Godsfire, by Cynthia Felice. Map.
NYC, Pocket Books, June 1978, paperback 0-671-81472-9 $1.75 (264 pages).
I am surprised by how many people have included this book’s cover by Boris Vallejo on their lists of “Only the worst Sci-fi/Fantasy book covers”, or “25 Worst Book Covers of All Time”, or “I Am Judging You By Your Cover” (16 book covers with snarky feminine hygiene comments). I could come up with at least twenty-five covers worse than this with no trouble. And to wax sexist for a moment, can any cover with a shapely naked cat-woman be really bad?
But this is a review of the novel, not its cover art. Planet of the Apes notwithstanding, 1978 was still before intelligent non-humans were common in science-fiction, judging from the book’s blurb: “Feline creatures in charge and humans as their slaves!”
Godsfire is narrated by Heao, the sixteen-year-old protégé of Academician Master Rellar on a planet inhabited by anthropomorphic felinoids. The opening pages make frequent mention of the characters’ sinuous tails, sharp claws, and other feline characteristics.
“I was prepared to leave, but the man had the most mischievous twinkle in his eyes that I’d ever seen. Then the tip of his tail began to twitch. Without the smiling eyes, that twitch would have warned of battle, but now I realized it was an invitation to play. I laughed.” “His boldness was nearly frightening, yet there was no malice in his eyes and his tail was coiled casually around his ice-laden coat.” “Baltsar delicately slit the belly of the choicest fish with his index claw, and, after a slave took away the entrails, he slivered the tender flesh for me.” “I speared a sliver with my eating claw and chewed gratefully.” “His tail was twitching again and he was smiling. Why had he ignored my shaking tail while we ate?” “I smiled, coiled my tail demurely about my waist, and said, ‘Thank you, Baltsar.’” (pgs. 4-8)