In this excellent parable, Sebastian A. Barnes chooses one of the most vulnerable of animals, the doll mouse, to embark on a highly dangerous mission to determine the emotions that govern the universe. The mouse does so by venturing into a dark forest that could have been created by Edgar Allan Poe; populated by baleful creatures all too happy to devour the mouse.
This character endangers itself for the most laudable and universal of motives: to determine whether there is good in everyone. If so, the vicious can be swayed by locating the good in their heart, and Social Darwinism in the animal kingdom can be overthrown. Thankfully, Barnes does not engage in a smug and sledge-hammer delivery of this “message.”
Freed from sermonizing, his message of tolerance is more effective. Nor does he traffic in comic book treatments of absolute good versus absolute evil. Without giving too much away the frightening can also be complex characters. Barnes is so skilled a writer he is able to combine this “message” with horror. One doesn’t have to be the size of the mouse to experience knuckle-biting terror when the character ventures into the forest. Shadows loom and branches break.
Today’s paramount message of diversity is sometimes off-putting in its crude and coercively peddled form. This is especially true in “children’s” literature. Critics of political correctness have a point when they assert that the political correct are bent on “indoctrinating” children. A case in point is the Supergirl TV show, which hits viewers over the head with the makers’ demand that audiences applaud a physically brave character for coming out of the closet. As a result, viewers, even ones that could be “reached” with this message, are alienated by the force behind it.
Barnes, however, is no crude propagandist and his light touch will garner him appreciative readers. Not since Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM has a supposed animal “fairy tale” so clearly and effectively imparted a message for all.
~Ron Capshaw for IndieReader