly shit, right? Kid's stuff? Not if the authors simply run with the notion. The main guy is Dane, an anteater who's brilliant at math and jazz, and is addicted to ants, which are illegal, because where would we all be if animals remained carnivores? So he deals with withdrawal throughout much of the novel.
LS Popovich author: don't do shit like this very often if you want to survive: "Like the setting sun, his chances of finding Serena alive grew dimmer with every hour." Bracket that one and think about it. (That was also followed by full days during which regular life took precedence over the search for Serena---next book, get tighter with your plot.)
More of this: The avian dorms were up, of course, and it was considered unwise to walk directly beneath them. In fact, the book had a lot of such sensible animally-correct wit in it, easy to come by perhaps, but if done as in this book as a natural outgrowth of a presumption, a near constant, and quite fun. An hour into the wait for fucking dinner, the waiter appears: tortoise. In that way the book reminded me of a great Hollywood movie of Rome: utter nonsense, perhaps, but as long as they stay within the grand concept, the bare-thighed Burtons, the British accents, that world of its own, potential for great fun. I don't read books with talking animal, but I just did and it was a blast. The plot moved as it must to keep a feller turning pages to find out what and then how, and even managed to rise to parablic warning to our civilization.
Too tired to write a long review.
But, Rick, FIVE fucking stars? Five? 5? So as good as Finnegans Wake? Pedro Paramo? Death by Zamboni? No, but actually with some good editing it could be as good as Zamboni maybe. Ask David David Katzman, who wrote it. He might agree. But I'm not going to 4 star a book that made me belly laugh long and loud once, laugh here and there quietly often, keep me turning the pages eagerly faster than anything I've read recently has done, think throughout about the next in the series--there should be a series. Get them out of university, and make Dane a private eye, partnered with an unreliable Dutch. Keep the Jazz in there but make it working adults meeting on weekends so they are all involved in each book.
More lines like this: "..suffused with discomfort he could only liken to internal bleeding."
Good job restraining plot necessities.
Keep the bad guy who SPOILER
Sharpen, darken, keep a notebook of animal stuff: the rabbit shitting himself on the job was hilarious.
The struggle between nature and collective nature...

Those fucking stars...See, the thing is, early Burgess means the wonderful Malayan trilogy...if Burgess wrote something like this before that work, it might have been just as flawed yet just as creative, smart, and successful as a novel; I have a bunch of Euro detective fiction to my right as I sit here, and some, if important, I remember very little detail of. I'll remember a great deal of Undertones in a year, two years. As I read I often thought of Chesbro, who wrote the Mongo detective series. I've read two and Mongo is great. Next Popovich in this series, if there is one, must be better to retain a 5--stretch the convention more, surpise with word choices more--more wisecracks from Dane. Get fierce with speciest banter. Five stars. Next one better be fucking good.

And screw you Evelyn Waugh--3 stars for Gilbert Pinfoil
Profile Image for João Reis.
Author 78 books527 followers
January 14, 2021
Pssst, hey, Dane, do you want some ants?

Dane is an anteater who plays jazz together with his friends from Undertones. And there's a bear, and a mangoost, and...

Set in a college campus (very much American, indeed), Undertones is a modern fable in which animals behave like humans. They have human flaws and vices, and they live in a society where all predatory instincts are forbidden. Why? Well, where would one end if...
Undertones, by LS Popovich is a pulpy fun mystery novel full of puns and with a Meet the Feebles vibe.
Profile Image for Kim.
1,221 reviews85 followers
January 10, 2020
This was a wild (life) ride! Ha!. I'm not usually a fan of making comparisons in book reviews but this book reads like a crossover episode of Bojack Horseman meets Daria.

I'll admit I found the beginning a bit daunting due to trying to remember what animal each character was, but the author does a great job at reiterating this throughout the novel in case you forget each species. It's not really a big deal except when some of the smaller plot points reference species specific capabilities or hindrances.

The plot was fresh, the characters were fun, the overall reading experience was great. What more could you want? I really enjoyed reading this and I look forward to reading more from this author. Maybe more set in this same universe? (Please?)

The ant craving descriptions made my skin crawl, yikes.

