In Robert Repino’s entertaining novella, “Culdesac,” the author revisits the apocalyptic future he created in his first novel, “Mort(e).”
“Mort(e)” was a surprisingly gripping mash-up of philosophy, giant ant movies, science fiction and war. The ants, led by their queen, uplifted animals into sentient beings and humanoid form. In exchange, they asked the animals to join their ant army and eradicate a depraved humanity from the Earth. Repino crafted this wild concept into a moving narrative.
With his weird world already established, Repino seeks to build upon it. Culdesac is the leader of the Red Sphinx, a troop of felines engaged in the struggle to control a village named Milton. Unfortunately for Culdesac, something is going on in Milton that he can’t figure out. When Culdesac receives orders to evacuate, and finds those orders resisted, he must figure out what to do as humans converge upon the town. Does he follow orders and evacuate or does he stay? And what mystery is hidden in remote Milton?
“Mort(e)” took place over the wide scope of the War With No Name. “Culdesac” focuses on a shorter period of time – a skirmish in the larger War. Culdesac, a superb hunter and violent fighter who is angry, suspicious and bitter, makes a better character for a novella. I’m not sure I’d want to spend 400 pages in his company, but a novella felt right. The scenes where he hunts down escaped people are tense and horrifying. Culdesac, addicted to war, cannot imagine himself living any other life.
Repino adds some nice complications to his apocalyptic vision. He highlights some differences in how humans and animals behave that leave ethical questions for each side. Culdesac’s way of living might be simple, but the world he lives in is not. Not all uplifted animals embrace the ants and their war like Culdesac does. And even the ants have sacrificed their own ideals in waging this war against humanity.
Repino’s second novel of the War With No Name, “D’Arc,” is due out next spring. Fans of “Mort(e)” have this story to tide them over until then.