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Category: Reviews

Tomori’s Legacy, by Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Tomori’s Legacy, by Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, May 2018, trade paperback, $15.99 (165 pages), Kindle $4.99.

Tomori’s Legacy is the Brackhaus’ Packmasters #3. I reviewed #1, The Relics of Thiala, and #2, Raid on Sullin, favorably. This #3 is the shortest, but it’s no less rip-roaring, space-opera fun. The cover, again by Darbaras (Dávid László Tóth), features Cat, the series’ narrator.

The Packmasters series is set in a far-future interstellar community. Cat (the narrator), Ferret, Bear, and Wolf are four bestiae, bioengineered anthro-animen in hiding, led by Ana, a young human with semi-suppressed Packmaster powers. The bestiae are considered beneath contempt by most humans, and were enslaved by an arrogant cult called the Packmasters who used them to try to conquer the galaxy. The Packmasters were apparently all killed by the rest of humanity in a bloody civil war a generation ago, and the bestiae were all slaughtered except for a few that powerful humans kept as pets. Ana, a mistreated adopted orphan now in her early twenties, escapes with the help of Cat. They gather three other bestiae and discover that Ana has Packmaster powers; but instead of her 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 (plus the mostly-childlike Ferret). 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 Relics of Thiala ends with Tomori and Bear dead. In Raid on Sullin, the remaining four form a tighter family, Bear is replaced as pilot by Ferret, and they are joined by Ten, a battle-hardened gazelle who is no less deadly for being a herbivore.

To quote the beginning of the blurb for Tomori’s Legacy, “Viscount Tomori is long dead, but his affairs just don’t want to rest in peace.
[…] Now Ana and her pack are part of the power struggle among the crime lords of the Rim, and have to return to Darkside before things get out of hand.”

The climax of The Relics of Thiala is the bestiae and Ana stealing Viscount Tomori’s space yacht and fleeing to Vandal, a criminally-owned space station; Tomori’s coming after them; and the fight in which he and Bear are killed. Raid on Sullin begins with the authorities of Vandal ruling that they acted in legitimate self-defense, and “to the victor belongs the spoils”. Ana, Cat, Ferret, and Wolf are the new owners of the Lollipop. They are immediately sidetracked into the adventure of Raid on Sullin.

Tomori’s Legacy begins with their return (with Ten, the gazelle) to Vandal, where they are stunned to learn that they weren’t given only the Lollipop. They are the new owners of all Tomori’s property. Since he had run his clan as his personal possession, they now own his criminal businesses, including a shitload of thugs and schemers who each want to take over and become the new boss of Clan Tomori.

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Dangerous Thoughts, by James L. Steele – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Dangerous Thoughts, by James L. Steele.
Grove City, OH, KTM Publishing, June 2018, trade paperback, $15.00 (369 [+1] pages).

Dangerous Thoughts is Archeons, Book 1. The setting is so unusual that it needs to be quoted at length:

“A bubble in spacetime expanded from a single point at eye level. It grew wider and wider until it seemed to rest on the circle of stones off the pathway. The bubble wavered and puckered as it held open against the pressure of the surrounding spacetime trying to collapse it.

The opening caught the attention of several inhabitants of this world, and they approached it. On the other side they saw a planet none of them recognized immediately, of fiery volcanoes and two daytime stars in the sky, one red, the other white. Standing on this alien world were the two sentient beings who had opened this hole. The natives of this world instantly recognized them as Deka and Kylac, two Archeons from the planet Rel.

[…]

The Relians visible through the wavering sphere approached it. They grew larger, filled up the opening until finally they emerged from its surface. The first to step through was a theropod covered in blue scales so dark they were nearly black. A red stripe ran up the top of his snout and down his back to the tip of his tail. Immediately after his tail exited the portal, a bipedal canine with digitigrade legs and a slightly hunched posture followed. His belly was white, his forearms were black, and the tip of his tail was white as well. The rest of his body was covered in red fur. They stood side by side and observed the people as the unstable sphere closed behind them.” (pgs. 3-4)

The two Archeons, shown on the cover by ThemeFinland, are Deka, the theropod, and Kylac, the mammal. They have just recovered from an explosion that killed their fellow Relians and destroyed the portals, “leaving hundreds of planets without links to other worlds.” (blurb):

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The Adventures of Peter Gray, by Nathan Hopp – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

The Adventures of Peter Gray, by Nathan Hopp.
Green Bay, WI, Written Dreams Publishing, April 2018, hardcover, $25.50 (248 pages), trade paperback $16.99.

