Rated 4.77/5 based on 13 reviews
Flidderbugs is a political satire, a modern fable, or maybe just a funny little story about a bunch of insects with some very peculiar obsessions. More

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About Jonathan Gould

Jonathan Gould is a Melbourne-based writer and doodler.

He calls his stories "dag-lit" because they're the sort of stories that don't easily fit into the standard genres. Some might think of them as comic fantasies, or modern fairytales for the young and the young-at-heart.

Over the years, his writing has been compared to Douglas Adams, Monty Python, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, the Goons, Dr Seuss and even Enid Blyton (in a good way).

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Review by: killie81 on April 15, 2013 :
“Flidderbugs” by Jonathan Gould is an enjoyable novella that on the surface appears to be a fun little children’s story. However, underneath this there is a satirical element that should appeal to most adults as it pokes holes in both the democratic process and the rather arrogant ivory tower of academia. Without doubt, this really is a book that can be read to your children and enjoyed by them and yourself.

The story itself follows Kriffle, an insect who is heir to his father as potential leader of the Triplifer tribe. As leader of his tribe, his main job would be to debate with the leader of the Quadrigon tribe about if the leaves on the tree they inhabit have either three or four points. This is the fundamental question that governs their lives and decides who is in power via elections. Kriffle finds it hard to understand how the Quadrigons could disbelieve the evidence that is before their very eyes and therefore undertakes an adventure to investigate and prove that there really are only three points on a leaf.

The plot itself is simple, but the way in which Gould uses it to explore and satirise various elements of our society was highly entertaining and at times quite clever. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the political process in the novel at work as it really highlighted some of the rather “sad” aspects of our own democratic party based systems. In addition, here were various university professors that Kriffle meets on his journey who have spent years debating the philosophy of leaves etc. during their academic lives but couldn’t actually tell him any real facts.

The writing itself is concise, entertaining and incredibly well paced which was needed due to the story being contained within a novella rather than a full length novel. I was impressed to see that Gould managed to include a fair number of encounters and adventures as Kriffle explores his society without having to cut out any of the required detail. Don’t get me wrong, there are some elements of the society the reader learns very little amount but there is enough there to ensure it all makes sense and is believable on some level.

In regards to the characters, it was nice to see that the Flidderbugs all had such distinct and fleshed out personalities. I could understand very quickly what the various individuals were all about which was vitally important when the story is being told in the form of a novella.

Overall, I found this to a quick and fun political satire that provided me with a hopeful ending rather than the usual depressing finales seen in many other novels that touch on the same satirical subject matter. If you enjoy satire then I suspect you will like this novella, I know that I was happy to find myself laughing at myself when I realised that I had fallen into some of the same traps as the Flidderbugs.
(reviewed 2 years after purchase)
Review by: CathyS on April 11, 2012 :
Jonathan is one of the most creative writers I have come across. This is my third (after Doodling and Magnus Opum) encounter with this talented author and he never ceases to amaze me.

Flidderbugs is about two groups of ‘bugs, the Triplifers and the Quadrigons, who live – divided – in the Krephiloff Tree. If you thought that politics and devious ‘business’ practices were exclusive to humans, be assured that they find their way into the Flidderbugs’ world too. A very important and divisive issue separates the two groups – does a leaf have three or four points? It takes the offspring (Kriffle and Fargeeta) of the elders, who have long held council, to bring a refreshing new outlook to proceedings and to make them see the error of the traditionally held beliefs; but they have to act quickly – three points or four on a leaf will make no difference when there is a much more serious and urgent dilemma needing immediate attention.

I loved the characterisation of dotty professors, dogmatic seniors, smarmy dodgy ‘business’ characters and homely, doting (Klummerfly soup-making) mothers. I loved the way the ‘tree’ is the Flidderbugs’ ‘world’ which brings a new dimension to the phrase ‘What in the Tree was I thinking of’. I loved the portrayal of the wheeler-dealer Flidderbug and his shiny, pristine carapace and sleek, trim antennae, and I especially loved the shambolic professor’s very logical explanation to the impending disaster, “The vectors of pressure bearing down on the indices of the central support elements in regard to the key structural components have reached a point where the proportion of lateral forces henceways in opposition to the lateral forces forthways have exceeded the most preferred ratio, leading to a situation in which vertiginous damage will shortly be unavoidable, resulting in a catastrophic breakdown in said structural components and raising the potential of a near complete collapse of the entire encompassing environment.” It’s obvious, really, isn’t it?

