Review published on April 5, 2018.
Perhaps something of a departure from her more well-known work, although still firmly rooted in the speculative fiction genre and influenced by the themes of environmentalism, scientific innovation, anti-capitalism and all-species revolution, Angel Catbird is Margaret Atwood’s tribute to the pulp comics of the 1940s and 1950s as well as the golden age of radio dramas. It is also her first graphic novel (with illustrator Johnnie Christmas) and now her first original audiobook adaptation.
Strig Feleedus, a once cash-strapped and struggling genetic engineer, feels like his ship has come in when he’s hired to work on a top secret project at Muroid Labs Inc. However, things take a decided turn for the worse when his new boss, the remarkably ratty Doctor Muroid, tries to kill him and, in the course of that murderous incident, he merges with the DNA of a cat (his much-loved pet) and an owl (previously unknown to him). Thus mutated, Feleedus and his new cat/human friend/paramour Cate Leone embark on a madcap, rather dream-like attempt to thwart the evil plans of Doctor Muroid and learn more their human-animal hybrid origins.
Angel Catbird is really quite delightfully odd. It’s a pulpy superhero story where pretty much everything is over the top and larger than life. It’s sometimes silly, often camp, and always a whole lot of fun. It also manages to impart a serious message about the importance of conservation and the need to take proper care of animals, both pets and those in the wild.
This audiobook version of Angel Catbird is narrated by a full cast, with Christo Graham voicing Feleedus/Angel Catbird and Kelly Van der Burg voicing Cate Leone, and it is accompanied by some fantastic sound effects. The voice acting is great, which is all the more impressive because it was recorded live in ensemble, and the characters are nicely differentiated. The audiobook also features original music and songs, and the included radio jingles are very amusing.
Angel Catbird is unlikely to appeal to all of Margaret Atwood’s legions of fans, and particularly not to those in the market for serious literary works, but it really is a charming story well told and, despite beginning life as a graphic novel, it works exceptionally well as an audiobook.
Erin Britton 4/4
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