8 Things About The Kitten Who Rocked Holland

My usual fare of dystopian sci-fi feels just a little too real right now. I feel like we're on the cusp of descending into the world of my favorite cyberpunk novels. Unfortunately, as much as I like them, I'm not in the mood to live in them.

So this book was just the right amount of light-hearted fun at just the right time.

Bas has spent most of his days in the student dorms at University in Leiden, Netherlands. His life consisted mostly of eating kibble and avoiding the awful dance music that his owner and the other guys in the dorm play non-stop. But during his very first seagull hunt, he finds himself out in the world where he discovers music of all kinds. Classic rock, punk, country, blues; all of which fill him with wonder and a sense of freedom he's never known.

But as he ventures deeper he finds an underground 'critter' society where cats like him lord over the other creatures. Furthermore the 'Itty Bitty Kitty Committee' has taken a certain interest in the kitten who listens to problematic music and hangs with undesirables. With the Kitty Kops closing in, Bas has to find his place in a critter world not so different from our own.

1. It's Pretty Much What It Says On The Tin:
It's about a kitten named Bas who discovers a love for rock music. Everything from Elvis Prestley to thrash metal. Punk rock to country rock. And in the process, like any good book about rock music, he fights The Man™(Or the Kitty™?)with the sheer force of his rocking out.  Holla.

2. If Disney Made a Movie About The History of Rock:
It sounds like a back-handed compliment, but I mean it in the nicest way possible. For all the shit I give Disney (and they deserve all of it and more) they've got a compelling structure that makes their movies timeless. Kids love their simple storylines and wacky characters. And, when they grow up, they see the deeper commentary about Life, The World, and Everything.

That being said they will sue your ass if you so much hum 'Let it Go' in public without giving them a dollar. And they will soon own all media and make anything not owned by them illegal. Fuck Disney.




The structure of this story has a similar feel. On the surface, there is a cute kitten who desperately wants to be a rock star. On his journey, he meets brawling seagulls, a sassy bulldog, a punk rock girl hedgehog, a brash and loud mouse (named Colin Ferrel), and many others. A parent could read this to their kid to, I imagine, much fanfare. Especially if they are savvy enough to affect the proper voices.

3. Sowing Subversion in the Next Generation:
And this story goes along well with a tale as intertwined with the history of rock as the invention of the electric guitar. In this case commentary on class and race struggles (or species as it's illustrated here). Free expression and authoritarian attempts to stop it. Wealth and privilege and the art that is created in its shadow.

4. Also Dubstep Sucks:
Besides fighting The Kitty™, Bas has to contend with a critter culture (and human for that matter) that seems to prefer mindless dance music. Which, you know, yeah. That stuff is awful, I'm glad someone said it.

5. Tulips, Windmills and Canals:
The fact that this takes place in Leiden adds another fun layer to this book.  Hartley clearly has a love for his adopted city as he incorporates a lot of the landmarks and culture into this book. Apparently, even the idea of Bas was loosely based on a cat who was a bit of a local celebrity in town. Add to that a group of characters who are not only different species, but tend to speak with different dialects and hail from different parts of the world and one gets a feel for a city that's a bit of a cultural hodge-podge.

6. From Zero To Rock God:
If I have one criticism, it's this: The book starts as a coming-of-age story where a kitten finds out about the world through discovering a world of music. In the process, he learns to play the guitar and (spoiler alert....kinda but not really) instantly becomes a music sensation. As a music nerd who really dug the references throughout the book, it felt like that aspect got put to the side by the end. I wished there was more development there. Like, I dunno finding one's own sound, learning to work a crowd, that one awful gig where everyone just looks at you like a dog that's been shown a card trick... Maybe not the story that was trying to be told but what else is a nerd good for except bitching about shit.

7. The Music Goes On?:
At the end, Hartley indicates in his afterword that this story might not be over as he had ideas to make it a trilogy. For the record, I would follow Bas the Kitten through more adventures around the critter world. 

8. The Verdict ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
In summary, it was just fun. A whimsical tale about a kitten who likes music, plays guitar and pisses off the  Plus, with a compelling story and short chapters, it managed to do this to me a couple of times:

"One more chapter before bed."

"The next chapter is short, so just one more."

"Maybe one more."

"Okay one.... shit, it's 2am.  Okay, really just one more."

I can't think of higher praise for a book.


Popular Posts