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Category: Reviews

A Glimpse of Anthropomorphic Literature, ed. AnthroAquatic – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

51mzqy7hULL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_A Glimpse of Anthropomorphic Literature, AnthroAquatic, ed.
Plainfield, CT, Goal Publications, November 2016, trade paperback $10.00 (153 pages).

A Glimpse of Anthropomorphic Literature was originally a three-issue online magazine of 45 to 50 pages each, published in January, March, and August 2016. This small (5 x 0.3 x 8 inches), slim volume collects all three issues into one handy paper edition, minus the advertisements.

The contents are published as they appeared in the magazine issues; mostly a mixture of short stories and reviews. The book’s most serious lack is a combined table of contents. There are 14 short stories and 11 reviews (also an interview with S. Andrew Swann, and an analysis of Felix Salten’s 1923 novel Bambi: A Life in the Woods as an example for the furry writer; both by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt). The reader is forced to hunt through the whole book to find anything.

The short stories are all under ten pages each. Most are whimsical fantasies. Two, “The Mouse Who Was Born a Bear” and “Sheeperfly’s Lullaby”, both by Mary E. Lowd, are on the ALAA’s 2016 Recommended List of furry short fiction of the year worth reading. Notable others include “Catching the Thief” by Amy Fontaine, “Sheets and Covers” by Ocean Tigrox, “The Charitable Pact of a Soft-hearted Fool” by Slip-Wolf, “Beast” by Frances Pauli, and “Promises to Keep” by Renee Carter Hall.

The brevity and whimsicality of the fiction, plus its interruption by so many book reviews, makes A Glimpse of Anthropomorphic Fiction (cover by Aisha Robinson) an intellectual trifle, the literary equivalent of a box of chocolates. Is it worth reading? Very much so, but you will want to read it in short bursts, two or three stories and a review or two at a time, rather than all at once.

This has been a short review of a short book of short stories.

Full disclosure: I am the writer of three of the reviews in it.

-Fred Patten

Last Dance of the Phoenix, by James R. Lane – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

product_thumbnailLast Dance of the Phoenix, by James R. Lane
Raleigh, NC, Lulu Press, August 2016, trade paperback $14.99 (254 pages), Kindle $2.51.

This s-f novel is set in the near future. Thomas Barnes has an Artificial Intelligence in his home, but he also wears a dark blue NRA ball cap, eats at a McDonald’s, drives on Florida’s Highway I-95, drinks Gatorade, and is familiar with the TV program Final Jeopardy.

Two years previously, Earth was discovered by aliens (in flying saucers) and welcomed into the galactic community. The four spacegoing species of aliens that humans meet just happen to look like anthropomorphic foxes, cheetahs, otters, and rabbits.

Convenient? Maybe too convenient? Barnes thinks so.

“No bug-eyed monsters, no giant slugs, spiders, dragons, demons, birds – nothing else. Aliens that didn’t seem so alien after all, apparently guaranteed not to terribly upset ape-based humanity’s rabid xenophobia. To me and a lot of others it just seemed too damned pat. Somebody – or something – had to have engineered all this. Cute.” (p. 10)

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Peter & Company: A Comic Collection, by Jonathan Ponikvar – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

51NDvBrHhlL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_Peter & Company: A Comic Collection, by Jonathan Ponikvar.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, June 2012, trade paperback $17.99 (unpaged [74 pages]).

Although it doesn’t say so, this is volume 1 of what is now Ponikvar’s online bi-weekly comic strip. It covers Peter & Company for its first 100 strips; from its beginning on January 1, 2005 to December 17, 2007. Volume 2, Of Cats and Crushes, is “coming soon”.

Peter & Company, drawn with anthropomorphic animal characters, is about Peter (cat), a 12-year-old geek and social loner who gets Seth (duck) as a cross between an imaginary friend and a guardian angel. Seth is invisible to everyone except Peter, but like the ghosts in Thorne Smith’s Topper, he can make his presence felt by others when he wants to.

