Raid on Sullin, by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Raid on Sullin, by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, October 2017, trade paperback, $15.99 (233 [+ 9] pages), Kindle $4.99.
Raid on Sullin is #2 in the Packmasters series. #1, The Relics of Thiala, was reviewed here last April. I concluded that review, “But this is space opera, not hard science s-f. This review covers the first 50 pages of the 190-page novel (cover by Darbaras, a.k.a. Dávid László Tóth). What will Cat, Ferret, Bear, Wolf, and Ana find on Thiala and the sleazy Vandal space station? Since this is space opera, expect mucho dramatic action and weapons fire.”
I’m a sucker for good space opera, and The Relics of Thiala is great furry space opera. I’ve been looking forward to the sequel, and Raid on Sullin is not a disappointment. I recommend starting with The Relics of Thiala, but Raid on Sullin has a very good “What happened so far” for those who don’t want to bother. Roughly, Cat (the narrator), Ferret, Bear, and Wolf are four bestiae, bioengineered anthro-animen in a far-future interstellar community. The bestiae are considered beneath contempt by most humans, and were enslaved by a cult called the Packmasters. The Packmasters were apparently all killed by the rest of humanity in a civil war a generation ago. Ana, a mistreated young adopted orphan, escapes with the help of Cat. They gather three other bestiae and discover that Ana has Packmaster powers, but instead of using them to dominate the others, they form a pack of friends with a telempathetic bond under Ana’s leadership, Cat’s guidance, Bear’s piloting, and Wolf’s muscle. They steal a luxury space yacht, the Lollipop, belonging to a corrupt human Senator, Viscount Tomori, and flee to Vandal, a distant space station towards the Fringe of the galaxy that is (what else?) “a wretched hive of scum and villainy”. But Tomori comes after them. The book ends with Tomori and Bear dead, and the others unsure of how Vandal’s laws will treat them.
Raid on Sullin begins with such law as Vandal has ruling that Ana is the new owner of Tomori’s property. The small pack is delighted, but unsure what to do next.
“‘So what do we do, now that we are free to go?’ Ferret asked.
We hadn’t discussed the question. What little time Ana and I had spent together, we had used to prepare her testimony and we hadn’t had a meeting of the whole pack since our victory over Tomori. It hadn’t seemed necessary as long as we hadn’t won the case. We’d be staying at Vandal a little longer to pick up some supplies, but I had no plan yet where to go next.” (p. 21)
While they are discussing on the Lollipop where to go next, and how to replace the dead Bear, they are visited by one of Vandal’s small community of free bestiae.
“The insistent knocking at the main hatch sounded again, and I looked up from my reading. […] I made a quick detour back to the lounge and picked up a blaster gun from the pile of weapons we kept on one of the coffee tables. Never wrong to have plenty of guns within easy reach. While I always had a few knives somewhere on my person, a blaster might come in handy on this occasion. I shoved the gun into the back of of my pants and made it back just before the next impatient knock.” (pgs. 24-25)
“I punched in the code for the hatch and pulled it open.
And then I stared.
I hadn’t expected anything, but the creature who looked back at me was so unexpected I just couldn’t help myself. Almost as tall as Wolf, she was only half his mass at most. She was slender to the point of seeming frail, with short tan fur and intricate white markings showing on her exposed face and hands. Elegant horns rose from her brow. Some sort of deer, I thought, but none I had ever seen.
‘Well, you sure are just as pretty a kitty as I heard,’ she commented, startling me.
If I had been a human I would probably have blushed. As it was, I knew my ears were pointing in different directions most embarrassingly. It was pointless to pretend she wasn’t getting to me.
‘I have to admit I have no idea what you are,’ I answered, unable to keep my curiosity in check.
She cocked her head, showing off the long smooth line of her neck deliberately. ‘Antelope,’ she explained readily enough, ‘more specifically, a gazelle. And you are … a house cat?’” (pgs. 25-27)
The gazelle is Ten, shown on the cover (again by Darbaras). She runs a private investigator agency out of Vandal.
“‘As it happens, I find myself in need of assistance from someone who doesn’t run and hide from big bad people. So I was wondering if maybe an exchange of services might be possible. You help me with my problem and I help you with whatever you need from me.’
She was looking to hire us. After all the gossip about us taking out Tomori, she had to believe we were some sort of mercenary crew. It made sense, really. […] The thought appealed to me. No so much the misconception of us being just another bunch of hardened criminals, but the idea of helping a fellow bestia in need. Of course, it was pretty far from the vacation we had scheduled as our next ‘mission’. Still, I couldn’t resist at least asking for some more details.” (p. 29)
It’s really bad. The Core Worlds of humans, and its Core Military, are getting around to cleansing themselves of the bestiae. The Fringe is mostly still free. But:
“‘I used to be Core Military,’ she revealed, once more catching me completely off guard. ‘Part of a special experimental unit of bestiae. We didn’t exactly like the way we were treated, so when we got the chance, we ran. Once we reached the Fringe, we split up. To hide and disappear. When I came back from my last job yesterday, I had a message from one of my former comrades waiting for me. Says Core Military had found him and he is running from them again. I want to check on him and on another friend from my old unit. See if they are okay, or need any help to relocate.’” (p. 30)
Before Cat can make up his mind, Ten and Cat are attacked by the Core Military unit that has also targeted her. Defeating them leads to the pack’s agreeing to help her.
This takes the story to about page 45. The rest of the 233-page Raid on Sullin tells of the pack’s and Ten’s rescue of her former unit from the Core Military. This leads, not surprisingly to the enlargement of the pack.
The adventure will be enjoyed by furry fans. There are many nice anthro touches in it:
“‘Will you be able to deal with having a herbivore in your pack?’ My confusion must have been obvious, as she immediately elaborated. ‘Our unit was all herbivores. The trainer told us carnivore and herbivore bestiae didn’t mix well and that carnivores were much harder to manage.’ She paused thoughtfully for a moment, a grim smile on her narrow face. ‘Not so sure they still subscribe to that last bit, though.’” (p. 46)
“‘How do you all feel about skipping that vacation and rescuing a bestia from a Core Military base?’
Wolf’s ball hit him in the head and bounced off towards the kitchen. Since we were so closely connected, I intimately sensed how he went from ‘outraged no’ past ‘must be important to him if he even asks’ to ‘why the fuck not, could be fun’. Of course he knew that I knew, and it ended with him giving me a wide grin, showing off large, sharp teeth, ready to tear some poor Core soldiers to pieces.” (p. 49)
The Core Military hadn’t named its bestiae soldiers, it had numbered them. Ten’s first squad mate who needs rescuing is Four, a bison. I will give away that Two is the most gun-crazy, untrustworthy, back-stabbing rabbit you could imagine.
Be prepared for a lot of “fuck” and “shit”, some for macho humor, as when a space pirate says:
“‘Listen up, fuckers, you all get out of the way when that mother-fucking red thing flies your way, you hear me? Any of you shoot at the fucking flying cherry and I will fucking skin you and turn your hide into a fucking hat!’
I briefly wondered how she would cope if someone suddenly removed the word ‘fuck’ from her vocabulary. She didn’t bother closing the com channel and I heard various pirate pilots check in and acknowledge their orders. I quickly came to the conclusion that ‘fuck’ was an integral part of their language.” (p. 112)
Raid on Sullin ends very satisfactorily with a new member of the pack to replace Bear, but there is a brief preview of Packmasters #3, Tomori’s Legacy, out later in 2018.
Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus are two German retirees who have written several other novels, as listed on their The Adventure of Romance website. Raid on Sullin is freer of typographical errors than many books from major publishers, but it does have British spelling like armour and programme. It also has non-standard hyphenizations like dra-wings, trea-ting, me-ans, che-ap, and joi-ning, although most readers shouldn’t object to those.