Hero’s Best Friend; An Anthology of Animal Companions – book review by Fred Patten.
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Hero’s Best Friend; An Anthology of Animal Companions, edited by Scott M. Sandridge
Lexington, KY, Seventh Star Press, February 2014, trade paperback $20.95 ([iv] + 447 pages), Kindle $3.99.
Hero’s Best Friend; An Anthology of Animal Companions is a fantasy anthology of “twenty stories of heroic action that focuses on the furries and scalies who have long been the unsung heroes pulling their foolish human buddies out of the fire”. Superficially, this is not necessarily a furry book. The blurb cites comparisons with Gandalf’s horse Shadowfax, the Vault Dweller’s dog Dogmeat, and the Beastmaster’s “fuzzy allies”; all famously loyal animal companions, but under their human partners’ control. Those animals are no more anthropomorphic than the Lone Ranger’s horse Silver.
But these are stories by fantasy authors, and they emphasize the animals’ conscious partnership or dominance over their human companions. “[T]he unsung heroes pulling their foolish human buddies out of the fire” is the operative m.o.
In “Toby and Steve Save the World” by Joy Ward, Steve is the human and Toby, a Pembroke corgi, appears to be his dumb pet. But the story is told from Toby’s view, and it’s clear that the dog recognizes the menaces and deliberately maneuvers his clueless human into taking care of them. The story is definitely anthro. It also wallows in self-conscious cuteness.
“Dusk” by Frank Creed is narrated by Dusk, a housecat in the future. Dusk is the partner of a man codenamed Whisp, but here the human is aware of the cat’s strengths, and they trust each other. Whisp and Dusk are undercover police agents seeking a criminal gang in 2038 Chicago’s Chinatown slums, and Dusk (among others) is bionically enhanced.
“I sniffed the alien scents on the shelves in my aisle – and also the faint charcoal bouquet of expensive whiskey – while Whisp did what the wanted. From the back of the shop I eyeballed inside the stairwell where sat a thin middle-aged yellow-skinned man on a stool. He wore suspenders over a plain white stained tee and held a cup. He looked at me, but it felt wrong.
Other eyes saw through his eyes, and the fur on my spine spiked.” (p. 18)