Sunday, February 24, 2008

Michael Hoeye

Time Stops For No Mouse
by Michael Hoeye
Recommended Age: 12+

Once again we find ourselves in the talking-rodent subgenre. I don't know why, but it works! Non-human characters give you such an interesting perspective on humanity. Sometimes the fantasy is pretty realistic, as to what's really going on in the spiritual lives of rabbits (Watership Down) or what's really going on in the minds of dogs (The Plague Dogs, Dogsbody), etc. Sometimes it's pretty fanciful, like the ones where the little creatures wear clothes and use tools and just barely manage not to be caught talking people-language in front of humans - or the humans are too dumb to understand, or too inattentive to notice (The Mouse and the Motorcycle, A Rat's Tale). And sometimes it's downright loopy, like the very human Little family adopting a little white mouse and raising him as a human child (Stuart Little).

But other than the Redwall books, I haven't read many stories where the humans are altogether out of the picture. In the world of Redwall there's only the slightest hint that humans even exist (in the first book, the bad guys arrive on the back of a runaway horse-drawn wagon, on a human-sized road, and some of the mice seem to live in dwellings made by men). And in the world created by Michael Hoeye, there don't seem to be human beings at all - nor, indeed, any predatory animals to threaten the peaceful existence of the rodents (mice, rats gophers, moles, chipmunks, squirrels, etc.) that coexist mostly peacefully.

Mice have inherited the earth; they have dominion over nature, they live in mouse-sized cities, drive mouse-sized cars, have clothing and makeup and technology and literature and history and business and politics and the whole ball game. All the familiar places on the map have different names. Pinchester seems to be about where New York is in our world. The Gulf of Tretch seems to be our Gulf of Mexico. The Longish River is what we call the Mississippi (or something like it). The Shady River must be the Ohio. And so on.

All this of course is described as a matter of course, because the Hoeye stories don't even concede that there is anything missing from their world - like, for instance, humans. We're not even a thought in their little mouse brains. The two novels - look out for the sequel, The Sands of Time - center on the adventures of a mild-mannered watchmaker, Hermux Tantamoq (a mouse), who is desperately in love with an "adventuress, daredevil, and aviatrix" called Linka Perflinger. The funny names don't nearly end there.

In this story, Linka comes to Hermux needing her watch repaired on the double, but when she doesn't return to pick it up, Hermux becomes worried. He soon follows a trail of suspicious clues to an upstate spa called "The Last Resort" where she is being held prisoner by an evil cosmetic surgeon (Dr. Hiril Mennus, a mole) who believes she has information leading to the discovery of the fountain of youth. Throw in an arrogant beauty queen named Tucka Mertslin, a blind artist named Mirrin Stentrill, a millionairess named Ortolina Perriflot, a journalist named Pup Schoonagliffen (I love that name), a scientist named Dandiffer, a pet ladybug named Terfle, and scads of other zany characters with still zanier names, and you get an edge-of-your-seat mystery that is also funny, adorable, and thought-provoking.

The Sands of Time
by Michael Hoeye
Recommended Age: 12+

In this sequel to Time Waits For No Mouse, Michael Hoeye once again teams talking-mice Hermux and Linka (who, to his dismay, is now engaged to Dr. Dandiffer) with a chipmunk named Birch, in search of a lost civilization of cats (mythical creatures whom nobody believes existed). Following a trail of ancient manuscripts to a library hidden somewhere in the desert, their footsteps are dogged by Tucka Mertslin and her fiance, the heir to a dynasty of inventors and discoverers who are, apparently, responsible for all the advances in mouse history. His name is (ahem) Hinkum Stepfitchler III. I just love these names!

The result is like the discovery of King Tut's tomb, only with more serious repercussions for mouse history (the mice, it seems, were slaves who destroyed their masters and won their own freedom, only to carefully forget they were ever slaves). Here is a very intriguing fantasy, lots of warmth and generosity toward the characters, suspense and mystery and humor and romance. Not the same old "dumb little stories about animals that wear pants," but quite a smart read!

EDIT: I have been out of touch with this series for too long. There are now two additional "Hermux Tantamoq Adventures": No Time Like Showtime and Time to Smell the Roses.

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