Howlingly marvelous ... The novel is one of Boyle’s recent best, as good as his previous novel...a National Book Award finalist ... Boyle’s masterly storytelling and shrewd social commentary have much in common with Charles Dickens; his laid-back, colloquial prose is maximalist rather than minimalist, with a touch of acute satire ... Taken out of context — like scenes in much of Dickens — these may sound absurd and melodramatic, but Boyle renders them believable ... If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief about anthropomorphism, you’ll enjoy this gripping and inescapably bittersweet book, in which Boyle suggests our debt to our predetermined animal natures.
Make no mistake, Sam is a fully developed character with a pronounced point of view. There’s always a gamble in shifting point of view to a non-human character, but Boyle does so convincingly. Sam’s sections feel natural, believable. And it’s the strength of that writing that gives the novel its punch ... Boyle is generally successful in avoiding telling the reader how to feel by using the most basic tools available to the novelist: creating sympathetic characters and placing them in situations that touch the reader’s emotions. That some of these characters aren’t human is irrelevant. Talk to Me is an engrossing, thought-provoking read.
In his retelling, Boyle takes this story first to California, later to the middle of the country and occasionally past the point of believability. The good news is that the storytelling itself moves. Talk to Me is flawed, but it’s never dull. Boyle’s writing is propulsive, sometimes breathlessly so ... As the story races forward, with Aimee and Sam on the run, fresh ideas get left behind. Talk to Me is not just set four decades in the past; it’s stuck there, too. Reading this book can feel like rubbernecking at history while essential evaluations of humanity’s relationship with other species are taking place elsewhere ... it’s unfortunate to encounter a novel that riffs on our mistakes while not quite reckoning with them. That it comes from Boyle, whose work is rich with provocative and masterful warnings about crossing Mother Nature, is doubly disappointing. It didn’t have to be this way.
His odd new novel tills this familiar terrain ... Aimee is the kind of sullen, milky-skinned antiheroine Jennifer Jason Leigh made a career out of playing in the 1990s, and just as irritating. Though it’s made clear that Sam has given her a much-needed sense of purpose, the motivation behind her slavish devotion to a rambunctious chimp is never meaningfully explored. She merely assumes the thankless role of Guy’s moral compass, taking increasingly desperate measures to protect Sam from other venal malefactors who see him only as a meal ticket ... The book rotates among the perspectives of Guy, Aimee and Sam, and Boyle is to be commended for tackling such an audacious task: It takes courage to devote a third of your novel to the imagined, often incoherent thoughts of a chimpanzee and trust that your readers will happily tag along ... Boyle’s human characters are deeply flawed people whose layers might have proved interesting to peel back. But their veneers remain intact, none of them plumbed in any way that makes them accessible or even mildly interesting, leaving you longing for their comeuppance rather than their redemption ... Boyle also has a pacing issue ... Why did Aimee need Sam so much? And why did he instantly bond with her, and only her, from the moment they met? How much can chimps really comprehend, learn, think? All interesting questions raised and, alas, never really answered. In the end, Boyle delivers a dour, hollow resolution that leaves you wondering what, exactly, the point of the whole escapade was: That apes are just apes? That humans suck? That science carries its own terrible moral costs? Maybe all of them. Or none of them. Without richer, more fleshed-out characters and motives, it all feels like just another cup of coffee at Tom’s diner.
In the course of the novel, Sam spends some time there and makes us feel the helplessness, the despair and the rage that intelligent caged creatures feel ... You’ll be drawn into this fast-paced, unusual love story, even as you ponder the ethics of how our powerful species exploits those 'beneath' it on the evolutionary ladder.
Boyle eloquently lays out the philosophical and ethical debates of raising chimps in a human household ... Boyle poignantly exposes our anthropocentric biases while exploring the nature of consciousness and reminds us of the adage about the most dangerous species in the zoo being the humans.
Diverting ... Chapters from Sam’s perspective make him a captivating creation, but fans of Boyle will recognize a bit of retread from his previous novels and stories. It’s a fun ride, but it doesn’t exactly break new ground.
Farce meets tragedy and science meets show business in this romantic triangle ... There’s an antic energy to Boyle's latest which comes at the expense of character development ... As the characters in this novel respond to animal urges and instincts, Sam emerges as the most complex ... This can’t end well, and it doesn’t, as a comedy of manners takes a darker turn.