Rats That Will Eat You should be saddled with the following trigger warnings:
child abuse, gnomes, gentrification, heroics, rape, animatronics, Oakland, sodomy, giraffes, robots, prostitutes, robot fucking, racism, retribution, child heroism, adult cowardice, native stereotypes, and San Francisco.
Adam Kaplan is one of the few living writers that influences the way I write and the way that I’d like to write. I’ve read Rats many, many times, and my favorite time to read Rats nowadays is when I’m sad. Reading about the adventures of these desperate-yet-exuberant characters makes me very happy for some reason.
Adam’s incredible sentences, which each live on their own as lines of poetry, also make me very happy. Rats in general forces me put my own shit into perspective, and though this phrase gets undeservedly thrown out to the point of cliché at times, I think reading Rats for the first time was, for me, a wholly cathartic experience where you feel like you’re being given this incredible gift.
– Philip Kim
RATS THAT WILL EAT YOU is a rare adventure whose swings between hilarity and despair should be impossible. Adam Kaplan’s curious talent dreams his readers into a tour of the grotesque with a cartoon heart, a Goonies quest with glints of Barry Hannah, and perspectives that feel vital and previously untold.
And while Kaplan’s linguistic romps and jokes offer unmatched fluorescence, it is the author’s extraordinary understanding of trauma and its path within the lives of his characters–adult-children and childish adults alike–that enlarge the dimensions of this story into something that will rescue you from any misgivings about how meaningful, fearless, and inventive literature can be.
I don’t want to read in a world where Kaplan isn’t writing.
Author of The Illustrated Version of Things
In 1979, a decade before the fall of the Wall, Mosfilm of the USSR released a ground-breaking art film by Andrei Tarkovsky called Stalker. The film begins in the sepia-tone world of an unnamed city where we meet a man who leads clients into the uncannily colorful “Zone” on quests to fulfill their true desires. Tarkovsky shot the scenes of the “Zone” in various run down Soviet facilities such as a hydroelectric plant and defunct chemical factory; although, we know this film was shot on Earth, the way Tarkovsky composes the scenes renders them so other-worldly that one wonders if the Soviets had actually terraformed Mars just so he could shoot a film there.
In Rats That Will Eat You Adam Kaplan creates a similarly eerie and alluring portrait of San Francisco in which the city itself seems sentient. The author stalks tiger-wise around the dark places and brutal underground of the golden City by the Bay to spy upon the complex beauty and horror of the lives of a group of poor kids railroaded through a jungle of social welfare.
Artist, member of The Canyoneers
If Warren Ellis were ever to re-imagine “The Hardy Boys”, he might write something that resembled, “Rats That Will Eat You”. A modern day hunt for treasure set in San Francisco, the characters are primarily made up of the residents of a juvenile detention facility. It is equal parts hilarious and shocking, but while the plot is larger-than-life, the characters and their struggles, are very grounded in reality.
Adam Kaplan has worked for years with at-risk youth, and there is a real sense of affection for the characters in his novel. He populates his book with people whose lives have no guardrails and makes you root for his foul-mouthed, modern Oliver Twists. And honestly, there are enough truly disturbing images that will ensure an inability to ever look the author in the eye!
Crisis Line worker, friend, and probably future apologist for, Adam Kaplan