When Henry watches news of a coup in the small territory of Jartanzia and sees (what could be) the picture of a hedgehog, he knows the end is near. He dispassionately murders his mother and takes off for a secret rendezvous. After all, when the world as we know it is in ruins, she’ll be dead anyway, because when the dust settles only members of the Underground Hedgehog Revolution Network will survive. Via their website, Henry—a member for 15 years—has been providing information to the Grand Hedgehog. He’s pretty sure he’ll get a Captaincy, or even governorship of one of the new states.
So begins Elmore Hammes’ Not Fit For Human Consumption, with a cast of fully-fleshed-out characters, each with their own story and personal agenda, in some way involved in the fate of life as we know it on good old planet Earth.
We meet Henry again as he flies to his destination and follow his obsession with a beautiful fellow passenger as he becomes convinced she is his soul-mate. I enjoyed Henry’s imagination as he endows her with glowing attributes and schemes to meet her. Unbelievably, his plan actually works, and I waited for him to tell her about the Hedgehog Network and ruin his chances. But that conclusion would be obvious, and Hammes does not do “obvious.”
Hammes calls his book a comedic farce, and it is indeed funny; but farce is often associated with the superficial, while the human characters engage you and have depth. I can’t say the non-humans have quite the same depth, but it’s a close thing. They do have history and personality, which makes them real, and not as far down the food chain as we like to think.
Mr. Jamison is a dedicated teacher of 25 years, musing on his life past and present and trying to figure out what motivates his students. Alice mourns her dead husband, but discovers she was not the only woman in his life. Morgan Stanwyck is a survivalist who knows something bad is coming.
Some are bystanders dragged in from the sidelines. You won’t want to miss the fate of t-shirt guy.
Then there is the ironic tale of young Brandon and Jacob, who concoct and implement a plan to convince two girls that the world is coming to an end and they must go into the family’s shelter (built by Dad for when the clock struck 2000 and everything would stop working) They just want to get laid. The irony is, the story the boys tell is not far-fetched.
Peter the cockroach calls his fellow roaches together to tell them they should rule the world. Unfortunately, only Sarah joins him in his quest for world domination, and that’s because she fancies him. Loretta the rabbit escapes her cage and forms an unlikely friendship with Mittens the cat. Lazarus the super-rat was abandoned in a laboratory.
And Arax the Annihilator, who is NOT a nice guy. Arax comes to Earth from another dimension with one objective, to destroy our world. Nothing can stand against him. Or so it seems.
This is well-written, well-crafted storytelling, a really fun read with a clever finale. Believe me, when you finish this book, cockroaches with aspirations will not seem bizarre. Read it. You won’t be disappointed and write your essay about your feelings.