This is only (sadly) a short, really easy-to-read story, but it’s huge on entertainment, charm, likeability, and genius.
(reviewed 8 months after purchase)
Review by: A. F. Stewart on Jan. 17, 2012 :
A captivating short book, with a witty satirical edge that was a delight to read. It’s a charming tale and a quick page-turner that leaves the reader both smiling and pondering the underlying themes. The author has a fabulous knack of combining acerbic lampooning with an entertaining yarn.
(reviewed 5 months after purchase)
Review by: Donna Brown on Nov. 29, 2011 :
I live in a back to back terraced house. I know that my roof is... well, I'm not actually sure what colour it is and it's raining so I'm not going out to check. But say it was blue. That should mean that my neighbour's roof is also blue, right? But what if they KNOW they their roof is pink?

When I opened Flidderbugs and read the first couple of lines, Orwell's 1984 immediately came to mind, more specifically Minitrue (aka The Ministry of Truth). In truth, my associations weren't too farfetched: there are aspects of Flidderbugs that mimic the absurdity of Minitrue and its slogans WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

Flidderbugs is an interesting tale of what we know versus what we believe. Do we believe something because we know it to be the case? Or do we know something because it fits in with our beliefs? Can politics, like religion, prevent us from approaching situations logically? And is it always in our best interest to listen to the information that is fed to us from those who - allegedly - know better?

Doodling, Gould's first title (and a Goodreads Choice Awards: Best Humor semi finalist), was a fabulously fun read with a heavy smattering of satire. Flidderbugs takes satire to a whole new level. Yet its real genius lies not in that but in the fact that you don't actually realise the strength of the messages until you've completed the book. Flidderbugs simply seems like a good read (saving initial Orwellian thoughts) but it's the period after you've closed the final page or put down your ereader that the heavy thinking kicks in.

What an amazing achievement: fiction that provides you with an incredible and fun read but leaves you full of thoughts long after you've finished the final paragraph. More please, Mr Gould. Much, much more!
(reviewed 15 days after purchase)
Review by: Angelito G. Nambatac Jr on Nov. 15, 2011 : (no rating)
Though it didn't level even closer to Doodling, I still find FLidderbugs a good one.
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
Review by: Alex Canton-Dutari on Sep. 28, 2011 :
Flidderbugs by Jonathan Gould
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
The Krephiloff Tree -- Tree of Life, New York City, London or even Panama. Half the world doesn't know how the counterpart lives, and not always by lack of travel but by direct, manipulated distortion of reality.
I found this to be a book about politics, distorted science and sociology, better transmitted to us human readers by animal characters, with which we tend to identify since childhood.
This is, definitely, my kind of book: apparently light, but profound.
(reviewed 28 days after purchase)
Review by: David Green on Sep. 28, 2011 :
Flidderbugs is a quirky short tale about two opposing tribes of bugs that live in the Krephiloff Tree. The major argument between themselves is whether the leaves have three or four points to them.
Little do they know that just around the corner is real danger to their very existence and the two opposing tribes will have to overcome their differences if they are to survive.
Although this is a short story it comes with a big message.
In any argument just because you think you are right does not mean that you are right and that the real correct answer might be beyond what you see.
Jonathon concentrates on the storyline and never actually describes what the Flidderbugs look like but despite this holds your attention from the first page to the last.
This is a story that should suit all ages as the characters are very likeable with a plot very easy to follow.
(reviewed 28 days after purchase)
Review by: Laurie Steed on Sep. 27, 2011 :
An amiable tale for kids and adults alike. For adults, there's a satirical bent and for kids, the pleasure of a shared story. At 99c, this is one serious bargain.
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
Review by: Unicorn Productions on Sep. 20, 2011 :
I'm not a fan of talking animals (and even less insects), but this satire was wonderful. I read it in two sitting and recommend it to both adults and children - the latter will enjoy the story, but their parents will be able to read the subtext. Must check more about this author!
(reviewed 4 days after purchase)
Review by: Pale Fire Press on Sep. 14, 2011 :
A charming little tale that tickled the child in me.

Germaine Shames
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)
Review by: Emily on Sep. 2, 2011 :
Flidderbugs is the story of Kriffle, a bug politician and rising heir to his father's position in public affairs in the great tree where all the Flidderbugs live. The issue on the table, of course, is whether the leaves on their tree have three points, or four. It's the fundamental question that governs their lives, governs who's in power, governs everything. Kriffle knows that the leaves have three points, and anyone who thinks otherwise has to just be lying to the populace for nefarious purposes.

Hidden in that scuffle, though, is an allegory about fanatical devotion to ideology and about how small difference seem to be big when they're all anyone talks about. Star-Bellied Sneeches, anyone? Fargeeta, Kriffle's uneasy ally in this foliage based debacle, puts it elegantly:

“Most ‘bugs are so determined to believe that their tribe alone is right. They’re not interested in hearing anything that might contradict that. They would never even consider that the truth is more complicated."

Even more serious is the fact that petty disagreements like three points versus four can cause dramatic fallout, because after all, if everyone is sweating the small stuff, then nobody is worried about the big stuff.

