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The Art of Racing in the Rain; A Novel, by Garth Stein – review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

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

The Art of Racing in the Rain; A Novel, by Garth Stein
NYC, HarperCollinsPublishers/Harper, May 2008, hardcover $23.95 (321 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $9.99.

“Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature. And when I occasionally step over the line and into the world of the melodramatic, it is what I must do in order to communicate clearly and effectively. In order to make my point understood without question. I have no words I can rely on because, much to my dismay, my tongue was designed long and flat and loose, and therefore, is a horribly ineffective tool for pushing food around my mouth while chewing, and an even less effective tool for making clever and complicated polysyllabic sounds that can be linked together to form sentences. And that’s why I’m here now waiting for Denny to come home – he should be here soon – lying on the cool tiles of the kitchen floor in a puddle of my own urine.” (p. 1)

The narrator is Enzo, a mixed-breed retriever, the pet dog of Denny Swift, a human retired racecar driver. Enzo is dying of canine old age, but he is looking forward eagerly to his death. He has educated himself by watching television with Denny, and has accepted a documentary on Mongolian belief in reincarnation as reality. He believes that when he dies as a dog, he will be reborn as a human and will become Denny’s best friend.

The novel is Enzo’s autobiography.

“I remember the heat on the day I left the farm. Every day was hot in Spangle, and I thought the world was just a hot place because I never knew what cold was about. I had never seen rain, didn’t know much about water. Water was the stuff in the buckets that the older dogs drank, and it was the stuff the alpha man sprayed out of the hose and into the faces of dogs who might want to pick a fight. But the day Denny arrived was exceptionally hot. My littermates and I were tussling around like we always did, and a hand reached into the pile and found my scruff and suddenly I was dangling high in the air.

‘This one,’ a man said.” (p. 11)

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Dazzle Resplendent: Adventures of a Misanthropic Dog, by Scott Bradfield – a book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

41vJbrcNeyLDazzle Resplendent: Adventures of a Misanthropic Dog, by Scott Bradfield.
London, Red Rabbit Books, January 2017, trade paperback $9.99 (174 pages), Kindle $4.99.

Scott Bradfield has been a professor at universities in California, Connecticut, and London. He is also a literary reviewer, and an author of short stories. This is a collection of his eight Dazzle stories, originally published in literary magazines and Fantasy & Science Fiction between 1988 and 2011. Many of them have been also collected in earlier Bradfield collections, but this is the first collection of all eight of them.

Dazzle has been described as a wise-cracking talking dog, but he is more accurately a sardonic motor-mouth who talks incessantly whether anyone is listening or not. Here is how I described “Dazzle Redux” in my review of Bradfield’s Hot Animal Love: Tales of Modern Romance, for Anthro #10, March/April 2007:

“Dazzle, now living as a feral dog in the mountains around Los Angeles with a complacent bitch and her pups, is happy; but could be happier if he would learn to just shut up!

“Maybe I’m not all I should be in the family skills department,” Dazzle confessed that night to his erstwhile mate, Edwina. “But getting through to those kids of yours is like having a conversation with a block of wood, I swear. If I try to instruct them in the most basic math and science skills, they’re not interested. If I try to teach them which way to look when crossing the street, they’re still not interested. If I try to point out the most obvious cultural contradictions of multinational capitalism, why, just forget about it. They’re really not interested. If you can’t eat it or fuck it, it’s not important; that’s their attitude.”(Etc., etc.; Edwina is sleeping through all this. pg. 31)

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The Companions, by Sheri S. Tepper – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

THCMPNNS2003The Companions, by Sheri S. Tepper.
NYC, HarperCollinsPublishers/Eos, September 2003, hardcover $25.95 ([vi +] 452 pages), Kindle $9.99.

In the far, far future, the galaxy is being explored and colonized, and Earth is incredibly overpopulated. The Worldkeeper Council government, supported by the humans-only IGI-HFO political majority, declares that all animals (only pet dogs, cats, and small cage birds are left by this time) are to be exterminated because they take up too much room and use up too much air. The tiny underground movement that wants to keep the animals alive, called arkists because they have accumulated spaceships to use as arks to evacuate the remaining animals from Earth, decide to take them to Treasure, the moon of a newly-discovered and poorly-explored world covered in moss, where they can be hidden in safety. Jewel Delis, the narrator, is an arkist who goes from overcrowded Earth to care for the “companions” of humans, especially the dogs.