My copy was provided by NetGalley for review, all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for TeaAndBooks.
81 reviews94 followers
May 5, 2020
This was a very innovative and original book: I throughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend! I couldn’t help but read it in two sittings, but believe without the distraction of family, I would have read it in one!

Animals are made to feel like humans which I felt added an almost Animal Farm feel to it which I really enjoyed. The plot itself was very well developed and portrayed well.

I also enjoyed the writing style and will definitely be keeping a look out for future works from this author!

If you want a great new read, this is the book for you, especially if you’re a fan of detective stories.
Profile Image for M.L. Little.
Author 13 books44 followers
January 17, 2021
Like Zootopia for adults, Undertones is clever, innovative, and remarkably fresh. I honestly have a hard time describing it. It feels very surreal, a little dark, and deeply plotted. It's about addiction, mobs, mystery. And don't forget every character is an animal.

It would almost be easy to forget they are animals, in actuality. They attend college classes, they crave coffee, they lose themselves in music, they smoke and kiss and fight and wrestle with moral decisions. This is not a cute animal world. It's an adult one, and the animals act as such. It could be inherently weird in the hands of anyone else. It is not. At times I was almost reminded of The Godfather. It had a similar feeling.

I never, ever would have thought of this. To me, animals are cute. These animals are not so. They are flawed, deep, recognizably human. The writing is consistent and never misses a beat. A worthy novel on its own, even more so for a debut.
Profile Image for Kym.
142 reviews7 followers
November 26, 2019
If you've ever imagined what kinds of instruments animals might play or how they would interact with each if they lived in a human-like society, this might be the book for you! From the opening lines, the reader is immersed in a world of anthropomorphic animals that play in jazz bands, attend college, and where all kinds of birds and animals live and work together. The characters are well developed, and the creative world-building is carefully thought out and surprisingly believable.

Undertones is the name of the jazz band fronted by guitarist and vocalist Dane, a giant anteater quietly battling his ant addiction. He's a gifted musician (and mathematician, but he keeps that quiet) and the band is hoping for a big break, which appears to be in the works when a talent scout shows interest. Unfortunately, right about that time is when Dane's world starts to fall apart. While out on a date with Serena, a polar bear, they witness an assault and then become victims themselves. The attackers turn on them and when Dane wakes up in the hospital with a broken arm, Serena is missing and nobody seems to know anything about it. Dane doesn't get any co-operation or help when he goes to the police. In fact, he gets busted for possession of ants and winds up ordered to attend Domestication meetings.

While struggling to give up ants cold turkey, Dane decides he will find Serena himself, and starts following up on any leads he can. He gets some help from his friends, Nihleen the Komodo dragon and Gaston the numbat, and interacts with all kinds of characters and species. He stumbles into mob-like criminal activity, a dark underbelly of the society, and meets anarchists and conspiracy theorists. Dane will need the support and loyalty of the whole band and some other friends in order to untangle all the clues, find and rescue Serena, and stick together through danger and riots and nefarious plots.

Overall, a highly entertaining and engaging read! Full of humor and clever references to all kinds of cliches and animal jokes, along with subtle commentary on human interaction and society. There are a few f-bombs and other language flags here and there, so be aware. But aside from that cautionary note, I recommend this unusual book!