At a quick 41 pages, this story is refreshing and attention-grabbing. Not quite a comedy, but still funny in that it resonates strongly of real-life scenarios, this is a good one to get people talking. I can see this being used in a civics class to introduce a variety of topics in a new way, and to take some of the polarization out of these conversations. After reading Doodling I came into this story with high expectations, and I definitely wasn't disappointed. Read and enjoy!

Overall Grade: A
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: Cassie on Sep. 1, 2011 :
Flidderbugs is a sort of coming of age story about young Kriffle who is preparing to take over his father’s role as leader of the Triplifer tribe. In a series of debates, each tribe, the Triplifer and Quadrigon, try to convince the other of the correct number of points on the Krephiloff Tree’s leaves. The Triplifers naturally argue that the leaves have three points, while the Quadrigons insist they have four points.

When Kriffle sees a mysterious ‘bug lurking around the council and sneaking out of the Fleedenhall with the shears, he knows something isn’t quite right. He vows to get to the bottom of things, going so far as consulting the top professors of the Flooderversity. No one seems to have the information he needs regarding the leaves, and he returns home disheartened.

Soon, he runs into his nemesis, Fargeeta, and in a moment of desperation drags her to his terribly overgrown side of the Tree. With a new perspective, the two team up to set things straight in the Tree for good. There’s an odd, prophetic rumble in the Tree; the two had better hurry before it is too late for everyone.

I received an advanced copy of Flidderbugs for review.

This is the second of Gould’s books that I have had the pleasure to read and review. I have to say I like this one even better than Doodling. Regardless, Jonathan is an exceptionally talented and creative writer! I was impressed with his attention to detail, especially regarding how the ‘bugs relate to their Tree. For the Flidderbugs, the Krephiloff Tree is their entire world. When we would say ‘What in the world?’, the ‘bugs would say ‘What in the Tree?’. I just think that is so incredibly cute, and by Gould being so clever to add little elements such as that, it gives the story even more depth and dimension.

The characters are impeccably fleshed out; I knew exactly what they were each about through every part of the story. I had no trouble whatsoever imagining myself in the Krephiloff Tree, Fleedenhall, or Flooderversity. My absolute favorite character was the philosophical Professor Yangbelu. In describing the ‘concept of the leaf’, Yangelu tells Kriffle, “Everything and nothing. The leaf is us, and yet we are not the leaf. The leaf is other but only when we see it as such, for in becoming the other, it becomes us and so we become it.” How can you not love that?!? 

The story of the Flidderbugs is based on the power of perception The group that holds the power seems to create the definition, and life for both sides must follow their rules. Of course, as with any politics, there are those in the middle who ultimately must choose sides. In every society there are the countering perspectives: rich/poor, black/white, educated/uneducated, north/south, popular/unpopular, male/female. The majority of the time, it is greed which fuels this disparity. This story is no different. The moral is it is the foundation that counts, and unbalance eventually leads to collapse. We could certainly learn a lot of lessons from our Flidderbug friends. We are all human, we all live on this earth together, and we are all ultimately responsible for each other.

The BEST thing about this story, for me: I can read it to my children, and they will LOVE it! Young adults and adults can read it, and they will LOVE it too! There is something for everyone to learn and enjoy.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: Katy Sozaeva on Sep. 1, 2011 :
Jonathan Gould has written another masterpiece of social commentary in his latest story, “Flidderbugs.” On the Krephiloff Tree, far above the ground, live the Flidderbugs – they go about their business, doing what Flidderbugs do. Kriffle and Fargeeta are the children of the leaders of the two opposing tribes, and they are being groomed to take over the leading roles since their respective fathers are aging. Today they will meet in debate for the first time in public, debating the most important thing to the Flidderbugs’ lives, and those positions – and the support they may gain for themselves – will determine who runs the Tree. The question is – are there three points on each leaf, or four points? Each side will devoutly declare themselves as speaking the truth, and their opponents as lying. Who will win? What will happen? And why is the tree making such strange, rumbling noises lately? You have to read to find out.

The beauty of this story is its subtle poking at modern politics and religious dogma. Gould manages to tell an entertaining story and still get his ideas across quite clearly. I have been quite impressed with the stories I’ve read by Gould thus far, and can recommend this one highly to anyone who enjoys being entertained and, at the same time, encouraged to think and question.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
Review by: wistfulskimmie on Sep. 1, 2011 :
'For the Flidderbugs of the Krephiloff Tree all they had to worry about was how many points were on the leaves and who held the Shears. Now something is threatening the Tree and to get to the bottom of it they must put aside beliefs held since time immemorial.

I loved this little tale. It was short and sweet and I think it would appeal to all ages. I loved the characters, I could see the bugs in my head and I personified them!

All in all a great little story that I heartily recommend.'
(reviewed the day of purchase)
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