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Special Feature, by Charles V DeVet – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

UnknownSpecial Feature, by Charles V. DeVet.
NYC, Avon Books, June 1975, paperback 95¢ (176 pages)

Special Feature is a terrible s-f novel about terrible characters. It is hard to tell which are the more unlikable, the humans or the cat-people. But taken as a noir thriller in which the reader is gradually brought to sympathize with some seriously flawed characters, or as a funky “how many things can you find wrong with this s-f scenario?” quiz, Special Feature is an unusual and fascinating page-turner.

Pentizel, a cat-women from the banned planet Paarae, has stolen a spaceship and flown to Earth. Due to the icy climate of Paarae, she chooses St. Paul, Minnesota in winter in which to secretly hide.

Although her goal is pointedly kept mysterious (except for being given away in the cover blurb), she is immediately identified as arrogant, cruel, and contemptuous of humanity:

“Once inside her room [in a slum hotel], she locked the door, drew in a deep breath and let it out. Her whole body relaxed with the expelled breath. A world lay within her eager grasp, a world in which to lose herself. And a billion decadent weaklings to be maneuvered in any way that suited her.” (p. 8)

Unknown to Pentizel, St. Paul is completely covered by surveillance cameras, in seemingly every street and almost every room of every building. Howard Benidt, manager of TV station RBC, sees the cat-woman’s assault and stealing of a pedestrian’s clothes, and her checking into the flophouse in disguise. Benidt decides to make a “Special Feature” out of this alien invasion of Earth, to boost his channel’s ratings and his own prestige among its management:

“The room was getting warm. Benidt took off his coat and hung it on the back of his chair. ‘Now I want a top-grade build-up on this. Play up strong the potentiality of violence: assault, murder, blood. Make it good. Start cutting in immediately — on whatever program’s running on the channel now – with tantalizers. Don’t tell them exactly what the feature will be. Let them use their imagination. Build up their curiosity – and impatience – for the start of the biggest, live thrill show in the annals of video.” (p. 15)

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Hunters Unlucky, by Abigail Hilton – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

UntitledHunters Unlucky, by Abigail Hilton. Illustrated by Sarah Cloutier. Maps by Jeff McDowall.
Winter Park, FL, Pavonine Books, July 2014, trade paperback $19.99 ([9 +] 672 pages), Kindle $9.99.

“He walked in darkness. How long he’d been there, he could not say. Occasionally, he distinguished the silhouettes of rocks or faint light reflecting off pools of water. He stayed well away from the water. Sometimes he heard noises – rustling, the rattle of pebbles, a soft sigh like fur over stone.

I will not run.

But he walked faster. He was looking for something … something he did not think he would find. He heard dripping, and that was normal, but then he heard a sharp patter, like an animal shaking water from its fur. Another swish, closer this time.

I will not break. I will not run.

Somewhere in the darkness, something began to laugh. ‘Hello, Arcove.’

Then he ran.” (p. 112)

Hunters Unlucky is a collection of Hilton’s five separate novels in that series; Storm, Arcove, Keesha, Teek, and Treace. They were also broadcast on her podcast beginning on November 10, 2014 and serialized two episodes per week through July 2, 2015. But they flow together smoothly into a single novel. Arcove, for instance, ends with a real cliffhanger. Get them all together in one handy book.

Hunters Unlucky has been compared favorably by many reviewers with Watership Down, The Jungle Book, the Warrior Cats series by “Erin Hunter”, and practically every dramatic natural talking-animal fantasy. It is different in being devoted (at first) to two groups of fictitious animals on the large island of Lidian; the ferryshaft, basically intelligent omnivorous furry deer or llamas, and the lion-like creasia cats. Other intelligent animals include the large foxlike curb, the eaglelike fly-ary, the telshee and the lishty, both sea mammals roughly analogous to furry sea lions. There are also many dumb prey animals such as sheep, rabbits, frogs, and turtles, which are sometimes eaten as well as grass by the omnivorous ferryshaft.

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Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, by Lawrence M. Schoen – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

UnknownBarsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, by Lawrence M. Schoen
NYC, A Tim Doherty Associates Book/Tor Books, December 2015, hardcover $25.99 (384 pages), Kindle $12.99.

In the very far future, civilization has spread throughout the galaxy, but there are no longer any humans. Humanity has been replaced by the descendants of uplifted animals.

Chapter One, “A Death Detoured”, features Rüsul, an elderly Fant, alone and naked, on a raft six days at sea. He is on his death journey, the traditional final rite of passage of every Fant on the world of Barsk. Rüsul expects to sail alone until he dies. He does not expect to be picked up by a spaceship of Cans (canines; Dogs) commanded by a Cheetah, Nonyx-Captain Selishta. She tells her Cans, “‘Maybe this one will know something useful about whatever shrubs and leaves the drug comes from. Hold him here a moment while the rest of the crew secures his flotsam, and then put him below in one of the vacant isolation cells.’” (p. 19)

The importance of Barsk’s drug, koph, is explained in Chapter Four, “Solutions in Memory”, in this description of Lirlowil the Otter and her ability to talk with the dead:

“Beautiful by Otter standards, she’d spent the last few years enjoying the peaks of privilege earned not by any acts of her own, but by the random chance that gifted her with being able to both read minds and talk with the dead. Unless you had the misfortune to be one of those disgusting Fant on Barsk, you could go your entire life without encountering a Speaker. The drug that triggered the ability was fiendishly expensive, and rarely worked the first few times. Alliance science had yet to determine what genetic markers resulted in the talent. Off Barsk, Speakers were unlikely, though hardly uncommon. True telepaths though, people who could effortlessly slip inside the mind of other beings and sample their memories and knowledge as easily as flipping the pages of a book, were orders of magnitude more rare.

