Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson is…I really want to say “indescribable,” but since I am actually going to attempt to review it here, that word can’t be the correct choice. The synopsis given by the Tournament of Books made me want to pick up this book and start reading right away:
In 1843, fragile naturalist Zadock Thomas must leave his beloved in Chicago to deliver a secret letter to an infamous general on the front lines of the war over Texas. The fate of the volatile republic, along with Zadock’s future, depends on his mission. When a cloud of bats leads him off the trail, he happens upon something impossible…
The Texas Revolution and bats and a naturalist! What’s not to love? And I DID love this book, but here’s the review I posted on Goodreads:
A total genre-bending thrill ride that I just finished and I don’t know how to describe it and I don’t even understand the ending and I read an ARC and now I need to go buy the hardcover book because the book itself must add even more to the story and I must own it and read it again and loan it out. *breathe*
Really, I don’t know how to describe it. It is a science fiction tale with a Orwellian vibe, sort of. It is a historical tale of Texas and nature, sort of. It is a love story, or two. It is … unique and beguiling and truly unlike anything I have ever read.
Basically (though there’s nothing basic about this book), there is a past and future story being told here. In the past, Zadock Thomas is sent from Chicago to Texas on a mysterious errand by his employer, who also happens to be the father of his true love. In the future, Zeke Thomas, a descendant of Zadock’s, lives in the City-State of Texas with his “pair” where he is presented the opportunity to move to the City-State of Chicago and assume the Senate seat of his grandfather.
Both stories are told thru letters and drawings, and maps and charts, and a few newspaper clippings. Oh, and also thru books about the stories which may have been written before or after the stories actually took place. And it all works. The book itself is beautiful with different fonts and shaded papers and other design elements so that you never get lost or confused with whose version of the story(s) you are reading. I really want to read this book again, to try to catch some of the nuances that I missed the first time, and then talk about it with someone else who’s read it. Let me know if you’re that person who read and liked it, because this book is not for everyone. I think it’s a love it or hate it kind of work and it will be interesting to see how far it gets in the ToB.