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Rotten Little Animals Paperback – October 5, 2009
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
From the Inside Flap
"Like a bionic Ralph Bakshi reborn from snorting Orwell's ashes, Kevin Shamel drags cherished childhood fantasies into the gutter of adulthood, and makes you pay dearly to swallow them all over again. Intelligence is a universal disease, but never fear... Rotten Little Animals just may be the cure we've been praying for." - CODY GOODFELLOW, author of Radiant Dawn and Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars
"Looney Tunes amped up on cocaine, sex and soft, silky fur and feathers. Shamel's debut is wildly entertaining and destined to become an instant bizarro classic." - GINA RANALLI, author of Sky Tongues and Suicide Girls in the Afterlife
"This book has three of my favorites things: Kittens, Zombies, and Snuff Films." - JEFF BURK, author of Shatnerquake
"It begins as a zombie film, transforms into a deranged puppet show, and ends with a car chase. If you ever wondered what a Pixar exploitation film would be like, you need Rotten Little Animals." - CAMERON PIERCE, author of The Ass Goblins of Auschwitz and Shark Hunting in Paradise Garden
"Written with the humor of Adult Swim, but with enough psychological profundity to matter. Shamel is a bright motherfucker!" - FORREST ARMSTRONG, author of Asphalt Flowerhead
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Awww, CUTE!!! Look at the little rats and chickens making a film, they think they're people too. What a lovely fable of neighborhood animals making a zombie-cat movie... Huh? Who's that kid? Hey kid! Get out of there!! Humans can't know the animals most guarded secret!!! Oh no, they kidnapped him! Stupid drunk bird! Why weren't you looking out for little kids who might happen by. Oh well, crisis averted. Sorta. What are you gonna do with that kid now, huh? Kill him?
...Oh. Well I suppose it is the only way to keep your society a secret. But wait, the dog has an idea. No way, they're gonna film the abduction and turn the whole crime into a fictomentary! But what about the boy? Oh, still gonna kill him when you're done? Well, I suppose it's better than having the animal authorities discover what really happened, and you're sure to have a whopper of a film for entry into the Animal Academy Awards.
Poor kid, hope you find a way out of this mess...
It took me nearly half the book to get a feel for the main protagonist, Cage. While his story begins right away, with his kidnapping, the character himself didn't really express much to me outside of fear. Once the story spent enough time with him, however, I began to see how much his abduction had screwed with his senses and sanity.
The animal film crew is a grab bag of some of my favorite domesticates, including chickens, rats, a dog, a pig, two cats and a Steller's Jay.
Stinkin' Rat, as the director, heads up the group with his son and production assistant, Julio. While Stinkin' Rat is the epitome of greed and hedonism, Julio represents the moralistic side of animals, rarely agreeing with anything his father decides. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of father/son and reading how differently they reacted to the same situations.
Itsy the dog appears calculated and controlled at first, but his true nature comes out in a most unexpected way later in the story.
Some characters, like Filthy Pig, fill a very specific role and are not expanded upon very much. Scaredy and Stripey, male cats and hinted at lovers, are used in much the same manner, sometimes providing comic-relief during otherwise tense moments.
There are few human characters in this story, but one who stood out for me was Arrrgh, a character who doesn't show up until later in the book. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that he is a brainwasher of Bizarro caliber. A self proclaimed "Wizard of Wisdom", his job is to turn boys into men through intense drug regiments, ingestion of ungodly amounts of pork and beans, and puppet shows.
Rotten Little Animals style is aggressive and staccato-like, never lingering too long on a scene and sometimes spending only a couple paragraphs describing events that take place over weeks or months. The book's plot progression stands out, beginning with a light and playful, but still edgy, tone and, about halfway through the book, skewering your senses as it documents the breakdown of the protagonist's family leading to a scene that literally shocked this reader.
All the animals in this story have been anthropomorphized to the point of having a separate, underground society no human is aware of. They speak English, ingest drugs, make films and do all the other things modern humans are accustomed to. One thing I appreciated about the dialogue is that it wasn't "stylized". These animals speak like everyday joes on the street, and the writing reflects this: They say "ya" instead of "yes", and "f***in'" instead of "f***ing".
I believe exploitation to be the strongest theme in Rotten Little Animals. A lot of the text concerns the exploiting of Cage's life for monetary gain, a subject quite in line with the unending piles of "reality" television shows being crapped out by our real world network and cable production companies. In the book, the human film industry attempts to profit off of Cage's traumatic experience at the hands of Stinkin' Rat Productions and the only consideration given to the boy is to have him brainwashed so a sequel can be filmed.
That is a scary thought, one that made me cringe while reading. Somehow I don't believe any of the actions taken against Cage are that far off from reality.
My recommendation? Next time you walk by a group of animals congregating in your neighbor's backyard, just keep walking...
Lines like, "neither they nor their cars were a match for the speeding monster and its maniacal bear driver" speak to the subtle, delightful turns of phrase that intersperse what is quite literally non-stop action, whether it be man-on-animal carnage, vice-versa, or felt-whale-puppet psychedelia. Not to mention high-minded metafiction, such as a perverted, hedonistic rat and his crew of animal auteurs accepting their prize for best special effects in making a film with a real human child tortured and abused, only to have their loving audience subsequently and spectacularly massacred by that very special effect. Anyway...
Read this book, you probably won't put it down until the end, and I'm not just saying that.
Rotten Little Animals is a creative, memorable and fun book. These rotten little animals live up to their names (Filthy Pig, Stinkin' Rat, etc.) and their violence and anger were not what I was expecting from a book about talking animals. That's a definite plus here and is one of the things that make this story unique. There were some parts that could have been a little tighter, and other ideas that I wished would have been more closely examined, but all things considered, this was a unique and enjoyable story.
What I Didn't Like: The middle lagged a bit and the narrative bogged down with patches of "telling-not-showing". Also, (SPOILER!!!) nearly all the main animal characters are killed off halfway through the book and replaced by new animal characters in the last 3 chapters, so we barely have time to meet these new animals before we come to the end. However...
What I Did Like: Everything else. Inventive and clever at times, sophomoric and scatological at others, I laughed through a good deal of this. When I read a book from this general genre (bizarro, humor, weird, in-between) I want these three questions answered affirmatively and anything more, for me, is gravy: Was it fun? Was I entertained? Did I come away feeling it was worth my time? In all three cases, the answers were yes. If you read RLA, you will have fun, you will be entertained and these animals will stick with you long after you're done. Martini Party!
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