The number of individuals with both sets of abilities would make for a very small dinner party indeed. Lirlowil’s mental gifts emerged with puberty and elevated her social status a thousand-fold. The discovery that her talents included Speaking occurred a couple of years later when she’d sampled some koph at a party and began seeing nefshons over the next hour’s time.” (pgs. 42-43)

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Cats on the Prowl, by Nancy C. Davis – book reviews by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

cats on the prowl book 1Cats on the Prowl, Book One, by Nancy C. Davis
Melbourne, Victoria, Collins Collective, August 2015, paperback $7.89 (iii + 176 pages), Kindle $2.99.

Cats on the Prowl, Book Two, by Nancy C. Davis
Melbourne, Victoria, Collins Collective, October 2015, paperback $7.98 (iii + 174 pages), Kindle $2.99.

Cats on the Prowl, Book Three, by Nancy C. Davis
Melbourne, Victoria, Collins Collective, November 2015, paperback $7.98 (iii + 170 pages), Kindle $2.99.

All three novels have the subtitle “A Cat Detective Cozy Mystery Series”. They are set in very large type. Make that:

They are set in very large type.

They would probably be less than 100 pages each in normal-sized type. Nevertheless, like most cat cozies, they are presented as adult novels, although they are more suitable for Young Adults.

It also depends upon how you define “cat cozy mysteries”. They are usually light mystery novels with a human young woman amateur detective, who is helped or at least followed in her investigations by her pet cats. The three Cats on the Prowl novels are unusual in having anthropomorphized cat detectives doing all the crime-solving.

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Cat Crimebusters and Other P.I.’s On Paws, Part 3 – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Cat Crimebusters, Part 1.

Cat Crimebusters, Part 2.

cat on the edgeThis third animal crime series is what I consider to be the first in which the cats genuinely detect to solve human crimes. No pussyfooting in the background while the human amateur detective solves the crimes. This is the Joe Grey series by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. Joe and his feline assistants Dulcie and Kit are talking cats fully in the human world. They have their human helpers, but they do all the important detecting. There aren’t as many Joe Grey novels as there are Midnight Louie or Mrs. Murphy novels, but there are eighteen; and there will be a nineteenth next February.

Cat on the Edge. April 1996.

Cat Under Fire. November 1996.

Cat Raise the Dead. May 1997.

Cat in the Dark. January 1999.

Cat to the Dogs. January 2000.

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Fuzzy Business 3: End Game, by Amelia Ritner – Book Review by Fred Patten.

by Pup Matthias

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

Fuzzy BusinessFuzzy Business 3: End Game, by Amelia Ritner
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, November 2015, trade paperback $7.99 (173 pages), Kindle $1.99.

You would think that any book in a series subtitled “End Game” would be the final volume, wouldn’t you? Well, maybe you’d be right and maybe not.

In Fuzzy Business (May 2013) and Fuzzy Business 2: Fuzz Harder (December 2013), the young humanimal cat-girl Miara Cooper (she has cat ears, whiskers, a tail, and light fur) in San Francisco in the last half of the 21st Century finds herself the target of PAGE, a brutal anti-humanimal hate group who intend to make her a fatal example of what they do to anyone not 100% human. She is defended by the mysterious hunky coyote-man biker John, who starts out by kidnaping her, and the equally-handsome human Connor who, when she asks for help, comes running with “[…] An AR-15, a scoped hunting rifle with a wooden stock, a pump action shotgun, two .38 revolvers, a Glock identical to the one that John had pointed earlier, a laser-equipped Glock 26 that John snickered at when he saw, ten varying boxes of ammunition, a stun gun, a .22 semiautomatic rifle with an obscenely huge magazine of bullets attached to it […]” (Fuzzy Business, p. 113) and a lot more. She also has the help, whether she wants it or not, of pro-humanimal activists who insist on recruiting her into their groups. And PETA. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Cats and More Cats’ anthology to launch at Further Confusion 2016.

by Patch O'Furr

Cats and More Cats Cover

Cats and More Cats; Feline Fantasy Fiction, edited by Fred Patten, is launching at Further Confusion 2016 in San Jose, California over the January 14-18 five-day weekend.  The book can be pre-ordered online from FurPlanet Productions.  It will be for sale on the FurPlanet online catalogue afterwards.

