TOP SHELF IN OCTOBER: Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel

Once in a while you run across a book that is different enough to warrant closer investigation, something out of the ordinary or on the edge. Many of these experimental books are visually enticing, but, at least for me, that is not enough. It takes more than a pretty book to get me drawn in. There have to be compelling characters, a rich plot to follow, and a consistency to the story. When I first opened Bats of the Republic, I was initially skeptical of its unusual format. Happily, my doubts were unfounded. Dodson has created a most imaginative book, ambitious in design and presentation, a fantastic amalgam of historical, mystery and science fiction that is enhanced by illustrations. All of these elements create a story about a taut political struggle in the far future that is uncannily linked to events in the past.

In 1843 in Texas, Zadock Thomas falls in love with the daughter of his employer, Joseph Gray. Gray finds Thomas an unsuitable suitor and, to keep Zadock from his daughter, sends him on a quest to deliver a secret letter to a rogue general somewhere in the Republic of Texas. On his own initiative, and with the hope that he will find fame that will win the heart of Mr. Gray’s daughter, Zadock Thomas decides to sketch the wildlife of Texas during his quest and create his own book, a la James Audubon. These illustrations accompany the story. Fans of nature books will love Zadock’s renderings (drawn by Dodson, an artist and illustrator) of the Republic’s creatures – both real and imaginary.

Three hundred years in the future Republic of Texas, Zeke Thomas must fill the Senate seat left empty after the death of his grandfather, but he is held back by the appearance of an unknown secret letter that may devastate his bloodline. Zeke Thomas must protect the secret the letter hides while avoiding some dangerous people. There is someone who does not want him to inherit the seat and innocent people are being murdered – an unheard of thing in this future world.

Dodson includes a fictional book in his story about the Gray family and their connection to a secretive group of women who dream about the future. Though seemingly innocuous to the other parts of the book, this section provides some surprising insights to the story and illuminates the author’s creative genius. Dodson’s name alone recalls the main characters in the book – is he related to them in the future? What an unusual thought – but a pleasing one, as well. Fans of David Mitchell and Mark Z. Danielewski will rejoice in this illustrated magnificent book!

~reviewed by Raul, First Floor Inventory Manager

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