So let's get started, shall we? Today's showcase, then, is 'Tick' by P.J. Leonard. Tick really came about from two things: my unending love of cats and my admiration for Erin Hunter's Warriors series. It had always amazed me and dismayed me, too, when I would hear just how bad a reputation animal fiction had, especially that involving cats. For an industry of book lovers who are by definition trained to look past the surface layer and see the beating heart of the true themes of the messages beneath, this round critique of a wide-reaching sub genre that is rich with possibility seemed short-sighted at best.
So when I set out to write Tick, not only did I actively want to put together an animal fiction story to prove a point, but I also made that one of the underlying themes of the story: that there is more than meets the eye.
The other major theme is that of redemption: the loss of humanity and empathy through blind ambition, redeemed only when Tom literally loses his humanity and becomes a cat. This literal transformation, this stripping away of his material possessions and his ability to pursue his ambitions exposes him to a painful truth, of just how little compassion he has for others.
This exposure to his selfishness is laid out very frankly at the beginning: the way he follows the signs with his name is representative of how he is interested in only following his path, without care for the consequences. When he reaches the end of the line, he is transformed into a cat. It dovetails in nicely with the old saying of "Curiosity killed the cat", except in this case it very much gave life to a cat.
Does Tick provide an effective redemption story? Overall, yes, I believe so. Not as well as I'd liked, though: I'd say that I am 65% satisfied with the result. I do feel that Tom's growth as a character and the changes he goes through are believable and come from real incident as rather than out of nowhere. Looking back, though, I feel that one of the issues of Tick is that the plot kind of run aways with itself in the final third: the subplots swell to the point where I ended up creating extra viewpoints from the secondary characters so we could cover important developments that were out of Tom's vision.
This, I feel, is where Tick is at its weakest. At the time, I reasoned with myself that the multiple viewpoints were like the ensemble style of The Lord of The Rings. However, there are some key differences: whereas the constant shifting of viewpoints in Lord of the Rings is not that jarring because all of the characters are working towards the same aim - defeating the evil of Sauron - in Tick the characters have very different motivations. Oh sure, Tom was as engaged in defeating Muezza as much as all the other clan cats, but the reason why is very different to, say, Tips, Twig, or Pipes. The jumping may enrich the world and expand the narrative scope of Tick, but ultimately the extended subplots and viewpoints were to the detriment of Tick overall
Because it is Tom's story, and it was strongest when it stuck to the spine of that story.
In the end, I still would declare Tick as a first novel I can be proud of. I set out to achieve something with Tick, and while it meandered its way there, using language that I will be the first to admit is rough around the edges at times, it got there, and like any good cat, it landed on its feet.