The Companions contains dialogue, but mostly Tepper writes in long, blocky narrative paragraphs:

“Earth scared me at first. The towers were huge, each a mile square and more than two hundred stories high. Podways ran along every tenth floor, north on the east side of each tower and south on the west side. Up one level, they went west on the north side and east on the south side. They stopped at the pod lobbies on each corner, so when you were on one, it went woahmp-clatter, rhmmm, woahmp-clatter, whoosh. That’s a pod-lobby stop, a slow trip across the street, another pod-lobby stop, then a mile long whoosh, very fast. The pod-lobbies were full of people, too, and that’s the clatter part, the scary part. Taddeus and I saw more people in one pod-lobby than we’d ever seen together anywhere on Mars, and many of them were dressed in fight colors: Tower 59 against Tower 58, Sector 12 against Sector 13, all of them pushing and shoving and tripping over each other. Often they got into fights or screaming fits. It took us a while to figure out how to dodge them and keep out of their way, but when we got good at it, it turned into a kind of game, and we rode the podways for fun. It was a lot safer than it sounds, because there are so many monitors on the pods that people are afraid to do anything really wicked unless they’re over the edge. Tad and I thought part of the fun was spotting people that were about to go over the edge. We could almost always tell.” (p. 18)

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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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Scarlett: Star on the Run – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

scarlett_COVERfinalwebScarlett: Star on the Run, by Susan Schade and Jon Buller. Illustrated by Jon Buller.
NYC, Papercutz, November 2015, trade paperback $14.99 (173 pages), Kindle $8.81.

Here is another all-ages novel by Susan Schade & Jon Buller (wife & husband) in their signature format of alternating chapters in comic-book format and in traditional-novel text. (I reviewed their three-novel The Fog Mound in 2007.) It is mostly for 8- to 12-year-old children, but it has aspects that adult furry fans will enjoy. This would be a simplistic talking-animal comic book/novel for young children, if it weren’t for the revelation that the talking animals have been scientifically made intelligent and given speech.

Is Shane Pafco, the dictatorial owner of Pafco Studios, a movie producer/director or a Mad Scientist? What year is Scarlett set in, with futuristic cars and flying spycams? When Scarlett, the cat movie star of Pafco Studios, gets the chance to escape, she is quick to take it even into a snowy, freezing outdoors. She is lucky enough to be taken in by grouchy old Frank Mole, a half-crazy, gun-waving hermit who doesn’t trust any people and hears voices. He believes that a talking cat is only part of his delusion; and when Scarlett finds out that Trotter, Pafco’s experimental talking dog, has followed her, she fast-talks Frank into believing that he needs a dog, too. Scarlett wants to be a natural cat and catch mice, until Frank’s messy, vermin-filled cabin gives her the opportunity to do so.

“I don’t know,” she muses. “Something about all that SKIN and HAIR is making me lose my appetite.” (p. 29)

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Unnaturals: The Battle Begins – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

UnnaturalUnnaturals [1]: The Battle Begins, by Devon Hughes. Illustrated by Owen Richardson.
NYC, HarperCollins Publishers/Katherine Tegen Books, October 2015, hardcover $16.99 ([5] + 335 [+ 4] pages), Kindle $9.99.

Unnaturals (the animals in the story are called “the Unnaturals”) is a fantasy-adventure series for 8- to 12-year-old readers; grades 3 to 7. The standard formula is to produce 4 or 5 annual serialized novels, each up to the last ending on a minor conclusion and cliffhanger leading to the next.

The futuristic city of Lion’s Head is populated by both humans and feral domestic animals; in this case, dogs. The story starts with two dogs of one alley pack, Castor and his brother Runt. The pack is led by the brutal Alpha. Castor and Runt have a German shepherd mother and a Mexican wolf father. Since this is a fantasy, the animals can converse intelligently in “animal talk”.

“The brothers ran together, matching step for step, breath for breath. The farther they went into the city, the taller and more packed together the black glass towers grew. The domed walkways that ran between them crisscrossed until they blocked out every last bit of sun. It was never dark, though – every side of every building flashed dozens of lifelike images each minute: political nonsense and Lion’s Head news. Pictures selling things that glittered and things that glowed and things that promised to change your life. Humans like you never saw them in real life – with faces three stories tall instead of tiny dots, sitting outside, grinning up at the sun with exposed pink and brown flesh, looking like they weren’t afraid of all the things crawling up their upturned noses through the air. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Mad Dogs and Englishmen, by Paul Magrs – Book Review By Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

Mad_Dogs_and_EnglishmenMad Dogs and Englishmen, by Paul Magrs.
London, BBC Books, January 2002, paperback £5.99 (249 pages).

Doctor Who is massively popular, but his adventures do not seem to offer much for furry fandom. But they do overlap in “The 100th Novel in the Record-Breaking BBC Worldwide Doctor Who Series”, to quote the back-cover blurb. Mad Dogs and Englishmen features the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann, 1996-2005) and his Companions at the time, Fitz Kreiner and Anji Kapoor. The novel is also a parody of J. R. R. Tolkien’s writing of The Lord of the Rings.

The first chapter is about Professor Reginald Tyler, a reclusive British university don who spends his life from 1917 to his death in 1974 writing and rewriting his magnum opus The True History of Planets, “an epic of dwarves and swords and wizardry. And definitely no poodles. Or at least there weren’t when the Doctor read it.” (blurb) When Prof. Tyler dies, his widow takes his towering manuscript to a publisher.

“She was the one who had hoiked out the dusty manuscript of the ongoing book and promptly sold it for a bomb.

One that set off reverberations everywhere.

Up and down the length of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries on Earth, and other worlds besides.

Notably the dogworld.” (p. 3) Read the rest of this entry »