The Roaches Have No King

ISBN: 1852427469
ISBN 13: 9781852427467
By: Daniel Evan Weiss

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About this book

"Dark and erotic in addition to being clever and charming. It is laced with sexual scenes so graphic I hesitate to share them with you"—New York Times Book ReviewWhen Ira Fishblatt’s girlfriend, Ruth Grubstein, moves into his apartment, he has the kitchen renovated to make her feel at home. She is tickled pink, but hundreds of other houseguests aren’t—the cockroaches who’d been living high on the hog before they were starved out. Weiss is a witty fabulist whose animals have profound things to say about the human condition.Daniel Evan Weiss’s novels include Hell On Wheels, Honk If You Love Aphrodite and The Swine’s Wedding. He lives in New York City.

Reader's Thoughts

Ash Lewis

Finally, something different! The world through a roach's perspective. While the concept of this book intrigued me and kept me gripped, I found myself often confused by where this book was going. Many of the scenes depicted in it were quite bizarre. That, of course, being far from a complaint. Numbers, the narrator, is quite the clever little roach. He is very intelligent, and yet, he doesn't do something that was so drastically important to the lives of the citizens in his colony; just moving the bills from the hole in the cabinet. While this book did lack in some areas, it made up for it in others. In short, I enjoyed this book.


I bought this because I was hoping it would be like Joe's Apartment would have been if Will Self had written it. It's exactly like that and it turns out that isn't a good thing.

Emily Mellow

I kind of hated this book. I was halfway through it before the racism, sexism, and raunchiness really got to me. But, the story was interesting enough that I finished the book. I don't recommend it. Unless you love William Burroughs. It's not that far out, but the intelligent cockroaches and general grodiness had me thinking along those lines.


I found this book at a thrift store a couple years ago, read the first couple chapters and just havent gotten around to reading the rest. I think I have to get past the grossness factor of the roaches and I'll be OK. It did not start out to be a bad book at all, and Im sure once I give it the chance it deserves, Im sure I'll be quite pleased with it. If there is anyone on here that wants to give me that little nudge I need to pick it back up, Id welcome it...


Some wonderfully philosophical observations of the human psyche told from the point of view of a cockroach, completely undermined by overly crass and unnecessarily disgusting parts. This often makes the points he makes seem flippant, losing the impact they may have had.One part in particular near the end that I won't go into was very harrowing.Not for the faint hearted...or even people not normally offended. I've got a strong stomach but often felt squeamish reading it in public.


Le narrateur de ce livre s'appelle Nombres. Il est né dans une bibliothèque de New York et appartient à l'espèce des dictyoptères, famille des blattellae germanicae, en français, les cafards. Nombres et ses compagnons vivent heureux dans l'appartement d'Ira et de la Gitane, quand celle-ci, excellente cuisinière mais souillon de première, décide de quitter le domicile conjugal. Elle est remplacée par Ruth, qui fait de l'ordre une religion et qui laisse subitement affamée la colonie des blattes par un excès de propreté. Comment Nombres parviendra-t-il à conjurer cette malédiction ? C'est tout le propos de ce livre irrévérencieux, profondément « politically incorrect » et subversif qui, sous les apparences d'une fable métaphysique et animalière, donne une critique virulente, méchante et savoureuse de la vie urbaine. Méfions-nous : les cafards sont bien plus vieux que les hommes et ils le savent


This is very well written but strange. I probably would have never read it if it hadn't been on the shelf due to my husband. I happened to see it on our shelf and picked it up. I ended up finishing the book in one sitting although i did stay up later than I planned.I think I might have found it difficult to sleep after reading it if I lived in place where roaches are more common. The story was engaging an I found myself rooting for Number even while being disturbed by some of his actions.

Gracey Pankey

This book was, well, weird. Which was cool. I like weird. Unfortunately, it was also disturbingly gross in a lot of places and not in ways I felt added to the story; it was just gross. It also felt a little racist in places. I do think the author was trying to do something by telling this story from the POV of a roach, but got mired in his own device. Basically, unless you like weird that veers into disturbingly gross and slightly racist, I do not recommend this book.


