by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer
Avaritia: A Fable, by M.D. Westbrook
Wichita, KS, M.W. Publishers, April 2016, trade paperback $9.99 (200 pages), Kindle $1.00.
Usually the dedication of a book is not pertinent, but this one really sets the mood:
“This book is dedicated to rising taxes, broken promises, forgotten children, crime, starvation, war, death, and despair.
Thanks for the inspiration, guys. Couldn’t have done it without you.”
Avaritia has a very plain cover (by the author, credited as Mark D. Westbrook), but it turns out that there is a reason for this. The novel is grim and preachy, but fascinating in an Old Testament way. The only anthropomorphic novel that I can think of that’s remotely similar to this is the black comedy Play Little Victims by Kenneth Cook (1978). See my 2014 review of it on Flayrah: https://www.flayrah.com/5725/review-play-little-victims-kenneth-cook
But there is nothing funny about Avaritia. I read Play Little Victims almost forty years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. I don’t expect to ever forget Avaritia, either.
Avaritia begins in a house with a human father, a mother, and two brothers. The younger brother has three pet rats. The older brother has a bowl of mice, but Older Brother Human only keeps them to feed to his pet snake.
The characters in Avaritia are its mice and rats. The story begins with Older Brother Human lifting Radish, one of the mice, out of the bowl to feed to his boa constrictor while her mate, Cookie, pounds on the glass and squeaks, “Take me! Take me and leave her!”
“Cookie cried uncontrollably, watching as the snake slithered behind his mate.
In a blink, the snake struck. Radish released a final squeak as the constrictor wrapped around her lower abdomen.
‘Noooo!’ Cookie wailed.
Radish opened her mouth, gasping, and beat her tiny paws against the orange and yellow scales, but to no avail. Radish’s once soft pink eyes bulged, now a darker hue of red.
Older Brother Human laughed out loud. ‘Good boy, Petey. Eat ‘er up.’” (p. 2)