Ponikvar calls Seth and his compatriots “Guardians” rather than “guardian angels” to remove any religious aspects from the strip, and to present them more imaginatively than in the format of standard religious doctrine. Seth is more like a senpai, a big brother, than a messenger from God. He’s sarcastic, and often openly manipulative to force Peter to do something like studying that he doesn’t want to do.

Ponikvar is also more original in his use of Guardians. Not everyone has a Guardian; only those who need one. Peter can not only see Seth; he can see the Guardians of everyone else who has one – and those who have Guardians can all talk with them. (With exceptions, which are explained in the strip.) The Guardians sometimes get together and “talk shop” without their charges. Peter talks openly to his “imaginary friend”, which increases his reputation as a “freak boy” and gets him sent to Mr. Betrug (dog), the school Counselor.

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Skeleton Crew, by Gre7g Luterman – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

gre7gSkeleton Crew, by Gre7g Luterman. Illustrated.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, August 2014/October 2016, trade paperback $8.95 (259 pages), Kindle $3.99.

This is the first hard science-fiction novel I’ve ever read with absolutely no humans in it. The cover by H. Kyoht Luterman (the author’s wife) shows two of the main characters; Commissioner Sarsuk, a kraken, holding Kanti, a geroo. All of the other characters in the novel are geroo. There are over a dozen full-page illustrations, most by Rick Griffin of Housepets! fame, showing such geroo characters as Kanti, Saina, Tish, Captain Ateri, Chendra, and more.

The geroo are unclothed, with thick tails and fur. There are frequent mentions in the text of twitching ears, tail rings, and the like. Kanti is called Shaggy for his unruly fur.

Skeleton Crew is set entirely on, or within, the huge generation exploratory starship White Flower II in interstellar space. There is a two-page cutaway diagram of the White Flower II by Brandon Kruse. Four centuries earlier, the krakun came to the primitive planet Gerootec and offered to hire thousands of the overpopulated geroo as their starship crews. The geroo who went into space and their descendants would never see Gerootec again, but they would live in luxury compared to the backward geroo on their homeworld. Technically, the White Flower II belongs to the krakuns’ Planetary Acquisitions, Incorporated, with a mission of finding new planets that can be colonized.

New planets for the krakun. Never for the geroo.

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Domino, by Kia Heavey – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

51tou2Wni4LDomino, by Kia Heavey.
Greenwich, CT, Unfiltered Creative, January 2016, trade paperback $11.95 (267 pages), Kindle $3.49.

Domino is a large black-&-white barn cat on the Browns’ farm, encouraged to roam it for rodent control. He is unneutered to make him more aggressive. He is complacent as one of the socially dominant cats in the nearby residential neighborhood prowl, along with his best friend Flufferdoodle and others such as Tiger, Cricket, Mister, Lady, Rudy, and Izzy.

Then two new cats enter the neighborhood. Celine is a black field stray who likes a free life, living outside of being a housecat. She becomes Domino’s equal, supporter, and eventually mate. Socrates is a supercilious but charismatic Siamese intellectual who spellbinds most of the other cats with the philosophy that all animals are transcendent – they can transcend their feral instincts if they only try. They all have souls and similar emotions. The cats all have humans who feed them, so they don’t need to go hunting for prey. Domino is amused at first, then alarmed as he sees more and more of his friends listening to Socrates. He is gradually isolated and sidelined as a social boor and killer of helpless wildlife. Domino suspects that Socrates and his housemate, Max the dog, have an ulterior motive, but he can’t figure out what it is.

Then Socrates introduces the rats.

The cover by Damon Bowie shows that either Domino is a small cat, or those are large rats. Domino is a very large cat.

Heavey writes clever dialogue:

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Culdesac; A Novella 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.

Culdesac; A Novella from the War With No Name, by Robert Repino.
NYC, Soho Press, November 2016, trade paperback $9.99 (110 pages + an 11-page preview of D’Arc), Kindle $7.99.