The Adventures of Peter Gray is told as an autobiography, being written by an elderly Peter Gray, a wolf Furren, in a retirement home in New York City, presumably in the 1960s or later. (The Epilogue gives a specific date.) There is a reference to watching I Love Lucy on a color TV. He seems to be strongly religious:

“No one stops playing their fancy radios, singing ‘Top of the World’ or watching I Love Lucy on their colored televisions to ever be thankful for what’s been given. Or is to be given. Nobody kneels down and thanks the Lord for how much a single year can impact who you are, who you have become, and who you love. No one even thanks Him that much anymore.” (p. 8)

The autobiography begins on New Year’s Day, 1899, when Peter is a homeless 12-year-old street orphan freezing in the alleys of lower Manhattan. His descriptions make it clear that this is a funny-animal world. There are humans, but they are rare compared to the Furren, who seem almost exactly like the humans:

“A Catholic raccoon, Lance Turner was no taller or older than me, but he was more dedicated to his faith. He was also one of my best friends. We’d known each other for nearly five years, and the raccoon and I had gotten some real bruises from our meets. He was a funny guy when not quoting scripture, though I couldn’t say the same about his older twin brothers.” (p. 15)

“As the she-wolves gathered the items they needed, I glanced at the Furren helping them. It was Alan himself, a six-foot mouse with black fur, an unpleasant face, and covered in burly muscles. I knew the guy, and had once stolen a package of cheese from him earlier in my youth. I prayed the mouse didn’t recognize me.” (p. 16)

“‘Hey, cub. Would ya’ like a new pair of boots?’ a raccoon vendor asked me after he’d crossed the road. He had a single tooth and his musky stench made me gag. I didn’t try hiding my distance. ‘These are made of the finest leather in all of the East Coast, and I’ll give half –’

‘—and I’m a Crown Prince of England. Not interested,’ I mumbled, passing by. ‘We can’t even wear boots.’” (p. 19)

So the Furren don’t wear footwear, at least. The humans are roughly analogous to the African-Americans:

“‘Gosh…’ Lance gasped. ‘Are those…?’

‘Humans?’ I nodded, still staring. I’d heard of them, but had never seen two this close. ‘What else could they be?’

Humans were a very strange species, having no fur or tail as a distinct feature to the bodies, nor any claws or large fangs to hunt. Their short, angular noses didn’t smell as good compared to wolves or bloodhounds. I remember once reading in a newspaper that humans were scattered across the planet and often thrived in bands like packs, keeping together. Others preferred the cities over countryside, but humans were kept far below the Furren in the food chain everywhere. Always under the Furren, especially the carnivores.

It wasn’t until decades ago that they were freed from the chains of slavery in America, thanks to a powerful wolf in the White House. Some, mainly canines, still look down on them as dirtier than sooty snow, but I chose not to. As long as they had a stove and coal, any human was a friend of mine.” (pgs. 21-22)

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Endling: [Book One] The Last, by Katharine Applegate – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Endling: [Book One] The Last, by Katharine Applegate. Illustrated by Max Kostenko. Map,
NYC, HarperCollinsPublishers/Harper, May 2018, hardcover, $17.99 ([vi +] 383 pages), Kindle $10.99.

This first book in a Young Adult fantasy series, recommended for 8 to 12-year-olds, is narrated by Byx, a young dairne; apparently the last of the dairnes – the endling.

“My parents feared I would be the first among us to die when trouble came, and trouble, they knew, was fast approaching.

I was small. And sometimes disappointing.

But I knew I could be brave as well. I was not afraid to be the first to die.

I just did not want to be the last to live.

I did not want to be the endling.” (p. 5)

Dairnes are a golden-furred doglike people with marsupial-like pouches and arm membranes (glissaires) that can glide, like flying squirrels.

“Dairnes were often mistaken for dogs. We share many physical similarities.

Dogs, however, lack opposable thumbs. They can’t walk upright. They aren’t able to glide from tree to tree. They can’t speak to humans.

And dogs aren’t – forgive me – the sharpest claws in the hunt, if you take my meaning.” (p. 4)

Byx lives in the Kingdom of Nedarra, a large land shown on endpaper maps. Nedarra has nine talking animal species including six primary species:

“That was the closest I had ever come to humans, one of the six great governing species. Those six – humans, dairnes, felivets, natites, terramants, and raptidons – had once been considered the most powerful in our land. But now all of them – even the humans – were controlled by the despotic Murdano.” (pgs. 7-8)

Other talking animals of Nedarra include the wobbyks, the starlons, and the gorellis. Below those are the non-talking animals like chimps, whales, horses, crows, crickets, and so on. That’s Byx and Tobble, a wobbyk, on the cover by Max Kostenko. The wobbyks have three tails and are fierce fighters – according to Tobble:

“‘It’s only fair to warn you,’ said Tobble. ‘You do not want to see an angry wobbyk. We are fearsome to behold. I in particular am known for my fierce temper.’

