Destiny of Humanity Comes to Vote in ‘Animals Council’


by Nick McDonell

In my favorite childhood books, animals always talked. But in books I’ve read as an adult, talking monsters have been replaced by human characters – equally made, but often less charismatic. Still, I miss these wise, humane creatures very much, so I was delighted to open Nick McDonell’s novel “The Animal Council” and discover some friendly creatures playing witty jokes. Here I thought it might be a fantastic hybrid of childish and mature – a “Roald Dahl meets ‘Animal Farm’” classic that will delight people of all ages, as its publisher once described.

The setup is this: a small group of familiar mammalian species, including a cat, a dog, a horse, and a bear—plus a dreamer, hyper-religious crow whose intelligence seems clearly below average for a member of the intelligent corvid family—to decide the fate of humanity. holds a meeting. It was recently revealed that people were reduced from billions to a dozen following an event called The Calamity. Maybe this disaster was climate change, maybe a nuclear disaster; The reason is unclear and hardly needs to be specified at this point in history, as the possibilities of disaster before us are so rich. Animals well trained in the principles of “democracy” in the council gather to vote on whether to kill the last humans or let them live.

“The Animal Council” is definitely a hybrid story. Interspersed with jokes based on the bodies and voices of animals, it feels like a bedtime story, set up to entertain, say, a niece or nephew; but the Easter eggs of all-around gambler humor have winks and nods for older readers (“Woof Point,” for example, is the name of a prestigious military academy for dogs, an inappropriate reference to child readers). The cast of characters is based on animal stereotypes and hierarchies – cunning, scheming cats and obedient dogs; beautiful mammals at the top and unpleasant insects such as cockroaches at the bottom – in keeping with the common ideas given to a child by his elders about wildlife. In its form, the novel resembles an O. Henry short story or a movie like “Planet of the Apes,” with an ironic, dramatic turn at the end that isn’t too surprising.


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