Monday, July 9, 2012

Lazarball by David Ayres & Darren Jacobs

Title: Lazarball
Series: Anumal Empire
Author: David Ayres & Darren Jacobs
Length: 6779 Kindle units
Rating: 3.5 stars

The Plot

Clinton is a lion in a society of Anumals, sentient animals who coexist peacefully after the extinction of humanity. But he has learned that sometime the world is neither just nor fair. After his parents disappeared in disgrace, Clinton only wants to take care of his brother. Unfortunately, he has ended up on the bad side of the city’s corrupt leadership because he protects the defenseless and steals so that he and his brother can eat. But Clinton has one hope to change his fortune – he’s going to enter the city Lazarball tournament, which is guaranteed to grant fortune and glory to the winner. 

The Good
I actually liked Lazarball a great deal more than I expected to. When I read the description, my reaction was pretty much “A society of animals? Are you serious?” But the authors actually make it work. I have a few remaining questions (Can anumals mate with other species of anumals? If so, why are there no mutli-species animals? If not, doesn’t that seriously limit their reproductive options?), but I had no trouble believing in the way the society functioned.

The society itself was quite engaging. I mean, it was super corrupt, and the first half of the book is pretty much watching hoards of unfair things happen to Clinton, which is kind of depressing, but it was very well described. I definitely felt for the lion and wanted things to work out for both him and his society as a whole. During the whole Lazarball tournament, I was on the edge of my proverbial seat waiting to see how everything would turn out.

The Bad

The first chapter takes place ten years before the rest of the story, and I don’t actually understand most of what happens in that chapter. Way later in the book, some of it is explained, but the whole thing serves to be more confusing than anything. On the other hand, there are a number of scenes from the past that I would like to know more about – specifically what happened to Clinton’s parents, but also what the deal is between Clinton and his arch-nemesis Dallas. Unfortunately, this information is only hinted at and never described in detail, so I spent the entire book waiting for an explanation that, frustratingly, never came.

I found Dallas’s character to be a bit confusing in general. I felt like some of the time we were supposed to find him sympathetic, but that seemed at odds with pretty much everything he did in the story, so he came across as uneven. I was also unsure for most of the story what position he actually had in the society, though this is eventually explained. He seemed to have some unspecified connection to the Sabres, a group that I interpreted as bullying cat supremacists, though I wasn’t sure how that made sense considering that the mayor was a beaver and the justices were giraffes.

The Romance

Often when I consider reading a book or watching a movie, I will ask a friend who has read/seen it the following question: “Were there any girls in it?” This does not have a 1:1 correlation with my liking of the story, but generally if a story has no female characters, I am less interested in experiencing it. I don’t want to say there were NO female characters in Lazarball, because one of the Sabres was a girl, and a woman was responsible for enrolling everyone in the Lazarball tournament. On, and the chief evil… spirit? … was also female. But there really weren’t any important female characters. This, of course, severely limited the potential for traditional heterosexual romance, and the story did not seem inclined in the direction of homosexual romance. So no romance for the fans thereof, but on the bright side, this kept the story from erring into the realm of erotic furries, for which I think we are all grateful.

Will I read more?

I have no strong feelings about whether I read more in the series. Some of it was very interesting and compelling, but some parts were confusing. I do not have a judgment of good or bad on the overarching mythology yet (which is totally unrelated to the anumal stuff, but it’s not revealed until about three-quarters of the way through the story, so I don’t want to spoil). Plus, we must always factor in the no girls thing. I would say that I probably won’t pick up the next installment on my own, but if I had to read it, I wouldn’t cry or anything.

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