Excerpt from Night of the Animals by Bill Broun, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Night of the Animals

by Bill Broun

Night of the Animals by Bill Broun X
Night of the Animals by Bill Broun
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2016, 560 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2017, 592 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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Print Excerpt

listening to the zoo

ON THE LAST DAY OF APRIL OF 2 0 52 , AS A NEWLY discovered comet, Urga-Rampos, neared Earth, a very ill, very old, and very corpulent man started to shoulder his way into the thick hedges around the last public zoo on earth. Cuthbert Handley, a freshly minted nonagenarian—and a newly homeless one—clambered into the shrubbery as fast as his large, frail bones allowed (which wasn't very). As the tough branches of yew and hazel abraded his arms and neck and face, he hardly felt them: what stung him was consciousness, every last red, lashing ray of it.

"Crack on," the old man grumbled to himself, struggling to guard his eyes with his immense hands. "Go, you two-boned bletherhead—you get a wriggle on!"

It hurt Cuthbert to think, and it hurt to feel. Most of all, it hurt to remember. For a moment, he saw the boy's face—that sinking face, with black, deep-river eyes. He saw the long lips, as purple and frail as iris petals, and the pale forehead wreathed in rushes. He glimpsed again the tiny clawing hands, grabbing at fronds of ferns from the brook-side, and all of it, the whole creature, tangled in green threads of time, plummeting, twisting, swimming, down to the depths, right down through the misery of the last century.

There, or somewhere, was his lost sweet brother, the otter-boy. Here, now, eighty years later, he would be found.

Cuthbert had never stopped looking.

"Drystan," the old man whispered aloud. He paused for a moment, gulping for breath, pulling a twig off his ear. "I'll find my way to you. And to tha' others." And what of this comet?

All the world jabbering about it, and it was the worst of omens, Cuthbert felt; Urga-Rampos seemed to presage a frenzied phase of the mass-suicide pandemic that had already wiped out tens of thousands of Britons, and abroad, millions of other people— and animals.

For the most powerful and largest of the suicide cults—a group named Heaven's Gate, originally from California—had also let it be known that animals occupied a "Level Below Human," as the cultists put it, and must be exterminated to enable suicided cult members to travel more readily to the "Level Above Human." Earth was a "dead vessel," they claimed, a mere technical impediment to spiritual ascension. They also claimed God had "revised" Jehovah's covenant with Noah. Instead of revering the "bow in the cloud" of Genesis, that ancient sign of His promise never again to destroy Earth's living creatures, the cultists said to look to the white comet, to a new covenant in which animals didn't fit, and on one continent after another, they found ways to tip already endangered whole ecosystems toward their bowls of ashes.

The international response had been, so far, slow and uneven. America, where most of the cults had begun and where the self-murders and animal killings seemed to be accelerating, had organized a "cognitive policing" effort, but it wasn't authorized outside New York, despite being under the control of the new "national police," an extension of the U.S. Army. Only a few other larger countries—Korea Hana, India, the Nigerian Federation, and Britain—seemed up for a fight.

As the last great repository of living "whole" animals on earth—genomic clones were available but also dwindling in numbers—the London Zoo now ranked as the cult's biggest target, at least as Cuthbert saw it. The animals had awakened—for him, he believed—because Britain, and indeed the world, stood in desperate danger. Waves of species were being wiped from the wild at a level not seen since the end of the Mesozoic era. So few nonhuman animal species existed in the deforested, bulldozed, and poisoned planet, the London Zoo had truly become a kind of "ark" for all interconnected life—an ark, and a death row prison.

From Night of the Animals by Bill Broun. 2016 by William Douglas Broun. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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