Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: Animal Future by Robert and Darrin McGraw

Animal Future, by Robert and Darrin McGraw
2014, 300p, YA Sci-Fi Action Adventure
My Rating=4 Stars
Source: Received a copy for an honest review

In a near-future Southern California full of mentally-enhanced animals, three unlikely companions— a Vietnamese-American policewoman, a well-dressed chimpanzee, and a fast-talking spy— find they have no choice but to combine their talents in order to stay alive. While being hunted by fanged assassins, corrupt officers, and some chillingly methodical robot snakes, the trio investigates what turns out to be a terrorist plot masterminded by unknown foreign interests.

This exciting, irresistibly quirky novel of action, comedy, and ideas features a remarkable cast of supporting characters, including a motel desk clerk with a prehensile tail, a poker-playing bison, an Aztec riflewoman, the irrepressible ferrets Larry and Leroy, and a large number of pandas in Bermuda shorts.

Since the mysterious Elevation began, San Diego has become the main port of entry for a flood of newly-intelligent animal species hoping for a better life in the United States. Interacting with these Provisional Citizens is just part of the job for Tactical Assault Officer Autumn Winn, of the White Knights police/security agency. Her more pressing problems usually involve dealing with her obnoxious supervisor and struggling to convince her Americanized family that their Vietnamese cultural heritage is worth preserving.

Autumn's life takes a bizarre turn, however, when she and her partner enter a tailor shop in search of an elusive animal rights activist. Instead, they meet a team of black-clad intruders armed with machine guns. After a furious gunfight, the intruders kidnap the wife of Mr. Brian, the immigrant chimpanzee owner of the tailor shop, arousing his determination to do whatever it takes to rescue her— even if it means taking off his cufflinks.

However, Autumn has a harder time getting along with handsome secret agent Mack Davis, a customer at the tailor shop who realizes the kidnappers have accidentally scooped up something he can't live without. To get it back, he is suddenly forced to rely on his new-found friends and his quick wit. At the same time, he must draw on his underworld contacts to learn the truth about the peculiar jade figurine he was smuggling in from Singapore for his old girlfriend, so that he can have a candlelight dinner with her without being ambushed by foxes with machetes.

Together Autumn, Brian, and Mack hide out in the San Diego Zoo; get into a Western-style gunfight in Old Town; visit the secret lair of a deranged intelligence broker whose fur could use a little brushing; and join a daring raid on the former UCSD Geisel Library building at the University of California, San Diego. Along the way they learn from each other new perspectives on life, culture, true love, tolerance, respect, and the importance of keeping your 9mm automatic pistol well oiled.

Depending on your species, you'll laugh, growl, purr, and/or think deep thoughts when you read this captivating adventure thriller for readers from YA to adult. 

A friend of mine asked me if I would review this book and, trusting her, I agreed without knowing anything about it. When I read the summary, I admit I was a little bit skeptical. There are elevated animals and I'm not a fan of animals that talk. It's also sci-fi, which isn't my favorite genre but I've read a lot of it lately and I'm becoming more of a fan.

The first sentence reads, "Wrapped only in a towel, Autumn Winn fired a pistol at her new underwear." It's bulletproof and she's excited about it finally arriving. I was hoping this book wouldn't be full of references like that. Her bulletproof underwear does come into play later in the book and I'm glad to say that there's lots more to this book than that, so if that's not your favorite sentence, keep reading! And, if that sentence gets your attention, this is a book you will enjoy!

This book takes place in San Diego, California. It's a future where animals are elevated and interact with humans on a regular basis. The first part gives us background on Autumn Winn, a Vietnamese-American policewoman, Mr. Brian, a chimpanzee who owns a tailor shop and Mack Davis, a spy. Their paths intersect one day and they each have a stake in the outcome so they work together to find their answers. 

Autumn, Brian and Mack don't trust each other at first but need to rely on each other. As the story progresses, they learn more about each other and become friends. There are lots of other side characters we get to know as well, some animals and some humans, all of them interesting.

I enjoyed the writing style of the authors. They used some words I wasn't familiar with and I was glad I was reading it on my Kindle so I could look up some definitions. There's action, drama, secrets, mystery and adventure. There were parts that made me laugh and others that made me think.

So, back to my original skepticism in reading this. The writing was so well done that I found myself enjoying the talking animals. It did take me a while to get into it (because that's just how I am with sci-fi), but once I did, I got to the point where I couldn't put it down and needed to know how it ended. I still have questions about Mack Davis and hope we learn his secrets as the series progresses. I am interested in reading more and look forward to future installments!

Content: Mild swearing.

Robert McGraw has had several professions, but his most difficult job is convincing his wife he’s actually working even when he’s just staring out the window. He is the author of numerous magazine and newspaper articles, as well as three books. Two of his television scripts won awards from the International Television Association.

A former professional symphony musician who spent several years playing for the Cape Town Symphony in South Africa, Robert has a Master's degree in Education and completed the work (all but dissertation) for a Ph.D. in music. He also studied art at The Ruth Prowse School of Art in Cape Town and creates visual art in a variety of styles. His works are represented in the collection of the International Museum of Collage, Assemblage and Construction.

Darrin McGraw grew up more or less in a succession of libraries. He is pleased to note that the New York Public Library has a McGraw Rotunda, though he cannot actually take credit for this.

He graduated from Stanford University and earned a Ph.D. in English from UCLA. After working in online software development he served for eight years as the writing director of the Culture, Art and Technology program at UC San Diego.

Besides writing and reading he has many other interests including early music, alternative architecture, and woodworking. When scientists have finished cloning the woolly mammoth he has a few other extinct species to suggest, including Cleopatra and Dr. Samuel Johnson.


Duncan said...

Okay, I admit it. I'm the friend who suggested this book to Mel. As a non-science fiction reader myself, I was surprised how much I really loved this book. I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one. Thumbs up from me!

Melanie said...

Haha, Duncan, thanks for admitting to being my friend. ;) And thanks for the recommendation!

Post a Comment