King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats, James Patrick Kelly; Stefan Rudnicki, narrator (Skyboat Media 978-1-09413898-5, $12.22, digital download, 2.25 hr., unabridged) January 2020.
Veteran narrator Stefan Rudnicki’s deep, nasal, almost lugubrious, voice (last appearing in this column in connection with Adam-Troy Castro’s short-story collection My Wife Hates Time Travel, and Other Stories) anchors the more absurd aspects of this novella, in which a circus serves as a focus for rebellion. On the planet Boon, the rule of the grands, a select group of cloned humans, appears to be crumbling, and unrest is building from the uplifted dogs and cats who demand equal rights. Senator Gio chafes under the expectations set for him by his grand clone, Fra, a fierce defender of the traditions of their clone predecessors, the Barberos. The anarchic, forbidden circus, where humans, dogs, and cats work together to subvert social roles, seems like a form of escape, but can Gio trust the motivations of the mysterious offworld circus ringmaster, the uplifted cat Scratch?
It’s slightly silly and sweetly heartfelt, but capped with a somewhat ambiguous ending that did not entirely satisfy me.
This review and more like it in the April 2020 issue of Locus.
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