CuldesacThis is a side-story to Repino’s Mort(e), reviewed here in June 2015. In Mort(e), the ants declare a war of extinction against mankind. In addition to fighting humanity by themselves, including producing human-sized ant warriors, they use their “mysterious technology” to transform all animals into anthropomorphic intelligent beings. “Suddenly, farm animals, ferals, and pets could think and speak. Their bodies changed, allowing them to walk on their hind legs and use their hands like a human.” (p. 1)

The protagonist of Mort(e) is Sebastian, a pet housecat. When he is transformed, he takes the name Mort(e) and becomes a warrior in the elite Red Sphinx guerilla company under Captain Culdesac, a bobcat. When the ants and animals win, he is given ownership of the home he used to live in as a pet. But he remains a loner, skeptical about the animals’ alliance with the Colony, the underground ant super-nest; and about the animals’ ability to build a new society more successful than the humans’ had been. When the last human survivors resume the war with a new weapon, Mort(e) rejoins the Red Sphinx. The conclusion of the novel reveals whether the animals’ new world is stable, what the Colony’s true goal is, and what happens to Mort(e).

Culdesac takes place during Mort(e). It focuses upon the bobcat commander of the Red Sphinx, who is only a minor supporting character in Mort(e). Unlike Mort(e), who had known humans as a pampered pet and had doubts about turning upon them, Culdesac was a wild predator who grew up knowing only the law of kill-or-be-killed. He brings that attitude to the Red Sphinx.   “Relentless, bloody, and unforgiving, Culdesac is the story of an antihero with no soul to lose, carving a path of destruction that consumes the innocent and the guilty alike.” (blurb)

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Artstuffs, by Melody Wang – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

40593Artstuffs, by Melody Wang
Toronto, Ontario, The artist, November 2016, $20.00 (unpaged [48 pages]).

This is not a book as much as a book-format folio of 48 pages of the artist’s color illustrations, drawings, and sketches, on thick glossy paper. There is no subject. Like most artist’s sketchbooks, this is a hodgepodge of whatever the artist has felt like drawing.

What Melody Wang has felt most like drawing is anthropomorphic animals. There are Constable Nips and Inspector Porkington, of her student film. There are rabbits, pigs, and other animals in late-Victorian dress. Even when she is sketching the plants in a greenhouse, she usually has added an anthropomorphic animal or two. Her birds, “Wingfolk”, are particularly wonderful. A couple, such as the one of a man turning into a mandrill to his young daughter’s delight, cry out for having a story behind them.

Some of these are in black-&-white linework, but most are in full color. There are experiments in pastels and linocuts as well.

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Urchin and the Raven War, by M. I. McAllister – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

51Nh4vyr8BL._SY346_Urchin and the Raven War, by M. I. McAllister. (The Mistmantle Chronicles, Book 4.) Illustrated by Omar Rayyan.
NYC, Hyperion Books for Children, October 2008, hardcover $17.99 (284 pages), Kindle $6.99.

Urchin and the Rage Tide, by M. I. McAllister. (The Mistmantle Chronicles, Book 5.) Illustrated by Omar Rayyan.
NYC, Disney • Hyperion Books, July 2010, hardcover $17.99 (268 pages), Kindle $6.99.

This is a guilty review. I reviewed the first three Mistmantle Chronicles for Cubist’s Anthro magazine in 2007 and 2008. Then Anthro ceased publication. An additional complication was that the first three books appeared first as British paperbacks, with the American hardcovers as reprints. When I looked for any subsequent books, I looked on Amazon.uk and didn’t find any. This was because there weren’t any more British editions. Books 4 and 5 were only published in America. So I never reviewed them when they were first published.

Fortunately, they are still available, so I am correcting that error now. The Mistmantle Chronicles are technically children’s books, but they are very similar to Brian Jacques’ Redwall novels, and those are enjoyed by readers of all ages. If you are fond of serious adventures featuring talking animals, don’t miss The Mistmantle Chronicles.

