Starting 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.
... precisely imagined ... [a] vivid and funny cautionary allegory, an appropriately provocative, twenty-first-century, urban variation on George Orwell’s Animal Farm ... Murphy’s astute perceptions social, political, and emotional; ingenious inventiveness, fluid empathy, and mischievous wit coalesce in an irresistible fable of ringing impact.
Murphy packs a lot of issues—class, climate change immigration, vegetarianism, and more—into a familiar plot about malfeasance. She balances her poetic ruminations and dogmatic lecturing with a goofy relish for puns ... Weird yet engrossing and hard to forget.
... bighearted if flawed ... The intrigue takes its time heating up and never fully comes to a boil, and speechifying abounds in the dialogue. Murphy has great fun animalizing the streets of N.Y.C. and writes beautiful paeans to the sea, but the gags, heady sociological riffs, and lyricism can’t quite sustain the novel.