‘Thank you, Tobble,’ I said. ‘But –’

‘Back home they called me Tobble the Terrible.’” (p. 93)

Byx has never seen a human, but they have been described to her.

“And I learned, most importantly, that humans were never to be trusted, and always to be feared.” (p. 8)

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Snow in the Year of the Dragon, by H. Leighton Dickson – Book Review by Fred Patten, who was born in the Year of the Dragon

by Pup Matthias

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

Snow in the Year of the Dragon, by H. Leighton Dickson.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, May 2018, trade paperback, $19.99 (i + 335 pages), Kindle $2.99.

Snow in the Year of the Dragon is dedicated “To Readers of Infinite Patience”. I assume that’s because this is Book 4 of Dickson’s The Rise of the Upper Kingdom series; and it’s been five years since Book 3, Songs in the Year of the Cat.

Has it been worth the wait? YES!!

To summarize, it’s 5,000 years in the future. Civilization has disappeared. In the Far East a new Oriental culture is forming, the Upper Kingdom, a blend of ancient Chinese and Japanese customs with bioengineered animal peoples. To quote the blurb for Book 1, To Journey in the Year of the Tiger:

“This is a powerful, post-apocalyptic story of lions and tigers, wolves and dragons, embracing and blending the cultures of Dynastic China, Ancient India and Feudal Japan. Half feline, half human, this genetically altered world has evolved in the wake of the fall of human civilization.”

In Book 1, Kirin Wynegarde-Grey, a genetic lion-man (yes, he has a tail) is the young Captain of the Empress’ personal guard. While the rest of the great Palace is preparing the celebrations to mark the turning of the Year of the Ox into the Year of the Tiger, he is assigned to leave on a long mission with four others (and several guardsmen). The Upper Kingdom is guided by a Council of Seven, revered Seers whose visions have infallibly led the Empire in wisdom and peace for centuries. Now something, or someone, is killing the Seers, one by one, by unknown means, always in their beds at the close of the Second Watch of the night. Kirin and his companions must discover the cause and stop it.

The four others are Kirin’s adjutant, an aggressive snow leopard woman; the Empire’s Scholar, a young and naïve tigress; the Empire’s Alchemist, an older cheetah-woman of dubious loyalty; and Kerris Wynegarde-Grey, Kirin’s twin but silver-gray where Kirin is golden, the Empire’s Geomancer but a drunken ladies’ man. They have more adventures than they expect, and are led outside the Empire’s borders, into the unknown West (Europe) where they awaken surviving scientists of the forgotten human civilization from suspended cold-sleep. In Book 3, Songs in the Year of the Cat, Kirin and the others return to the Upper Kingdom, and Kirin becomes the Empire’s Shogun-General to mobilize a defense against the awakened Ancestors and their weapons of mass destruction.

Snow in the Year of the Dragon contains action scenes, but it is worth reading for all of Dickson’s writing:

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The Great & the Small, by A. T. Balsara – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

The Great & the Small, by A. T. Balsara. Illustrated by the author.
London, Ontario, Common Deer Press, August 2017, hardcover, $31.99 (287 [+ 4] pages), Kindle $4.99.

Don’t be scared off by the price. There is also a trade paperback for $14.99. And most of you will get the Kindle edition, anyway.

The Great & the Small begins with a bustling marketplace scene:

“… in the weak December sun, the harbour city’s popular market was bustling with people looking for last minute presents. Middle-Gate Market was festive with its potted evergreen trees and strands of blinking coloured lights. Shiny red balls trembled on the boughs of the tinsel-dressed pinks as salt air gusted up the hill from the sea below and rattled the lights against the rafters where they were strung.

Watching over all of this, under the faux Gothic clock, stood Middle-Gate’s most famous tourist attraction: a brass statue modeled after the gargoyles of Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral. The monster stood on guard, a five-foot winged beast that stood meekly by while tourists thronged around it, snapped selfies, and rubbed the creature’s flared nostrils for luck.” (p. 9)

Then dips beneath it:

“That was the side of the market the tourists saw and the locals loved. They had no idea of the other side, the one that lay below. A distinct world, with its own ways, its own rules: a colony of rats.