The setting of Urchin of the Riding Stars (January 2005), Urchin and the Heartstone (April 2006), and The Heir of Mistmantle (March 2007) is the isolated island of Mistmantle, hidden by thick sea mists (I was going to say fog, but McAllister makes a distinction between fog and mists). It is a kingdom shared by four British woodland animal species living in harmony: hedgehogs, moles, otters, and squirrels. When the series starts, Mistmantle is ruled by good King Brushen, a hedgehog. But there have been other dynasties in the past, and there is no prejudice against a new king from one of the other species. Whenever a dynasty does not have an heir, the senior captain becomes the next king. The captain (there are traditionally three) is a combination of a royal advisor and leader of the royal guards.

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Goddess, by Arilin Thorferra – book review by Greyflank.

by Patch O'Furr

Goddess by Arilin Thorferra – guest review submitted by Bill Kieffer, AKA Grayflank (author of The Goat: Building a Perfect Victim.)  See also Fred Patten’s review of Goddess.  Guests are invited to submit articles to: patch.ofurr(at)gmail.com.

GoddessA childhood full of monster of the week movies made me into the horse I am today. As a horror fan, giants hold a very special place in my heart. Giants played no small (ahem) part in helping me see monsters as more often dangerously misunderstood creatures than outright evil figures.

And, yet, I don’t particularly find myself attracted to the giant mythos. Not that I’m against Macrofurry stuff. I do like transformation stories and I do like submissive characters; so there’s quite a bit of overlap there with size shifting.

In this tale, set in a furry universe in a vague period prior to Hawaii’s statehood, Russel the cougar is looking to become a literature professor at a very posh American University in San Francisco. It’s probably in the 1950’s, even if the villain of the piece, Cornelius Bennett, is known as a “rail baron.” The first few pages felt nearly as staid and boring as any academic event that one might expect, but when the curvaceous otter Kailani enters the scene, things to pick up. I enjoyed every scene Kailani was in; even the scene where they are discussing The Great Gatsby. She is simply one of those people who are larger than life. *ahem*

And it’s to the authors credit that Kailani’s robust presence doesn’t overshadow the other characters in the scene with her. Russell becomes a bigger personality when he’s with her and, later, trying to be with her. Often in stories with this type of transformation from quiet protagonist with a plan to hero of the tale, the author relies on the cast to tell the hero/heroine that she changed. Here, I felt it.

No one had to tell me.

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The Art of Moana, by Jessica Julius and Maggie Malone – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

9781452155364_flatcoverThe Art of Moana, by Jessica Julius and Maggie Malone. Preface by John Lasseter. Foreword by Ron Clements and John Musker.
San Francisco, CA, Chronicle Books, November 2016, hardcover $40.00 (160 pages), Kindle $16.19.

Moana is a 103-minute 3D computer-animated comedy fantasy feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, released on November 23rd, 2016. The Art of Moana is a coffee-table, full-color art book describing that film, and its making, in detail. Jessica Julius and Maggie Malone, the book’s authors, are both veteran executives at Walt Disney Animation. Julius wrote The Art of Big Hero Six and The Art of Zootopia. The preface is by John Lasseter, the director responsible for turning the Pixar and Disney studios into the powerhouses of theatrical feature animation in the last two decades. The foreword is by Ron Clements and John Musker, the co-directors of many other Disney features including The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.

The Art of Moana is a de luxe art book about the film and its making, with detailed visual samples and background information. For those interested in the film, this book is worth getting for the names of all the characters alone. The rejected preliminary designs of the main characters will be fascinating, also.

The film’s plot is summarized in its official blurb.

“Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world ventured across the Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped—and no one today knows why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios, Moana is a CG-animated adventure about a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder and fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui and together they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed adventure, encountering enormous fiery creatures and impossible odds.”

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