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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Fear of Animals

by
Enrique Serna


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Fear of Animals



Title: Fear of Animals
Author: Enrique Serna
Genre: Novel
Written: 1995 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 227 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Fear of Animals - US
El miedo a los animales - US
Fear of Animals - UK
Fear of Animals - Canada
La peur des bêtes - France
  • Spanish title: El miedo a los animales
  • Translated by Georgina Jiménez Reynoso

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Our Assessment:

B- : tries to do too much, and much of it just not quite done well enough

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Figaro . 15/10/2007 D.P.


  From the Reviews:
  • "Du milieu littéraire celui des narcotrafiquants, Enrique Serna dresse un portrait féroce des élites mexicaines." - D.P., Le Figaro

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Fear of Animals centres around Evaristo Reyes, a former journalist who joined the Mexican Federal Judicial Police in the hopes of gathering material for an exposé, an insider account: "in the style of Truman Capote that would turn the Mexican political system upside down". Instead, he has become stuck within the system, a lowly cog working for the most corrupt of all the officials, Maytorena -- a man so brazen he once robbed a bank and then returned to the scene half an hour later in his official capacity, to start the investigation, with the booty still in the trunk of his car. A brutal man, Maytorena only shows some restraint when the bodies threaten to pile up too fast.
       Soon after he joined the force Evaristo showed that he didn't have the chops to work in the field -- at least not in the way Maytorena needs his men to operate (i.e. ruthlessly), but his literary abilities come in handy when he's given the desk job of writing up the reports of Maytorena's actions (i.e. inventing alternate stories to cover up all of Maytorena's wrong-doing). He doesn't get nearly as much of the ill-gotten gains that accumulate as do the rest of the corrupt officers in Maytorena's entourage, but does enjoy some of the privileges of being one of his henchmen.
       The book opens with Maytorena having come across an article that outrages him, insulting the president, and he wants Evaristo to find out who is behind it so that he can teach the guy a lesson. Evaristo realises that that lesson will end in the journalist's death, and he doesn't want any part of that, so instead of delivering him to Maytorena he warns the author, Roberto Lima, to clear out. But Lima gets killed shortly after Evaristo's visit: that annoys Maytorena (who thinks Evaristo must have done it), because it's not how he wanted to take care of this (and it makes for some bad press).
       To save his own hide Evaristo now has to figure out who really killed Lima, which leads him into the equally corrupt and ruthless Mexican literary world and allows Serna to have some fun in skewering many of the figures from that scene (as many of his characters are apparently thinly disguised versions of real people). Meanwhile, trigger-happy and unpredictable Maytorena continues to be a problem -- and continues to be hard to elude. The mess Evaristo finds himself in grows bigger, the bodies pile up. Love, lust, and alcohol also contribute to the complications, from Evaristo's ill-fated passion for Dora Elsa ("'She could be the woman of my life,' he thought, 'if I get out of this crappy thriller novel alive'") to Maytorena's fondness for transvestites (but heaven forbid anyone suggest that he isn't all man -- or the transvestites he fools around with all woman ...).
       It's a contorted plot, and one of the difficulties is that it's set in a system where, at least for some, there are no rules: Maytorena can do pretty much as he pleases (and he does), which gives the author more freedom than he can comfortably handle. All that corrupt police and the Mexican literary scene also makes for a lot going on, and Serna doesn't juggle this ideally, and as with Evaristo's alcoholic excess (and at least one sexual romp), some of these feel too much like set pieces forced into the narrative, without really being integrated into the story. Serna ties the story up nicely enough, but it's also a strange change of pace as he moves from providing too much detail to a summary-account, and where there was much too much for much of the novel, the end is tied together too quickly.
       There are some good ideas here, and some entertaining scenes -- both among the literati and the police -- but on the whole Fear of Animals simply feels too unfocussed, as if Serna couldn't decide what exactly he wanted to get at, and instead just tried to cram everything he could into the book.

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Links:

Fear of Animals: Reviews: Enrique Serna: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mexican author Enrique Serna was born in 1959.

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© 2008 the complete review

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