“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)