PositiveSlateStarting right off with an actual historical semi-lecture may seem heavy-handed for a work of satire, but it’s worth recounting how New York came to be in such brutal detail if only to help disabuse readers of any lingering notions of the inherent civility of civilization ... Despite the adorable alpaca on the cover, Talking Animals is not a light read. The book is hilarious, punny, and ultimately hopeful, but it is about as scathing an assessment of modern life as you can imagine ... The book has been billed as \'Animal Farm for the Anthropocene,\' and indeed, Talking Animals is to disaster capitalism what that classic Orwell novel was to creeping totalitarianism ... Those who are looking for more escapist fare while we live through historically bleak times will not find that in Talking Animals. But even as we fight against a pandemic ultimately fostered by human demolition, it’s worth the reminder of how centuries of decisions have led us to where we are now. If anything, the biggest flaw of Talking Animals is that it’s almost too effective: Murphy does not hesitate to lay it on thick, sometimes spending multiple paragraphs, say, contriving ozone layer parallels instead of letting the characters’ development speak for itself. Fortunately, her elegant and drily funny prose sweeps you along, sprinkling wordplay throughout and shaping her characters so you are invested in their discoveries as they gradually realize what’s at stake in their world ... as much a paean to New York City as it is a brutal skewering of it.
RaveSlatePart biography, part autobiography, part historical narrative, and part collection of letters—most addressed from Abdurraqib to individual members of the group—the book sees Tribe through Abdurraqib’s eyes ... while the book is a deeply personal, moving meditation on the entire group, I found it most poignant as a tribute to the late Phife Dawg, the \'5-Foot Assassin,\' to whom the book is dedicated ... Abdurraqib writes to Phife as if he had been a slightly inscrutable yet easygoing friend whose psyche could have used some prodding—someone with whom he could break down great rap songs, rant about the latest Knicks game, and get into how it feels to be the overlooked member of your family or your crew of friend ... Abdurraqib achingly, beautifully illustrates the evolution of Phife’s role [in A Tribe Called Quest] ... As Abdurraqib proves here, there wasn’t much for Phife outside of Tribe, but Tribe was nothing without him.