**I received an advanced review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.**
2 reviews
January 11, 2020
A quirky and funny noir adventure for kids and young teenagers. A colorful work with personality. Dane, the leading man, is a headstrong guitarist with a set of bouyant pals, a vivacious on-and-off lover, and an electric jazz band who upset the chessboard of the dark underworld so close to their university lives.
The mystery hits (a little violently) about halfway in the story, and until then we enjoy getting to know these kids and how they negotiate the social pact around them. (They're all animals, living in a social order based on veganism and peace between species who struggle against their instincts to let loose and take a bite out of each other). In this context we discover a morbid underground mafia breaking all the established rules and profiting from the clash between the new social ideas and nature's laws. There's just enough tension, noir, and, lets say, reality, to keep the kids hooked, with also a healthy dose of light-hearted humor, everyday realism, and goofiness and light for breathing room. I tried to read some other kid's novels and stories so that I could better understand Undertones in that context, but this one is essentially unique so that comparison became rather difficult.
Based on a flight of fancy and imagination, very well-crafted with lucid prose. The plot is a solid and well-designed construction. But I guess the most important thing is to let the story tickle you and take hold of your imagination. Many layers of innuendo, (I agree with my uncle who read the story) and humor on different levels. Get it for your kids! Get it for your rebellious teenager! Get it for yourself, if you like mystery, love, and good-hearted stories about growing up.
1 review
January 21, 2020
Undertones is an entertaining and ironic book, spinning a tale of shimmering light and surprising darkness in a slightly skewed world that is not nearly as benign as it seems. Bold, well-drawn characters of every possible species struggle to deal with bad habits, artistic passions and with their own animal instincts. I was impressed by the way the author manages to wrap a story of friendship and personal sacrifice inside such a stylish mystery. Noir is a tricky genre to navigate successfully, even when the characters are human, but Undertones pulls it off with a confidence and verve that truly made the story come alive for me. Sometimes sad, often times hilarious, I found Undertones to be full of sly social commentary that made it easy for me to see our own media-crazy society darkly reflected in Popovich's world.
I'm excited to read more by this author and I enthusiastically recommend Undertones!
Profile Image for Jackie Hovorka.
Author 4 books26 followers
December 5, 2019
Wow! What a unique read!!

A teenager that is a giant anteater who plays in a band and is addicted to ants. It is very rare that I read something so unique and outside of the box. Even though, I doubted at first that I could continue because it wasn't my usual go-to, I was so surprised. The characters make-up only added to the special aspects of this book, but I don't want to say too much about that without spoiling the experience. And that is huge for me - the experience!

So after we get familiar with all the different types of characters, we get to go on an adventure to investigate, with Dane in the lead, an underground criminal organization. I loved the suspense that came with that.

The book was very well written and flowed beautifully. The imagination of this author tells me that anything he writes will be amazing. I can't wait to read more of his work.

Profile Image for Victoria.
254 reviews21 followers
January 8, 2020
Just like our world, things are always corrupt.

An underground jazz band leads an anarchy movement to overtake a lying food corporation and the mob all lead by a magpie.

The animal kingdom is trying for harmony and to become civilised like walking on two legs and not eating each other. Of course some are going to slip up every once in awhile and grab some ants or get a hold of some black market meat.....

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC

Profile Image for Patricia Murphy.
Author 3 books107 followers
November 21, 2019
I was so impressed with the thoughtful inventiveness of Popovich's stunning novel Undertones. It is a wonderfully surreal study of relationships, and goes in depth into key themes such as violence, bullying, and "isms." The characters are well developed and the world is well built. It is a must read.
Profile Image for Isabelle | Nine Tale Vixen.
2,037 reviews113 followers
December 15, 2020
I received an advance review copy from Black Rose Writing through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest.

3.5 stars

This was definitely ... interesting. I don't read many books featuring anthropomorphic animals, let alone books where their physiological and evolutionary differences are so thoughtfully examined and incorporated into the story. While animal-society-as-allegory certainly isn't a unique premise, Popovich has constructed a fascinating narrative.

My rating boils down to the fact that this is stronger as social commentary than entertainment; this is totally fine if it's what you're looking for, but I have trouble buying into a novel when I can't get a good sense of the characters, let alone empathize with them. A lot of the dialogue is cheesy, and in parts (especially in the latter half) the plot felt like a side story or afterthought — a vehicle for philosophical or moral proclamations, or for inter-character drama.

This has a solid foundation; I just personally don't love how the (metaphorical) house ended up looking. But that doesn't make it a bad work of architecture, and I think plenty of people will enjoy this book more than I did.

content warnings:
CONVERSION : 9.1 / 15 = 3.5 stars

Prose: 4 / 10
Characters & Relationships: 6 / 10
Emotional Impact: 4 / 10
Development / Flow: 5 / 10
Setting: 8 / 10

Diversity & Social Themes: 4 / 5
Intellectual Engagement: 3 / 5
Originality / Trope Execution: 4 / 5
Rereadability: N/A
Memorability: N/A
Profile Image for I.M. Redwright.
Author 6 books84 followers
March 18, 2020
Just wow. This story caught my attention since the beginning, an anteater being a guitarist? ok, keep going, I want more. And there was way more.

