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The Problem with Animals and Pets in Novels...

By Lexi Revellian @LexiRevellian
The problem with animals and pets in novels...
I've just finished reading Hollowland by Amanda Hocking. I felt I owed it to such a successful indie, a self-made millionaire by the age of twenty-eight, to check out a novel of hers. And this one is free.

Though I'm not the target reader, I rather enjoyed it, as the heroine is level-headed and ruthless on occasion and the story though episodic moves along briskly. It's the first zombie novel I've ever read. It ended when I wasn't expecting, but a) it's the first in a series and b) I was misled by the percentage read indicator - the Kindle edition included another book's extract at the end.

My major criticism was the lioness that the heroine, Remy, acquires along the way. She sees the animal trapped in a truck, releases her and calls her Ripley. Ripley turns out to be friendly towards humans, but eats zombies. And I took Ripley altogether too seriously. I worried a lot about her.

She has a chain attached to a collar round her neck. It bothered me that she has to drag this around for most of the book. It must have got in her way when tackling zombies. I fretted when she went for a swim - wouldn't the chain drag her under? One of the first things Remy does for the lioness is give her a drink. It's the only drink Ripley gets in the book, poor thing. She fends for herself whenever Remy's little group are away doing something, then magically reappears and jumps in their truck when they are off somewhere new. She's very convenient, no trouble at all.

Had I included a pet lion in a novel, I'd have reread Born Free and tried to make it as realistic as possible, because ideally an animal in a novel should be as convincing as the human characters. Just like a real pet, it is not to be undertaken lightly. For starters, you have to account for the darned thing the whole time. If you forget, your reader may fret. Instead of being gripped by your plot, she will be concerned the dog hasn't been taken for a walk in days, the parrot must be lonely, or what is that dragon living on?

Perhaps I'm too literal minded. Amanda's fans all think Ripley's cool, just the way she's written.

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