Culdesac (War With No Name #1.5)
By: Robert Repino
Published: November 15, 2016 by Soho Press
Pages: 128; paperback
The Rundown: “The war with no name rages on, setting the world on fire. Humanity faces extinction at the hands of the Colony, a race of intelligent ants seeking to overthrow the humans and establish a new order. To achieve this, the ants use their strange technology to transform the surface animals into highly evolved killing machines who rise up and murder their oppressors. The bobcat Culdesac is among the fiercest warriors that the Colony’s experiment has produced. Driven by revenge, and notorious for his ability to hunt humans in the wild, Culdesac is the perfect leader of the Red Sphinx, an elite unit of feline assassins. With the humans in retreat, the Red Sphinx seizes control of the remote village of Milton. But holding the town soon becomes a bitter struggle of wills. While the humans threaten a massive counterattack, the townsfolk protect a dark secret that could tip the balance of the war. For the sadistic Culdesac, violence is the answer to everything. But this time, he’ll need more than his claws and his guns, for what he discovers in Milton will upend everything he believes, everything he fought for, and everything he left behind. Relentless, bloody, and unforgiving, Culdesac is the story of an anti-hero with no soul to lose, carving a path of destruction that consumes the innocent and guilty alike.”
Don’t Get Strung Out by the Way I Look: The cover shows the face of a cute kitty cat. Look at his little fangs! Aw…
What a Wonderful World: The human race has treated its animal brethren with callousness and cruelty, wantonly hunting them and destroying their habitats. But a race of super-intelligent ants has developed the technology to make these animals self-aware. Ants and animals have now united to exterminate the human menace and make the world safe for animals once again. A midquel to the first book in the series, Mort(e).
The Good Guy: More like “good guy.” Culdesac is a secondary antagonist from Mort(e). He is the leader of a group of feline assassins called the Red Sphinx, and is in direct communication with the queen ant herself. Due to the ecological devastation caused by human encroachment on his habitat, Culdesac had a horrible kitten-hood. Given sentience by the ants, he is determined to kill each and every human as revenge for what was done to his kind. Of course, Culdesac’s childhood might be an excuse; he is a cold-blooded to the point of being sadistic, and genuinely enjoys killing intelligent life forms.
The Bad Guy: The novel is unclear about whether the ants are winning the war, or if it is in a hopeless deadlock. The animals of Milton have driven out or killed all of the human residents, yet human troops are still present in the area. What is it about this seemingly innocuous small town that has the humans so invested in it?
The Love Interest: Nox the cat was instrumental in driving the humans out of Milton. Now, she runs a combination whorehouse and coffee shop. That’s right: Nox is a hooker with a heart of gold! She seems nice enough, and Culdesac even fantasizes about settling down with her. Yet, there’s something about her that he does not trust. Of course, that might just be because his sadism is tinged with paranoia.
A+: This novel reads like it was penned by a vegan with a great dark sense of humor. The kitties of the Red Sphinx not only assassination humans; they also roast them on spits and eat them as a communal bonding activity. There’s a great bit where the cats are debating over what name to give to human meat. It’s not often that grimdark stories like this one have a sense of humor.
F-: This is a midquel, so the reader knows that by the end of the novel, everything will have reset to status quo. Culdesac can’t grow as a character, so you know that he’s not going to be changed by the events of the story. This, of course, limits the direction that the plot can take. It’s a testament to the story that it manages to be engaging the whole way through.
Does it Represent…
Women: There are a couple of female soldiers in the Red Sphinx, but the only central female character is the hooker with the heart of gold.
People of Color: Almost all of the characters are cats, so…
LGBT People: No
The Disabled: There’s a doggo in a wheelchair! Also, you could argue that Culdesac has antisocial personality disorder.
Recommended for: People who like grimdark stories and kitty cats.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars