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Fluff Pieces Every Week Day

Category: Books

Les Ailes du Singe. T.2, Hollywoodland, by Étienne Willem – review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

Les Ailes du Singe. T.2, Hollywoodland, by Étienne Willem.
Geneva, Switzerland, Éditions Paquet, June 2017, hardbound €14,00 (48 pages).

The Lex Nakashima-Fred Patten plot to make American furry fans read the best of new French-language animalière bandes dessinées strikes again. This is the second album of Étienne Willem’s over-the-top thriller Les Ailes du Singe (The Wings of the Monkey), set in a funny-animal America during 1933, the depths of the Depression. Things got so desperate at the time that there were serious worries about a Communist revolution. That’s one theme of this album.

The stars of Les Ailes du Singe are Harry Faulkner (macaque monkey), a top pilot in the Lafayette Escadrille during World War I, and the owner of his own barnstorming and movie stunt-flying Jenny biplane; his mechanic-friend Lumpy (pig), apparently Italian since he regularly swears in Italian; and his girlfriend Betty Laverne (deer), a newspaper reporter for the New York Herald-Tribune. In t.1, Wakanda, Harry gets involved in and prevents the skyjacking of the U.S. Army’s zeppelin Wakanda by unknown enemy agents led by a sultry night club singer, Lydia Lessing (jaguar). However, Harry could only prevent the enemy from unleashing poison gas over NYC by crashing the Wakanda into the Hudson River. He is blamed for wrecking the zeppelin and, to escape warrants for his arrest in New York and New Jersey, Harry and Lumpy flee to Hollywood where Harry becomes a stunt pilot for Paramount. (In real life I think he could be extradited – isn’t it illegal to cross state lines to avoid arrest?)

Hollywoodland contains so much hugger-mugger that, frankly, it destroys the suspension of disbelief for me. The Depression has gotten so bad that the South is threatening to re-secede, setting off a second Civil War – or, as Harry finds out, that’s what Communist agents are trying to make the public believe. There’s a plot to assassinate President Franklin D. Roosevelt that only Harry, Betty, and Lumpy can foil, in stolen Paramount stunt planes. There are lots of real famous people as funny animals: FDR is a goose (Willem seems to show him as unparalyzed, as he was popularly believed to be at the beginning of his administration; but take a close look at the bottom panel on page 46), Howard Hughes is a Doberman, Cecil B. De Mille is a Boston terrier, Douglas Fairbanks is a – cougar? (A Big Feline of some kind.) Marilyn Monroe wasn’t a star yet, so Hollywoodland substitutes a fictional Clara Palmer – that’s her on the cover. (There’s a nude shot of her in the story.) Willem takes advantage of the urban legend that Howard Hughes may have been a spy for someone, or at least working against America’s best interests, to put him into suspicious situations. There are car chases all over Los Angeles, gunfights, a major character is killed, and Harry’s & Friends’ pursuit in old World War I warplanes through the New Mexico desert of the presidential streamlined train to prevent the president’s murder

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Review – Furry Nation: The true story of America’s most misunderstood subculture, by Joe Strike.

by Patch O'Furr

Furry Nation: The true story of America’s most misunderstood subculture, by Joe Strike.
Cleis Press, October 2017, paperback $17.95 (288 pages), Kindle $10.99.

Here’s what I wrote for a cover blurb:

Like herding cats, gathering the history of furry fandom has been called impossible.  Furries love impossible things, so this is long overdue.  I’m happy to say it was worth the wait.  Joe Strike puts solid ground under the legs of the Furry Nation – genre, subculture, and yes, even kink – with his experience of watching it grow.  This book is for original 1980’s fans, new ones looking back, and outsiders drawn to the weird coolness of talking animals.  There’s many ways to get into it, but this is a unique view of how furries are breaking out.

Joe’s book isn’t the perfect bible for everyone – but expecting that from one book is unrealistic.  It’s just the kind of book that comes from a devout fan, and that’s why I recommend it.

I’ll summarize some reaction to the news that this book will exist: “It’s gonna suck! Who is Joe Strike?” – I knew who Joe was before I knew he was a furry, from his animation journalism. He does scriptwriting and his own comic too. He brings us a history that can live beyond bit-rot, supported by a firmly established publisher. Cleis has a 36-year history as “the largest independent sexuality publishing company in the United States.” It’s smart to focus on the word independent, which means open-minded support from the first ones to take the chance.

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A Dog’s View of Love, Life, and Death, by J. R. Archer – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

A Dog’s View of Love, Life, and Death, by J. R. Archer
Hove, England, White Crow Books, June 2017, trade paperback $14.99 (ix + 299 pages), Kindle $4.99.

This is an intriguing fantasy, but from an anthropomorphic point of view, it’s ultimately unsatisfying.

The locale is New York City. The chapters are short. In chapter one, Svetlana witnesses Robbie commit suicide, leaving Rosie, a small dog. In chapter two, rich, elderly Margaret Roper and her small dog Rags are introduced. In chapter three, young Black police officer Teddy Dwight investigates Robbie’s suicide and takes charge of Rosie. In chapter four, Margaret has a fatal heart attack. Her son Will, who has anger issues, is mostly resentful at the inconvenience her funeral will cause him. He breaks his promise to look out after Rags, who is sent to a dog shelter.

Most of the first nine chapters are entirely about the human cast. The dogs are little more than props. Other important characters are young Milo McGarry, the conscientious Black receptionist at the East 110th Street dog shelter (which is expected to go out of business soon), where Rosie and Rags are taken; two other dogs there: Lennon, a hulking but kindly Great Dane, and Darcy, a rescued Greyhound ex-racing dog; Sebastian, Svetlana’s pet Borzoi-German Shepherd mix; and Elton, Milo’s long-haired Chihuahua.

The dogs finally talk in chapter Ten. Chapters Thirteen, Fifteen, and some others are also devoted to the dogs, but for an anthropomorphic novel, it’s too little, too late.

The dogs don’t talk verbally but mind-to-mind.

“‘Allow me to introduce myself, Lennon, my name is Rags.’

The Great Dane sat up, looking surprised. ‘How’d ya know my name?’

‘It came to me as soon as we connected.’

‘Seriously? … I’ve never been able to do that. Have you just arrived, little fella?’

‘I got in early this morning.’

‘Rags, if you want a heads up, I’ve been here for a while now, and for me it’s home. I don’t know how long you’re gonna be here but, while you are, let’s be friends.’” (p. 47)

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ArCANIS: A Modern Animal Tarot, by David DePasquale – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

ArCANIS: A Modern Animal Tarot, by David DePasquale. Illustrated.
Los Angeles, The author, July 2017, hardcover $30.00 (unpaged [168 pages).

I went to the Center Stage Gallery in Burbank, CA during August to see the “ArCANIS: A Modern Animal Tarot” art exhibit by David DePasquale; a full 78-card Tarot deck in color, divided into 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards split into 14 cards each of the four Tarot suits (swords, wands, pentacles, and cups), with each card featuring an anthropomorphized animal. Besides the original art (for sale), there were the printed cards, a rotating enlargement slide show so the attractive stylized art could be easily seen in detail, and brief notes on the history of Tarot and the meanings of the cards.

In addition to the exhibit, visitors could buy in advance (the publication date is in September) the printed 3.5” x 5.5” deck of 78 cards in a customized tuck box, and a de luxe hardcover book showing the 78 cards individually on right-hand pages with a one-page explanation of each on the left-hand page:

THE NINE OF WANDS

Upright: Determination, Hope, Persistence

The Nine of Wands can represent searching inside yourself for the inner strength to overcome a final hurdle. You have worked through many obstacles to get to where you are now, so do not give up when you are so close!

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Avaritia: A Fable, by M.D. Westbrook- Book Review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

Avaritia: A Fable, by M.D. Westbrook
Wichita, KS, M.W. Publishers, April 2016, trade paperback $9.99 (200 pages), Kindle $1.00.

Usually the dedication of a book is not pertinent, but this one really sets the mood:

“This book is dedicated to rising taxes, broken promises, forgotten children, crime, starvation, war, death, and despair.

Thanks for the inspiration, guys. Couldn’t have done it without you.”

Avaritia has a very plain cover (by the author, credited as Mark D. Westbrook), but it turns out that there is a reason for this. The novel is grim and preachy, but fascinating in an Old Testament way. The only anthropomorphic novel that I can think of that’s remotely similar to this is the black comedy Play Little Victims by Kenneth Cook (1978). See my 2014 review of it on Flayrah: https://www.flayrah.com/5725/review-play-little-victims-kenneth-cook

But there is nothing funny about Avaritia. I read Play Little Victims almost forty years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. I don’t expect to ever forget Avaritia, either.

Avaritia begins in a house with a human father, a mother, and two brothers. The younger brother has three pet rats. The older brother has a bowl of mice, but Older Brother Human only keeps them to feed to his pet snake.

The characters in Avaritia are its mice and rats. The story begins with Older Brother Human lifting Radish, one of the mice, out of the bowl to feed to his boa constrictor while her mate, Cookie, pounds on the glass and squeaks, “Take me! Take me and leave her!”

“Cookie cried uncontrollably, watching as the snake slithered behind his mate.

In a blink, the snake struck. Radish released a final squeak as the constrictor wrapped around her lower abdomen.

‘Noooo!’ Cookie wailed.

Radish opened her mouth, gasping, and beat her tiny paws against the orange and yellow scales, but to no avail. Radish’s once soft pink eyes bulged, now a darker hue of red.

Older Brother Human laughed out loud. ‘Good boy, Petey. Eat ‘er up.’” (p. 2)

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Garbage Night, by Jen Lee. – Book Review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

Garbage Night, by Jen Lee. Illustrated.
London, NYC, Nobrow Ltd., June 2017, hardcover $18.95 (98 pages).

Garbage Night is #2 in Lee’s Vacancy series; what Amazon calls “dystopian graphic novels”. Vacancy, #1 in the series, was published in June 2015. But Garbage Night the book includes the complete Vacancy as a bonus. Garbage Night itself is 70 pages, followed immediately by “Now read Jen Lee’s original comic, Vacancy” for 26 more pages. You should skip directly to Vacancy, read it first, then return to the beginning of Garbage Night. Be warned that it still ends with a “to be continued”.

What is going on is unexplained. The blurb for the first story says, “Vacancy explores the ways that animals think; how they internalize their changing environment and express their thoughts, fears, or excitement.” The blurb for Garbage Night says, “Juvenile animals strive to survive across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in this striking parable about the nature of freedom and friendship.” What it is is about anthropomorphic animals (they wear clothes and are bipedal) living in a deserted, humanless world.

Simon is a pet watchdog left behind when his humans disappeared. But it is obvious that what’s happened is more complex than that. The entire town shows years of having been deserted. Signs are peeling, windows are broken, cloth is rotting, roofs are falling in. Simon roams through his owners’ empty house, wishing that they’d return to fil his food bowl, but not really believing it after so long. What remains of the town has been scavenged out of food by the abandoned pets and nearby wildlife like Monica the opossum. When two forest animals pass through town – Cliff, a raccoon, and Reynard, a deer with a broken antler – Simon asks to go with them. “I need someone to show me the ropes of the wild.”

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World, by Shannon and Dean Hale – review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World, by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale. Illustrated by Bruno Mangyoku.
NYC, Marvel Press, February 2017, hardcover $13.99 (324 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $9.99.

The Marvel Comics Group is having hardcover novelizations written of most of its high-profile super-heroes such as Iron Man, for the 9-to-12 age group. Marvel does not go in for animal heroes, so the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and her 300 squirrels are about the only ones who would qualify for interest to furry fans. New York Times bestselling author Shannon Hale specializes in romantic novels for adolescent girls and young women, many in collaboration with her husband, Dean Hale.

This novel recounts the beginning of Squirrel Girl’s career, written in a breezy teenager’s diary style. The comic book stories began in 1991 with her as a 21-year-old college student, but here 14-year-old Doreen Green has just moved with her parents from Southern California to Shady Oaks, New Jersey. “Who runs the world? Squirrels!” Doreen may be prejudiced because she was born with a bushy squirrel’s tail. Otherwise she looks like any young teenage girl, except that she’s super-strong and has retractable claws and “her two front teeth were a little longer than their neighbors. She had to gnaw on things to keep them from getting even longer. Things like logs.” (p. 2) Maple logs are her favorite.

No reason is given for her having a squirrel’s tail, but Hey! this is the Marvel Universe. Doreen used to see She-Hulk while she lived in Los Angeles, and now she’s looking forward to seeing Thor and the other Avengers who live in nearby New York City.

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The Latte Segment, by Zoe Landon – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

The Latte Segment, by Zoe Landon
Portland, OR, Leporidae Media, February 2016, trade paperback $14.99 (282 pages), Kindle $4.99.

This is the purest funny-animal novel that I have ever read. Other than that the characters are all described as animals, there is nothing to differentiate this from any all-human novel.

Sarah Madsen is a young woman working as a marketing analyst in Portland, Oregon. Her boyfriend, Sean, is an unemployed computer programmer from Silicon Valley in California. Sarah relaxes alone almost every Sunday at the Deadline Cafe over an expensive latte laced with mint; her only vice.

“Sarah fidgeted and the corner creaked. She was worrying about money.

