Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

PAPERBACKS

December 29, 1991|Charles Solomon

LIGHTS OUT IN THE REPTILE HOUSE by Jim Shepard (Avon: $10). Set in an imaginary Fascist state ruled by the remote figure of the Praetor, this grim novel focuses on Karl Roeder, a vapid 15-year-old apprentice keeper at a small-town zoo. When government troops and secret agents take over the town, Karl is gradually drawn into their evil web. At first, he enjoys the favor of the mysterious Kehr, a murderous security officer, but he runs afoul of regime policies when he tries to assist Leda, a girl he admires without realizing she's an anti-government activist. Karl is transformed from a vaguely squeamish observer of Kehr's skills as a torturer into an uncomprehending victim, and Shepard describes his death in grisly detail. Although capably written, this icy novel suffers from a vacuum at its center: A complete nonentity, Karl seems less interesting than the crocodiles and Komodo dragons he tends. There's no reason for the government (or Leda or the reader) to be concerned with his fate.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|