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Tag: fantasy

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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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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Exploring New Places – Fred Patten’s New Anthology (Press Release)

by Pup Matthias

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

Exploring New Places, edited by Fred Patten, is launching at Anthrocon 2018 in Pittsburgh, PA over the July 4th holiday weekend (July 5-8). The book can be pre-ordered from FurPlanet Productions. It will be for sale on the FurPlanet online catalogue afterwards.

Exploring New Places is an all-original anthology of 19 short stories and novelettes of anthropomorphic animals venturing into unfamiliar places, in their own city, on their own world, in space, or in a different dimension. This anthology is designed to appeal to fans of science-fiction and fantasy.

Whether by the power of music to “send you right out of this world”, or a rabbit spaceship captain searching for the creators of her species; a galactic police agent called to a new planet to solve murders, or alien furries who enter a human university; a gorilla student wandering off in a museum, or two-tailed squirrels confronting interstellar explorers; these are stories for your imagination and entertainment.

Contents:

To Drive the Cold Winter Away, by Michael H. Payne
In Search of the Creators, by Alan Loewen
The Rocky Spires of Planet 227, by Mary E. Lowd
Defiant, by Joshua Carpman
Why Indeed, by Pepper Hume
Come to Todor!, by Fred Patten
You Are Our Lifeboat, by Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen
The Animal Game, by Vixyy Fox
Ashland’s Fury, by MikasiWolf
Legacy, by M. R. Anglin
Umbra’s Legion: Shamblers of Woe, by Adam Baker
Umbra’s Legion: Where Pride Planted, by Geoff Galt
Beyond Acacia Ridge, by Amy Fontaine
One Day in Hanoi, by Thomas “Faux” Steele
Welcome, Furries, by Cathy Smith
Back Then, by Frank LeRenard
Tortoise Who, by Mary E. Lowd
I Am the Jaguar, by Cairyn
The Promise of New Heffe, by Kary M. Jomb

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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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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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Small World, by Gre7g Luterman. Illustrated by Rick Griffin – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Small World, by Gre7g Luterman. Illustrated by Rick Griffin.
Lansing, MI, Thurston Howl Publications, April 2018, trade paperback, $11.99 (301 [+ 1] pages).

Small World is Luterman’s The Kanti Cycle, Book 2. Book 1 is Skeleton Crew. Luterman says here that The Kanti Cycle is a trilogy, to be completed in Book 3, Fair Trade.

Skeleton Crew seemed to end with a definite conclusion, but Small World continues the plot in a new direction.

Skeleton Crew is set on the generation exploratory starship White Flower II, populated entirely by 10,000 furry geroo and one giant dragonlike krakun, Commissioner Sarsuk. The protagonist is Kanti, one of the geroo.

400 years ago, the krakun came to the overpopulated primitive world Gerootec and offered to hire thousands of 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. After 400 years, the geroo are asking if the krakun are their employers or their slavemasters. The White Flower II would be a paradise for the geroo, if it weren’t for the krakun’s cruelly arbitrary representative, Commissioner Sarsuk. It doesn’t help that Commissioner Sarsuk openly refers to them as slaves. In Skeleton Crew, matters build to a flash point, but Kanti, a lowly deckhand, maneuvers Sarsuk into seriously injuring himself before he can slaughter any geroo. The Kanti Cycle, Book 1 ends with Sarsuk returning to the krakun homeworld to recuperate, leaving the geroo on the White Flower II in peace — for awhile.

Small World begins with Sarsuk returning to the starship. He’s not happy, and he’s going to make as many people suffer as he can.

“‘On my shuttle you will find a cage. Fill it.’ Commissioner Sarsuk clipped his strand back onto his necklace. ‘I know that you love to agonize over choices, trying to make the perfect decision. So in the infinite compassion that I have for you –’ He rolled his eyes. ‘—I am giving you some extra time.’

‘Fill … a cage …’ the captain said quietly. ‘With?’

Sarsuk crossed his arms and leaned on his elbows so he could comfortably lower his face down to Ateri’s level. ‘You’re smart. At least you always act that way. What do you think? What’s the one thing on board this ship that has any utility at all?’

[…]

‘My crew?’

‘Fifty slaves should do, Ateri,’ Sarsuk said. ‘I had a ringel cleaning crew previously, but I can’t see any reason to buy more of them. Fifty geroo would be a nice perk considering how much I’ve had to endure for the company recently,’ he added, his eyes filling with self-pity.” (pgs. 4-5)

The blurb summarizes the setup: “The commissioner accidentally let his last cleaning crew starve to death, so now Kanti and forty-nine of his teammates will have to spend the rest of their lives living in a one room barracks with only a single airlock protecting them all from the planet’s poisonous atmosphere.”

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A&H Club, Volume 1, by Rick Griffin – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

A&H Club, volume 1, by Rick Griffin. Illustrated.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, April 2018, trade paperback, $18.29 (unpaged [82 pages]).

Popular furry writer/artist Rick Griffin has two Internet comic strips. Housepets! is the one that everyone is familiar with. Once a year he collects them and publishes a Create/Space album.

A&H Club is his other Internet strip. In one way it’s just more familiar high-class Griffin anthropomorphic art, and jokes about not wearing any pants. In another it’s the opposite of what Griffin does in Housepets! It’s serious, not comedic, even if it does view today’s society as semi-comedic. It’s realistic, not fantastic; aside from featuring anthropomorphic animals who walk about nude below the waist. Its two main characters are a pair of lesbian lovers (Adrian is really bi), one of whom is a single mother. It consists of full pages rather than strips.

Griffin first collected his A&H Club into three comic books of between 22 and 28 pages each. Now he has gathered those into a CreateSpace album of 82 pages including the three front & rear covers.

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