Mr. Thundermug
by Medvei, Cornelius

Mr. Thundermug, a baboon who speaks English, lives with his family in a condemned apartment building in London, while the Housing Department endeavors to evict them and the narrator, a journalist, attempts to discover more about them.

The title character is a baboon with the power of speech, much to the amazement of those he encounters. As bewildered as the humans are, Mr. Thudermug's loquaciousness does not prevent bull-headed bureaucrats from ousting the baboon and his nonverbal family from the condemned building in which they are squatting. In a guffaw-inducing exchange with the worst kind of civil servant, Mr. Thundermug glibly maneuvers his family's retention of their home, proving logically that the Housing Council has no right to evict them, but he freely admits to breaking other laws by not always sending his baboon children to the public school. The amusing and frustrating transactions between baboon and society attain urban-legend status as the narrator tries to track an actual witness to any one of numerous accounts of the baboon's verbal exploits. This quickly paced morality tale will give readers something to ponder: If animals could speak, would they retain the same rights as humans? No conclusions are drawn here, only the quaint talk of one baboon and his experiences with a world befuddled by his talkative presence. ((Reviewed March 15, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

A talking primate takes up big-city living in Medvei's slight but winsome debut.Mr. Thundermug is, technically speaking, a baboon. He has a baboon wife and a pair of baboon children and a brick-red baboon behind. But he also has a house and a human girlfriend and a taste for the obituary section of the Evening News. Most curious of all, Mr. Thundermug has learned human speech. His ability to talk gets him into constant trouble: Quite clearly not a man, but something more than an average animal, Thundermug is caught between two worlds, which makes him an ideal straight man for the purposes of Medvei's satire. Thundermug gets sick and tries to go to the hospital but finds himself bounced between doctors and veterinarians. He takes a condemned house and clears it of cockroaches, only to learn that in order to stay he must send his offspring to school. Informed by the City Council that he must have a permit in order to keep monkeys at home (never mind that they're his children), the closest equivalent he's able to find is a dog license. Again and again, his attempts to blend into society are stymied by his human interlocutors' desire to define, distinguish, categorize and confine. That people can be close-minded, troubled by or blind to new distinctions is not a terribly novel observation, and as satire this novella is neither particularly original nor cutting. It charms, however, as a simple story, quietly but beautifully written. Thundermug himself comes off as a rich, fully developed fellow (despite being a talking baboon), and Medvei's descriptions of the unnamed city have a spare loveliness that lends his work the power of myth. No doubt the author wrote with a statement of sorts in mind, but readers will be best off just enjoying his tale.Wonderfully inventive and winningly modest. Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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