Strange and interesting. I liked the concept -- cockroaches as philosophers -- but I'm not sure how long this will stay with me. This was first published in the UK as "Unnatural Selection" which I think is a better name. There are certainly plenty of unnatural occurrences in this one. Anyhow this was dirty and crazy but I liked it better than a lot of, say, Palahniuk. The seamy parts of this book were at least pretty humorous.I kept thinking about the Pearl Jam song "Rats" which pretty much is the same sort of thing : "They don't push, don't crowd / Congregate until they're much too loud / Fuck to procreate till they are dead / Drink the blood of their so-called best friend" etc. Neither one is the most amazing insight but I think the Weiss book is at least a little more complex about comparing humans and vermin.

Juliet Wilson

This is a brilliant book, sometimes hilarious, sometimes gross and always intelligent and clever. The basic plot is that cockroaches take over an apartment and try to manipulate the human inhabitants into making life better for them, the cockroaches. The fact that the story is narrated from the point of view of a cockroach gives the author plenty of opportunity to make observations on evolution, ecology and human civilisation from a distinctly non-human viewpoint. I love the way that each roach has a life philosophy drawn from the book he or she was eating through when growing up! Its certainly a thought provoking book as well as very entertaining, but not for the faint hearted!


If you want an original read then I would recommend this book. It is probably quite unlike most things I have read before. The closest comparison I could make would be to Will Self's Great Apes. Both books are trying to comment on human nature by moving outside of ourselves. The basic plot is that a cockroach called Numbers wants to take over an apartment and try to manipulate the human inhabitants into making life better for him and his fellow cockroaches. Via Numbers the author makes quite an unflattering portrait of humanity. Misogyny, racism, selfishness, privilege, economics and politics are all targets in this novel. I didn't mind the racism from a characters mouth (for example, the character of Oliver is fantastically satirical in his racism) but at one point the author indulges in the trope of the hyper-sexual black woman and lazy black man which is embedded within the narrative itself. Why? It soured my enjoyment of the story and seemed quite out of place next to the more insightful and sharp observations in the text.Regardless, the book was very funny and quite dark. Some of the descriptions will make your toes curl and you read about things you have never even thought about before (and most likely probably don't want to again...especially if you are a woman). More than that, it is just a really enjoyable story. You actually find yourself identifying far more with the cockroaches than you do the humans. Perhaps that was the point.It will remain at the back of my brain for some time, I think!


Ammetto che spesso il commento che mi veniva leggendo era "che schifo" repulsione per questi insetti è più forte di me. In molti punti però ho sorriso, alcuni episodi sono davvero divertenti. E vale la pena leggere questo libro, se non altro per il finale, del tutto inaspettato! Che dire, spero di non inimicarmi nessuno scarafaggio d'ora in poi!!Per altri commenti:


I read this book quite a long time ago so my review might not be as fresh as some others. Nonetheless, it has stuck with me in all the years since. The authors choice of a roach for a main character is telling as he then proceeds to lay before the reader all the horrbile, ugly things that we think about each other. Their are racisms and sexisms in this book, but for me, they served the purpose of rubbing my nose in these hidden aspects of our society. The story is written with wit but it is also hard to miss the more serious elements underlying it.

Bonnie Fazio

I read this in 1994, but can't find an edition from that year (or earlier than this one). I liked it a lot. I'd been reading a bunch of dross before this, so maybe my standards were low...but I thought it was pretty clever. It WAS, however, 10 years ago. So take this with a grain of salt.


I bought this book used because I needed a beach read on my vacation. The concept intrigued me - the central character is a cockroach trying to reclaim his apartment from its human occupants. It was pretty entertaining and light enough for the beach, but the depiction of black characters seemed a bit racist - I couldn't tell if it was meant to be satirical or not. Also, and I know this sounds ridiculous in a review of a book about a talking cockroach, but - some of the story didn't make sense. The internal logic was unclear. How did Numbers know about the outside world? Why didn't he just move the bills? Why do I care?

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