Tunnels wound underneath the hill, tooth-carved thoroughfares, veiled from the eyes of humans. There were tunnels high up and tunnels below that snaked deep into the hill’s belly.

The Uppers were dug alongside the city’s swanky cafés and eateries, and food was never far away. But lower down the hill, below the heart of the market, it was different. Tangles of narrow tunnels limped through broken pipes, leaking sewers, and sodden earth, connecting scores of foul smelling, crumbling burrows.

No rat lived in the Lowers by choice. Except one, that is.” (ibid.)

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Solo. T.3, Le Monde Cannibale, by Oscar Martin – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Solo. T.3, Le Monde Cannibale, by Oscar Martin. Illustrated.
Paris, Delcourt, October 2017, hardcover, €16,95 (123 [+ 5] pages).

Thanks, as always with French bandes dessinées, to Lex Nakashima for loaning this to me to review.

Or maybe not. Solo is a three-novel set, and I gave very good reviews to the first two albums. Solo is a bioengineered rat-man warrior in a post-apocalyptic world, trying to build a peaceful home for his wife Lyra and their children. It’s a Conan the Barbarian scenario, full of constant blood, ambushes, gladiatorial combats, rat-vs.-everybody-else warfare, and little else. The action and mood are violent and exhausting, but as long as each album ends with a “to be continued”, there is the hope of a happy ending.

Well, we can forget that about vol, 3, “The Cannibal World”. Solo returns home after an unsuccessful hunt to find it smashed open and Lyra and their three children kidnapped. He searches for them in the human meat farms. He always misses them by days. He’s constantly delayed by fights to the death with humans, monkeys, cats, and bloodthirsty mutants.

On page 67, Solo finds an orphaned puppy. He shifts from searching for his family to caring for the puppy, raising it to become a killer hound. When Solo is eventually killed, the dog avenges him. (But it’s only a momentary victory. We are left to hope that the dog will continue to survive as Solo had.)

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Once a Dog, by Shaune Lafferty Webb – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Once a Dog, by Shaune Lafferty Webb.
Capalaba, Qld, Australia, Jaffa Books, May 2018, trade paperback, $17.00 (319 pages), Kindle $4.15.

Once a Dog is told from the viewpoint of Jesse B. Collie, a young dog on the farm of Mister Overlord. He is no longer a puppy, but he is still too young to be trained to work like Mother, an experienced sheepdog, so he romps happily around the farmyard with his littermates Lil, Zac, Pixie, and Toby. Mister and Missus Overlord are too busy to play with him, but Oldmister Overlord – Mister Overlord’s father, now retired – plays fetch and other games with him.

The first chapter establishes the dogs’ vocabulary. The sun and moon are hot-ball and cold-ball; day and night are bright-light and slight-light; humans are uprights; dogs are packers; sheep are dumbfluffs; barnyard fowls are jumpfly-gabblegabbles, and so on.

One night there is a commotion in the farmhouse, and the next day Oldmister Overlord does not come out to play with Jesse. The reader can tell that he has died the night before, but Jesse only knows that he does not come out any more. Maybe he went away in the strange rolling-house (an ambulance or hearse) that came that night. When Mister and Missus Overlord soon leave in Truck, and Missus Overlord doesn’t close the farm gate tightly, Jesse sets out to follow them and find Oldmister Overlord. They lead him farther than he expects, into the nearby small town which has a bewildering confusion of uprights.

“He had made a big mistake and strayed into hostile territory. And for that, there was only one solution. He’d just have to try harder to smell his way out. So he lowered his nose to the ground, but that prompted an immediate sneeze. Just as he’d feared, the jumble of smells was awfully confusing. And he couldn’t trust his hearing all that well, either. His desperate attempts to single out the unique frequency of any one upright among the discordant sounds around him failed repeatedly, leaving him no choice but to continue down the road almost completely exposed and defenseless. Those packers who had signed at the bush [dogs that had urinated on a bush] had passed this way, too; he could still smell them sure enough.” (p. 29)

Jesse tracks Mister and Missus Overlord into the church where Oldmister Overlord’s funeral is being held. Mister Overlord leads Jesse into Truck (it’s the first time he’s ever been in Truck; he likes the wind blowing through his fur even more than playing ball with Oldmister) and drives him home. Jesse tells his siblings the exciting things that he saw and did, and when Zac doesn’t believe him, he jumps over the fence to prove it to Zac.

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Infurno: The Nine Circles of Furry Hell, Edited by Thurston Howl – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Infurno: The Nine Circles of Furry Hell, edited by Thurston Howl. Illustrated by Drkchaos.
Lansing, MI, Thurston Howl Publications, April 2018, trade paperback, $14.99 (278 [+ 1] pages).