Her finances were safe, by most reasonable standards, yet there was a nagging sense that she should be doing better. Perhaps she could save a little more. She could go to fewer movies with Sean and their whole circle of friends. She couldn’t get rid of her television like Sean did; she relied on it too much for work. But she could stop coming to the Deadline Cafe every Sunday. It did feel like the lattes got more expensive the last year or so.

Everything in Portland felt like it was getting more expensive lately. Most of it was inevitable. She moved here when things weren’t very good anywhere, and now things were especially good here. New businesses were popping up in her neighborhood left and right. Businesses that, for one reason or another, she rarely went to.” (pgs. 5-6)

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D’Arc: A Novel from the War With No Name, by Robert Repino – review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

D’Arc: A Novel from the War With No Name, by Robert Repino. Illustrated by Sam Chung and Kapo Ng.
NYC, Soho Press, May 2017, hardcover $26.95 (386 pages), Kindle $14.99.

I don’t usually quote other writers’ blurbs, but how could anyone resist this from Corey Redekop, the author of Husk, on the front cover:

“Think The Fantastic Mr. Fox, with advanced weaponry, Charlotte’s Web, with armed combat, The Wind in the Willows, with machetes. D’Arc is all this and way more besides.”

S-f author Paul DiFilippo compares D’Arc to Cordwainer Smith’s Underpeople, David Brin’s Uplifted dolphins, Puss in Boots, and Brian Jacques’ Redwall. If I looked hard enough, I could doubtlessly find many comparisons to Animal Farm and Watership Down as well.

D’Arc is a sequel to Mort(e). Almost the first thing that you learn in D’Arc is a big spoiler for Mort(e): yes, Mort(e) the cat, the renamed Sebastian, does find Sheba, the pet dog who he was searching for all through that novel.

The first chapter, though, introduces Taalik and his Sarcops. They will appear again later. They are not Changed animals, but a new mutation. To quote a later description of them: “Part fish, part crab, part cephalopod. A bulbous head. Black eyes. Segmented armor on the spine, with four tentacles unfurling from within. Two jointed claws extending from the shoulders, with longer ones at the pelvis that could be used for walking. A long tail with spikes on the end of it.” (p. 54)

Mort(e) and Sheba appear in Chapter 2. Mort(e) does not join either the Changed animals or the remaining humans. He strikes out on his own – with Sheba. The “strange technology” of the ant Queen that Changed all natural animals into anthropomorphic animals in Mort(e) was actually a pill that the unnoticed ants inserted into each animal; and the Queen had not given this pill to Sheba in order to control Mort(e). After the Queen’s death and the disintegration of the Colony, Mort(e) and Sheba sail up the Delaware River, where Mort(e) gives Sheba the pill that Changes her. They continue past the abandoned ruins of Philadelphia, and finally leave the river and trek into the Pocono Mountains.

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Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever, by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever, by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith
Kansas City, MO, Andrews McMeel Publishing, January 2017, trade paperback $9.99 (242 pages), Kindle $8.49.

Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy, by Doug Savage
Kansas City, MO, Andrews McMeel Publishing, September 2016, hardcover $31.99, trade paperback $9.97 (144 pages), Kindle $9.47.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn, by Dana Simpson. Introduction by Peter S. Beagle.
Kansas City, MO, Andrews McMeel Publishing, September 2014, hardcover $13.99, trade paperback $9.99 (222 [+2] pages, Kindle $7.71.

These three books are samples of Andrews McMeel Publishing’s “AMP! comics for kids” series for children 8 to 12 years old (grades 3 to 7). The AMP! books are a combination of original book-length cartoon-art works and collections of newspaper or Internet daily comic strips. Most of them are not animal oriented, but here are two that are, plus Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn, mostly for her previously-acclaimed hit in furry fandom, Ozy and Millie (although Phoebe does contain Marigold the Unicorn, and sometimes goblins). Furry fans may want to take a look at some of these. Many are in public libraries.

Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever, by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith, is a standalone original 242-page spinoff from Schorr’s The Grizzwells newspaper comic strip (1987 to present), featuring a funny-animal family of grizzly bears and their community. The newspaper strip is gag-a-day without any continuity. Schorr and his assistant Smith have tried to create a coherent novel, but what they have here is really a collection of lame one-liners with a thin connecting plot line. Astronomy class: “Do you know anything about asteroid belts?” “Only that they’re what asteroids wear when they can’t find their suspenders.” The characters compound the groaners by often breaking the fourth wall and looking knowingly at the reader. You can almost hear a drum-roll’s bada-boom.

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