The story is full of witty and fun dialogues. The characters, despite being animals, are really human, this aspect in particular, reminded me to Animal Farm although in a different setting and story. But the way L.S. Popovich was able to make these animals behave like they were in a real society is to be applauded. If that was not enough, they are well developed.

I really enjoyed the plot, slightly dark and surreal, but also with some space for some jokes.

A must read.
Profile Image for Xilance.
2 reviews1 follower
October 9, 2019
Funny, endearing, and Thought-provoking. A story that transcendence the tropes of anthropomorphic animals doing human things by immersing the reader in rememberable characters living in a world that's light cast the shadows of our own.
Profile Image for Luke Swanson.
Author 14 books35 followers
July 12, 2021
A lot of reviewers have compared "Undertones" to "Zootopia," which is fair enough. I'd more liken it to "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"--you're drawn in by the cutesy, kinda funny premise, but you're hooked by the well-developed characters, the cool worldbuilding, and the actually compelling mystery. I will say that there were a few too many characters, and a couple could've been cut or beefed up, but still, highly recommended.
3 reviews1 follower
February 17, 2020
Excellent world building, fun characters, diligent plotting that pulls you through to the end. Really fun read. Best book I ever read about a jazz band with a numbat in it.
Profile Image for Neil Brunton.
104 reviews1 follower
May 22, 2020
Different is an understatement for this book,
Crime,comedy and nature come together to try
and solve the crime.
March 25, 2021
Popovich is a writer that crafts a unique world that sucks you right in. Making the characters all animals, he takes anthropomorphism to the next level. The struggles the characters in Undertones face daily are a perfect mirror for our own society that has been built around us. With the use of animal characters he is able to make bold statements, but always with a touch of humor, well more than just a touch; lines such as ‘He’s a bull who runs a fine china shop’, ‘I don’t know, Mickey, this whole situation is making me nuttier than squirrel @*#*’, and ‘If he were a giraffe he’d still be in over his head’ had me chuckling on and off throughout. Undertones is richly detailed, with characters that develop more throughout the original plot, and all combined made it a fantastic read.
Profile Image for Laura Brower.
91 reviews12 followers
March 28, 2021
Really enjoyed this as a bit of nice whimsical fun with a lot of laughs and cute creatures in a crazy city... it was especially nice as lately I've been reading some books that take themselves a bit too seriously. This was a welcome break from that and I'm definitely going to check out another Popovich book to break up the grit and grime of my usual reading. I'm glad to discover this, it's a real find.
March 20, 2021
Just a lot of fun pulp fiction with likeable characters and a good plot. It was not perfect but it was good for what it was. I think that you should check it out.
Profile Image for Chris Wright.
Author 4 books3 followers
March 24, 2021
This is the first novel from Popovich, and through his clever use of language he weaves an original tale. The main protagonist is an Anteater, who enters the mystery of what happened to Serena, his on-off girlfriend, who appears to have been abducted. As the tale unfolds we meet numerous creatures from the animal kingdom that he encounters on his journey, which makes for some memorable and witty scenes. The decision to have the characters as animals was a great idea, and the way he brilliantly describes each of their peculiar mannerisms is excellent. Funny, clever and dealing with many adult themes, I found this an engaging and unique story.
Profile Image for Ryan.
Author 1 book12 followers
February 7, 2020
I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway.

Undertones is a book with a lot of ideas. So much is crammed in this extended allegory of a book. Music, college, maturing, drug addiction, corruption, racism, conspiracy theories, and plenty more. It's a novel that has something to say, and for the most part succeeds...though to differing degrees at certain points.

The first third of the novel is slow. And since there are so many characters (of so many different species), it's hard to keep track in the beginning of everyone. This unfortunately means that throughout the novel some of the characters feel left by the wayside. But what's apparent is that the important characters--well, Popovich writes them extremely well, in a way that makes them relateable and memorable.

The author has created an imaginative world of animals-turned-sentient, and in this creation, he's gone through the thought process of what it means for different species to cohabitate. That's really where the story melds the most. It's jazz meets punk.
4,872 reviews53 followers
August 31, 2020
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

I guess this qualifies as a sub-sub genre...putting funny animals into old fashioned Fawcett Gold Medal type books. In this one, an ant eater addicted to ants is part of a jazz band, and has to kick the habit, and get the girl.

Not bad if you like this sort of thing.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 32 reviews

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