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Invisible Beasts by Sharona Muir
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Invisible Beasts

by Sharona Muir

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  maribou | Sep 27, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I requested this through the Early Reviewer program and was really looking forward to it, but it turned out I could just not get into it. I found it interesting, an imagining and detailed bio/description of creates no one ever sees, but for me it read more like non-fiction essays than fiction or even short stories. Which may have been deliberate, but just didn't suit me at the time. Extremely creative and enveloping in the way the author describes the creatures.
  herzogbr | Feb 26, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'm a bit at a loss as to how to rate this book, a bestiary of imaginary animals (the conceit is that only the narrator, Sophie, and a chosen few others in her family, skipping generations, can see them). Each chapter is a sort of miniature, each in a slightly different register: some broadly comic, some drily witty, some plaintive and ruminating, most waxing lyrical, at times to beautiful effect and at times overreaching.

Generally I appreciate books that are light on plot, so I'm a bit surprised that I found this difficult to get into. Perhaps it's because the vignettes, when they break from a close focus on particular invisible beasts, gesture toward some drama surrounding the narrator and her sister, a scientist, who may believe this perhaps-unreliable narrator or who may only be humoring her. It's just that their thinly sketched relationship isn't made of strong enough stuff to sustain the weight of that kind of speculation. At heart, it's not a character-driven narrative.

What I'm perhaps most interested by is this book's surprising approach to an ecological call to arms, entered into slantwise, as though from a consideration of a faux-Zen koan. When an invisible beast is endangered or goes extinct, does anyone notice? It's a setup that helps us question our usual compartmentalization of the natural world, but I'm not sure that its one that can really sustain a long-form narrative. Still, something to be had here for the right readers. ( )
  seidchen | Sep 24, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"To know that an extinction is coming and be unable to sound an alarm, because the creature is invisible . . . But most beasts are invisible, more or less - people don't know about them, or don't pay attention to them, and then they disappear, invisible forever and to everyone. It's no consolation to think that even if most people saw invisible beasts, they still might not care." --p. 143, from "Beanie Sharks"

Summary: Sophie was born, like others in her family before her, with the ability to see animals that are invisible to most people. This book is a bestiary, organized by Sophie according to the prevalence of each invisible animal she describes, from the common Truth Bats, which cling to our clothes and give our words their ring of truth, to the (thankfully) much rarer Hypnogator, and covering such creatures as the Foster Fowl, which (the opposite of a cowbird) incubates the eggs of other species, and the Fine-Print Rotifers, which feed upon the ink of the words of legal documents and excrete gibberish in its place. Along the way, though, she touches on issues of love, evolution, sex, family, truth, ecology, and the need of humans to become more aware of the living world around us, both the visible and the invisible.

Review: What a strange, lovely, odd, charming, quirky, beautiful book. And, moreover, what a strange, lovely little book that seemed at times as though it was written expressly for me.

This is fiction (I'm assuming; it's possible it's nonfiction and I just can't see the invisible beasts Muir describes), but is not a novel. Short story or essay collection would be a more appropriate description, but it is, by and large, a bestiary. It's a collection of little short pieces describing the natural history of each species of animal, and using that animal to ruminate on some aspect of the human condition, sometimes humorously (as in the case of the Fine Print Rotifers), and sometimes philosophically (the "Think Monkey", for example), and sometimes quite seriously (the Foster Fowl in particular got under my skin). Some are more story-like than others, and bits of Sophie's life seep in to the various pieces (particularly her relationship with Evie, her scientist and non-invisible-animal-seeing sister). The language is beautiful, with its own slightly odd rhythm, almost like poetry at times, saying things exactly the right way and yet not in a way I'd ever have thought to say them. It is imaginative and vivid and based in real science and fun and yet has something profound to say all at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am going to leave it out somewhere where I can revisit it a few pages at a time as the fancy strikes me. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: This is a quirky book, no question, so the ideal reader is likely to be similarly quirky, but even though it is technically fantasy (again: I think), I think it would be appreciated by any bird watcher/bug collector/wildlife enthusiast out there, particularly those who enjoy poetry and/or literary fiction. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Jul 30, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Sharona Muir's Invisible Beasts is whimsical and very intelligently written. It's hard to pin down exactly what it is. It's a novel, but it reads more like a series of essays. It's fantasy, yet it parallels the human experience; it may, in fact, be the human experience. It's witty and dry, a field guide to those invisible beasts that teach us to see things differently.

Aside from theme, I'm not sure these short pieces come together to make a singular story. Each pretty much stands on its own. And I think that's how they're best kept. Muir's story is the kind of story I'd appreciate in a literary magazine, a distraction from the monotony of Chekhov- and Carver-emulators. In the context of a complete “novel,” however, these stories become tedious. As I neared the end of this work, I wanted to hurl it across the room, convinced of a two-star ranking at best. But looking at these pieces individually, I can appreciate them.

I think this book is best viewed as a collection of pieces to be read when one is in a meditative mood: a journal of exploration by an author who truly sees what others cannot. Let's not lose sight of an author's true talent here. ( )
  chrisblocker | Jul 23, 2014 |
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"Sophie is an amateur naturalist with a rare genetic gift: the ability to see a marvelous kingdom of invisible, sentient creatures that share a vital, symbiotic relationship with humankind. To record her observations, Sophie creates a personal bestiary and, as she relates the strange abilities of these endangered beings, her tales become extraordinary meditations on love, sex, evolution, extinction, truth, and self-knowledge"--… (more)

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