A review of Beasts by John Crowley

Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane

By John Crowley
2013, ISBN: 9780575129795

We are in a politically unstable world where hybrid species exist yet struggle to survive. Science has created these fabulist beasts but now they are threatened with extinction: quarantine and possible genocide.  Once, they were welcomed with wonder but with a change of regime, different times, comes suspicion: what is a lion-man for?  So the beasts band together to resist and fight their corner.  This is where the novel ends.

One can detect a definite indebtedness to T.H. WhIte (The Once and Future KingThe Goshawk) in Crowley’s early novel (1976 was the original year of publication) but it’s an entertaining read and full of memorable characters.  Indeed, I didn’t think I would ever find myself feeling for or empathising with a dog called Sweets, but that’s just what happened here.  Most moving are those passages where a creature comes to know something about their fate or nature.  Their limitations, their own portion of existence, the bonds they cannot break.  Crowley is good at those.  Little, Big remains his masterpiece but Beastsis a fine novel.

About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at ludic@europe.com