Review: ‘The Roaches Have No King’ by Daniel Evan Weiss

I was seduced.  Initially at least.  The story is told from a cockroache’s perspective about how he and his colony survive in an apartment block.
In the first half of the book there are enough beguiling moments when I  learnt about the life cycle and delectations of roaches to keep me engaged.  Caring even, that they got a reasonable deal out of life especially as a new, supremely well-fitted kitchen, threatens their food sources.
As the book evolved, and I use that word loosely and with the tiniest hint of irony, it became increasingly linear and samey.  It was always a danger roaches would become little, amoral humans, and I’m not sure I can see how this could be avoided.  
As a consequence, the story ran out of steam.  Although oral sex (non-consenting) between a cockroach and a woman was graphically realised, it reminded me of that old crime fiction adage of when you run out of plot – he pulls a gun.  Maybe inter-species sex is intended to perform a similar dramatic purpose.  Pheromones only go so far to help the action along.  In the end I didn’t care much what happened to Numbers, our narrator cockroach.  That’s a shame as I’d have liked to have felt something stronger.  Either wanted to squish him or provide food for him in the end.
For all that, it’s a deliciously quirky book but it needs more.  I’d have given star billing to the animal kingdom’s equivalent of the subway – sewer rats.  That was a smashing notion.  I think I’d have made one of the human characters redeemable and not just because of her lady garden, but then I’m old fashioned.
If you’ve ever worried about what cockroaches get up to this may not be the best read for you.  However if you fancy a delve into a book that is out of the ordinary in a number of ways, it might be your thing.  I’m glad I’ve read it, mind.  I’m still scratching.
2.5 stars for this one from me.

 

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