My rating: 4 of 5 stars
To compare the story of a platypus in search of Old Australia to the allegedly deep, profound post-apocalyptic nihilism of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is, it may seem, an apples-to-watermelons comparison.
But, shave off Cormac McCarthy’s layers of pretentious faux Faulknerway prose, and humans-reduced- to-pronouns nihilism, and you have the story of a journey through the heart of darkness that is just darkness and virtually no story.
With Howard L. Anderson’s Albert of Adelaide, on the other hand, you get a journey into and out of the heart of darkness, as seen through the eyes of a platypus, Albert, escaped from the Adelaide Zoo to search for a promised land known as Old Australia. What Albert finds instead is a pyromaniacal wombat, drunken bandicoots, a militia of kangaroos (bent on preserving the purity and superiority of marsupialness over other species)and various and sundry misadventures in a barren desert settlement known as the Gates of Hell.
Unlike McCarthy’s dark, soulless novel, Anderson has achieved with Albert of Adelaide what few supposedly literary novels do—give readers a story and characters to care about, even as they are committing atrocious acts of violence, and a protagonist worth caring about, as he preserves his humanity (or would that be platypussity?). Something McCarthy’s The Road, his protagonists, fails to do.