Infurno certainly looks like a descent into Furry Hell. It’s printed in white type on black paper – all 278 pages of it. The full-page illustrations by Drkchaos (identified in the blurb as Joseph Chou) add to the book’s grim aspect.

Actually, Infurno makes a good companion volume to the publisher’s Arcana: A Tarot Anthology, edited by Madison Scott-Clary and also illustrated by Joseph Chou. But where that anthology was weird-horror, this one is more horror-disgusting.

Infurno presents 14 stories themed around the Nine Circles of Dante’s Inferno, divided by a Prologue, eight Interludes, and an Epilogue; unsigned but presumably by the anthology’s editor, Thurston Howl. There are one each for Limbo, Lust, Heresy, and Fraud, and two for Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Violence, and Treachery.

Kyle (sub, jackal) and Terry (dom, squirrel), two gay lovers working alone at Feral Electronics at night, are summoned to the building’s ninth basement floor. (The building doesn’t have nine basements.) There Atha, a mysterious gazelle, leads them further down a staircase.

Atha, their guide into the Inferno, tells them they must witness the final memories of 14 damned souls. Some of the Interludes are more horrific than the stories:

“A three-headed dog as large as a skyscraper loomed over the ocean. The waves themselves, though high and mobile, were thick and viscous, oily yet solid. Breaking the surface all around the dog were drowning souls. When one would breach the surface right below one of the massive heads, the head would swoop down and grab the unfortunate spirit by its head, fling it around it, chew it, and swallow it.” (p. 48) {The sea is shit, not water.]

In “Blur” by Weasel (Limbo), they meet Ely, a white lab mouse who has gotten sick of always giving blow jobs for money and tries to leave that life. “But you can’t stay a whore forever. I started getting tired of sucking dick. The taste of cum started to burn my stomach each time I swallowed.” (p. 18)

In “A New Toy” by Tarl “Voice” Hoch (Lust), Anderson, a fox pornography store owner, is offered ten new Lovecraftian sex toys. “The first impression the toy gave me was of something vagina-pink that I couldn’t make heads of tails of. There were multiple holes that looked like insertion points for a penis, but their locations didn’t make any logical sense.” (p. 38) Moral: don’t stick your prick into any hole if you don’t know where it leads.

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Longtails: The Storms of Spring, by Jaysen Headley – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Longtails: The Storms of Spring, by Jaysen Headley. Map.
Orlando, FL, the author, April 2018, trade paperback, $14.95 (338 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $9.99.

“In a not too distant future, humanity is extinct. The world is now ruled by animals who wield swords, magic and technology to create and protect vast empires. As darkness grows on the horizon, an unlikely hero will be chosen to defend this new world.” (blurb)

I am immediately turned off by this. It’s the difference between the book and the movie of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH/The Secret of NIMH. In the book, things are accomplished through Science. The mice and rats have their intelligence raised through scientific experimentation, but are otherwise unchanged. The new society that the rats build is based on what they need. It doesn’t have lots of electric lights because the rats are used to living without lights. The rats don’t wear clothes because they have fur. They scurry on all fours. Nicodemus, their leader, is a wise rat who studies much. In the movie, the rats walk upright and have built a hidden imitation human town with lots of lighting. They dress in medieval clothes, and Nicodemus is a wizard who can work Magic.

Both the book and the movie have their fans. If you liked the movie, you will probably love Longtails, Book One: The Storms of Spring.

“Biological warfare and radiation during World War 4 have had surprising effects on the creatures of the world. Some for the better. Some for the worse. Raccoons scour the countryside for motorbike parts. Squirrels have taken to the sky aboard flying ships. Danger lurks around every corner.” (p. 1)

Del Hatherhorne is an average brown mouse. “He came to live in an abandoned apartment room in the northern part of the great mouse city of Verden.   His new home was on the third floor of a complex, located at the corner of 14th Street and Larimer – according to their corresponding rusted green street signs at least.” (p. 7) The World War has apparently killed all the humans but left their city intact for the mice to move into. “He’d fallen in love with the vacant studio apartment the moment he’d laid eyes on it. Shelves adorning pale blue walls were filled floor to ceiling with everything from manga (Japanese comics which read right to left), to comics (mostly published by DC but with a spattering of Marvel, Image and Darkhorse), to video games (a wide assortment with role-playing games and puzzlers making up the bulk of it) and even old movies (names like Spielberg, Lucas and Ridley Scott were embossed along the spines of the shimmering boxes).” (p. 8)

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