Cats and More Cats is a reprint anthology of 14 short stories and novelettes of feline fantasy fiction (“the best of the best”) from 1989 to the present, most of them out-of-print today, plus a new essay and an extensive bibliography of cat fantasy books.  This is designed to appeal to both s-f & fantasy fans, and all cat-lovers.

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Housepets! Will Do It For Free (Book 6), By Rick Griffin, Book Review By Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

HousepetsHousepets! Will Do It For Free (Book 6), by Rick Griffin.
North Charleston, SC, CreateSpace, November 2015, trade paperback $13.95 (52 pages).

Another year passes, and here is the new annual collection of the Housepets! online comic strip by Rick Griffin. Housepets! has appeared each Monday-Wednesday-Friday since June 2, 2008. It has won the Ursa Major Award for the Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip for every year since! – for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Umpty million thousand furry fans can’t be wrong.

Book 6 contains the strips from June 19, 2013 to May 30, 2014; story arcs #70, “Mice To Meet You” to #77, “Heaven’s Not Enough, part 1”, plus the one-off gag strips before and between these.

Housepets! is the story of the dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and other pets of Babylon Gardens, a typical residential suburban neighborhood – in an alternate universe. The animals are larger than in our universe (but not human-sized), can talk, are usually bipedal, and address their human owners as “Mom” and “Dad”. Their status is somewhere between pets and children. Points established over the years are that humans can bequeath their belongings to their pets, who do not need a human guardian; human storekeepers are not allowed to sell catnip to cats; human police forces have an auxiliary of Police Dogs who are not all police dogs; the pets comment sardonically on how they can go naked in public but their human “parents” can’t; and – lots of other stuff. Read the rest of this entry »

Ninja Timmy, By Henrik Tamm – Book Review By Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Ninja TimmyNinja Timmy, by Henrik Tamm. Illustrated by the author.
NYC, Delacorte Press, November 2015, hardcover $14.99 (211 [+ 2] pages), Kindle $9.99.

This children’s book was originally published in 2013 in Sweden as Ninja Timmy Och De Stulna Skratten, although it was written in English. Henrik Tamm is described in an About the Author as “a conceptual designer in Hollywood involved in various animated and live-action projects” (p. [213]), including the Shrek and Chronicles of Narnia movie series.

This children’s book for 8- to 12-year-olds (grades 3 to 7) is technically too young for furry adult readers. But, like many CGI animated features, it will be of interest due to the setting (a Medievalish European metropolis inhabited by anthropomorphic animals and humans together), the full-color illustrations on almost every double-page spread, and the plot of natural and magical evil and the young animals who fight it.

The visual richness is evident from the moment of opening the book. The front double-page endpapers show a panorama of the city of Elyzandrium busy at midday, with high towers and dirigibles and ascension balloons overhead. The rear endpapers show the same scene but at night, dark blue and with empty streets, but with the city’s windows all alight. Read the rest of this entry »

Typewriter Emergencies, Edited By Weasel – Book Review By Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Typewriter EmergenciesTypewriter Emergencies, 2015 Edition [edited by Weasel]
Manvel, TX, Weasel Press, October 2015, trade paperback $16.95 (179 pages), Kindle $3.99.

The blurb says, “Welcome to the first release of Typewriter Emergencies, a collection of psychologically damaging and hard hitting furry literature.” The implication is that this is the first of an ongoing series of furry stories that the blurb goes on to describe as “gut-wrenching”. “Weasel Press is proud to have our first furry collection on the books and we hope you will enjoy every moment this intense anthology has to offer.”

The 13 stories, with a cover by Kala “Miryhis” Quinn, are a quality mixed-bag of tales by furry veteran authors, non-furry writers who are nonetheless experienced authors, and at least one new writer. Several are examples of experimental writing.

“The Dying Game” by Amethyst Mare shows this in its second line. “Great Britain crawled into December like a raindrop tricking down glass.” (p. 9) Heather Rees, a “young, two-legged palomino equine”, seems determined to be miserable. “The bridge was crusty with moss and lichen, the green and yellow reminding her of disease ridden flesh, something that ate away at the outside of a fur while the inside lost the will to live.” The writing emphasizes a “gut-wrenching” vocabulary. “Cars on the road to her right snarled past, lifting her straightened mane up from her neck and into her face in a rush of angry air.” (p. 10) Heather is on her way to see Mikey, a young cat lover who has been horribly maimed by a passing train. “Michael had done no wrong. He had only been spraying graffiti. Where was the harm in that?” Well … “Michael had to be all right for her. He could live without an arm or a leg. He had to.” Notice that Michael has to be all right for her. The story is a blend of poetic wordplay (“Outside, the sky dipped its paintbrush into the grey-blue that was twilight, drawing a fresh scene across its daily canvas.”) and “psychologically damaging” descriptions, such as Michael’s hospital bed’s “sickly green curtain”, his husky nurse’s “clinical smile permanently fixed on her face [that] never reached her eyes”, and Heather’s mare mother screaming at her (ignoring the hospital’s rule for quiet) for wasting her time at Michael’s bedside instead of earning money at her job. Read the rest of this entry »