Reviews: Bats of the Republic and The Lightning Stones

Bats of the Republic:  An Illuminated Novel by Zachary Thomas Dodson

Doubleday, 2015.  Hardcover, 448 pages.Cover: Bats of the Republic

Bats of the Republic is an illuminated novel with a focus on adventure.  It is also a novel-within-a-novel.  In one storyline, starting in 1843, readers follow naturalist Zaddock Thomas as he travels from Chicago to the war in Texas (that would be the one with the Alamo, for clarification) to deliver a letter to a general on the front lines.  However, while en route, he is sidetracked by a cloud of bats.  In the other storyline, readers jump forward three hundred years to a science fictionesque story.  Zeke Thomas lives in a collapsed world filled with paranoia when he inherits a sealed envelope from his grandfather.  When the letter disappears, Zeke must decide is the action will be his freedom or destroy him.  The stories overlap until they converge to show how a dystopian society formed and the struggles within.

When the book, which is released tomorrow (10/6) calls itself an illuminated novel, Bats of the Republic is neither a novel  or a graphic novel.  Each image provides clues and context critical to understanding the story.  Drawings were painstakingly made and integrated with the text over the six-year time frame in which the novel was written. Included are hand-written love letters, a novel pierced with bullet holes,maps, nature drawings, blueprints, newspaper clippings, passports, family trees, telegrams, diagrams, flags, photographs, and more.  The images are there to provide the background and character descriptions.  Each image is more critical to the story than images in other novels (think the Garth Williams illustrations in the Little House Books) or the photos and maps included in history books or biographies.  That is why, despite the fact this book was not for me, I still chose to issue a review.  The pictorial process in this novel is worth mentioning for its uniqueness and there are readers out there would may enjoy the story (such as my boyfriend to whom I passed this novel along to).

As mentioned, this story was not for me and I did not finish reading it.  However, as shown above the idea behind Bats of the Republic is a unique one.  Even if you are not interested in reading the novel, it is still worth flipping through a copy either in the bookstore or at the library to see what I mean.  Had this novel been all history, I’d have loved it.  However, the dystopian society angle turned me off.  It usually does, as I am not a fan of the Hunger Games or Divergent series either.  However, fans of those novels may want to check out this novel and when they do they will learn a dash of real history along the way.

The Lightning Stones by Jack Du Brul

Doubleday, 2015. Hardcover, 352 pages.Cover: The Lightning Stones

In this novel, Philip Mercer, a globe-trotting geologist, is attempting to track down the murders of his mentor, Abraham Jacobs.  The story is intertwined with that of the mythical lightning stones, which Amelia Earhardt is said to have transported on the fatal leg of her journey.  With that connection and others related to 20th century wars, historical tidbits popped up throughout the novel.  However, to me, the plot seemed to go from one action-packed event to another with hardly a breath in between.  As I like something with more depth, this was a novel I did not complete, but chose to post a brief synopsis about for those who may be interested.

To add a note, Jack Du Brul has written seven previous books starring Phillip Mercer and has co-written many of “The Oregon Files” novels with Clive Cussler.

I based these reviews on an advanced readers copies received from the publisher.


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