GeneStorm: City in the Sky, by Paul Kidd – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
GeneStorm: City in the Sky, by Paul Kidd
Raleigh, NC, Lulu.com/Perth, Western Australia, Kitsune Press, May 2015, trade paperback $26.37 (420 pages), Kindle $7.99.
This is based upon Kidd’s own new GeneStorm role-playing game, which seems to be similar to TSR/Wizards of the Coast’s 1978 Gamma World RPG. Kidd wrote an authorized Gamma World paperback novel, the rollicking adventure Red Sails in the Fallout (Wizards of the Coast, July 2011), featuring Xoota, a mutated quoll-woman, and her partner Shaani, “a mutant albino lab rat with an enthusiasm for scientific research and a Pommy accent”. It was set in the Australian desert near where Kidd lives. (Perth, Western Australia. He was the first Guest of Honour at Perth furry fandom’s annual FurWAG convention.)
Somebody sniffed that they would never read a novel hacked out as a RPG merchandising spin-off. Your loss. Kidd writes fun furry adventures.
GeneStorm: City in the Sky is set in the Australian “weird-lands” 150 years after the GeneStorm plague has transformed the world entirely. Everyone is a mutated hybrid. The protagonist is Snapper, a female half-human, half-shark. She rides a giant cocatoo. (It sounds very similar to the real one at the Further Confusion 2001 exotic animal life-drawing session that kept squawking for attention, trying to upstage the white tiger. See the cover by Kalahari.) Other characters are a blend of human/fox/golden pheasant, human/kingfisher/cat, human/tortoise/god knows what:
“Snapper ate the salty dough, dunking it in a cup of brown onion gravy. “I met a toucan once. Sort of part cat, part bird.’ […] ‘Now she married a guy that was a sort of strawberry-dog hybrid. Well – their kid sort of stayed a cat toucan. But his feathers were al red and green strawberry colours. Pretty striking.’” (pgs. 64-65).
Some can only be described:
“Something utterly weird suddenly bustled into view: something pink and elegant and with far too many limbs. Quite definitely female, if her build was any guide. She may have been a mantis – but no mantis Snapper had ever seen had quite so floral a carapace, nor a head quite so pointed at the eyes. The woman had four arms – two fitted with hands, the other two with rather alarming serrated claws. She pointed one of these excitedly towards the nearest wagon, seizing Snapper in one delicate pink-white hand. Another hand seized the fox-pheasant, dragging him along through sheer moral force.
‘Quickly! We have to stop this at once!’ The creature waved her numerous arms, all of them a stunning floral pink. ‘They cannot store those there! Disaster is imminent!’” (pgs. 37-38)
That’s Kitterpokkie. And here’s Throckmorton:
“Drifting down from the night sky came a most extraordinary being: it was a collection of woody spheres from which sprouted three pairs of great leafy wings. There were several vines topped by heads that resembled pink and orange flowers – possibly a flame pea? Several strong vines hung down below. They carried a notebook, a crossbow and a squeeze-bulb powered air horn. The air horn honked to attract attention as the floating plant settled graciously down.” (p. 39)
Snapper and her cockatoo (which is intelligent; it keeps demanding salty crackers for rides) are prospecting in the weird-lands for relics from the pre-GeneStorm civilization when they encounter a wagon train headed for Spark Town, the largest settlement in the area and Snapper’s home base. But Snapper also sees signs that Screamers, the ferociously deadly mega-predators resulting from the GeneStorm, are also closing in on the caravan. Snapper meets Kitterpokkie, Throckmorton, and others there, and they discover that these Screamers are a new and even more deadly breed:
“Throckmorton held the light, and the mantis carefully examined the corpse. Snapper’s stomach jerked. The body seemed deflated – almost flattened. It had clearly burst open. Bones jutted up from a ribcage that had been emptied of its organs. Keeping clear of the mess, the mantis used her probe to lift up skin and bloody clothes. Her hands moved with skill and delicacy. Behind her, Captain Beau jittered, trying to watch every threatening shadow all at once.” (p. 42)
There is a 12-page race of the wagon train to reach the town before the Screamers catch them that’s similar to scenes in Westerns of settlers trying to outrace the Indians, except that these caravaners have animal talents, and the wagon train is carrying supplies for Spark Town’s weapons – guncotton, acid, and stuff. They make a bomb.
Snapper and the others reach Spark Town safely, but the weapon supplies that the town was counting on were used up fighting off the Screamers. New supplies are needed, but the weird-lands have been pretty well picked over. This land is large, but nowhere near as vast as all pre-GeneStorm Australia. The area around Spark Town and the other six known settlements is isolated from the rest of Australia, and the world, by a barrier of bio weapon residue, radioactive dust, a vast totally waterless desert, and so on. Snapper has always wanted to go beyond the barrier. Now Kitterpokkie thinks that she has found a route through it. It’s too dangerous for one amateur scientist to try alone, but with an adventurous half-shark prospector-explorer for protection, and an aerial plant-thingy to scout from above…
What wonders will they find? Maybe even the fabled flying city. Legend has it that when the GeneStorm plague engulfed the old civilization, its last leaders sealed themselves and their families aboard a technologically-advanced huge airship that never had to land, and flew above the plague. But that is just fable, and besides it was 150 years ago. The flying city couldn’t still be up there! Could it?
That’s the first three chapters. Chapters 4 to 19 are what happens to them, and what they find. You know that you want to find out with them.
The novel is full of Aussie dialect:
“The mantis looked wanly back toward the crater.
‘Bugger. All my belongings were on the rear wagon.’
‘Well, we can fix you up somewhere to stay. You seem a useful sort.’ The shark patted her on the shoulder as the group wearily walked off toward the caravan. ‘Come on Throckmorton. I’ll shout you a beer, mate. I’ll shout you a beer.’” (p. 61)
The back-cover blurb says:
“Sabres, sharks and six-guns!
A cracking, page-turner of a novel! Wild hussar charges, savage mutants, majestic vistas and colourful characters.
‘They don’t write them like this anymore!’”
If you like the novel, and you play RPG games, look for the GeneStorm RPG by Kitsune Press at http://paulkidd.net/kitsune-press/.