This is one of the most charming and weird books I’ve ever read. It’s a whirl of short stories about sex, love, family, death and life, all told from the perspectives of a mind-boggling array of animals. Screw lions and tigers and bears—this book features, among other things, homicidal scorpions, lions in love with antelopes, freakishly intelligent lab rats, megalomaniacal ants, incestuous sponges, narcissistic snails and former-K9-unit-turned-Buddhist-monk dogs.
But these animals are merely different incarnations of a cast of recurring characters. Viskovitz, our protagonist, is eternally in search of his perfect love, Ljuba, and along the way, he’s helped (or hindered) by his friends Petrovic, Zucotic and Lopez. The stories are all fantastically witty and bawdy, though most are also more than a little bit morbid; a couple even feature happy endings. Different stories tweak different storytelling conventions; the story about the scorpion is a delightful parody of gunslinger Westerns, for example, while the story about the dog is a hilarious send-up of crime thrillers in the style of The Usual Suspects.
The author, Alessandro Boffa, is a biologist by training, and he doesn’t bother to dumb down the technical details for the layperson, though it’s really not from any sort of pretension. It’s mostly due to the simple fact that talking in pornographic detail about, say, pedipalps the way we would about cocks and pussies is just plain funny.
It’s incredibly trite to note that while the stories feature animals, they’re really about the human condition, but here I am saying it: these stories feature animals, but they’re really about the human condition. If you gave a biologist a bunch of nitrous, made him sit down and watch too many bad romantic comedies in a row, then forced him to write a series of love stories, the resulting rebellion might come close to the wonderful wackiness that’s Viskovitz.