Into Expermia, by M. R. Anglin – Book Review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Into Expermia, by M. R. Anglin
North Charleston, SC, CreateSpace, July 2015, trade paperback $9.99 (299 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $2.99.
M. R. Anglin’s Silver Foxes series is up to four novels now. She began writing it with Silver Foxes, published in April 2008. You can probably skip that one, but if you are unfamiliar with this series, you should read Winds of Change (June 2009) and Prelude to War (October 2013) for their background before you read Into Expermia.
In the funny-animal world of Clorth, the Age of the Silver Foxes lasted a little over 2,000 years and abruptly ended with their extermination about 1,500 years ago. The Silver Foxes were a mutant anthropomorphic species whose metallic-like fur gave them their distinct silver coloring, and strong bioelectrical powers that they used to make themselves an arrogant ruling class in the semi-mythical past. They were hated, and Clorth finally united to invade their country, Expermia, and slaughter all the Silver Foxes in 3045-’46. In Clorth’s present, 4587, all the Silver Foxes are believed long dead. The previous novels establish the current political tensions between the rest of Clorth, led by the Kingdom of Drymairad, and police-state Expermia which is ending centuries of isolation and about to launch a new campaign for world conquest. One of several protagonists is mid-teen Xena Dunsworth, an orphan gray fox adopted with her younger sister Kathra by J. R. Dunsworth (wolf), a notorious criminal but kindly to them. Xena is aware that she is growing up to become a Silver Fox. She darkens her fur, but she can’t do anything about the bursts of electricity she inadvertently gives off. Simultaneously the charismatic villain Maximilian Descarté (red fox), a powerful industrialist, is maneuvering to replace the king of Drymairad and take charge of the league against Expermia. Max believes that the Silver Foxes were once real (many Clorthians think they were mythical), and he has secretly tried to recreate them in the laboratory. When he learned that one had been re-bred by accident, he captured Xena and Kathra as experimental guinea-pigs. They were rescued by their foster father, who located their long-lost mother. That’s the background.
Into Expermia begins a short time later, after Xena has returned to her home town and Max has consolidated his takeover of Drymairad’s throne. The scene is very mundane, considering its cast. Xena has a quiet 15th birthday party at home in the small rural town of Justin’s Ridge with her sister, her refound mother and her foster father, her teen boyfriend Hunter, and her pet, Charuse. If you’ve read the earlier novels, you know that Xena isn’t a normal gray fox, her Daddy is a high-profile criminal, her boyfriend was originally the Expermian red fox bounty hunter hired to re-enslave her, and Charuse is …well, read it.
“‘At least he’s [Hunter] nice to me unlike everyone else in town.’ Xena raised her hands so she could see the fur on them. It was shining silver, a result of a genetic disorder that caused her fur to store metals. Her fur contained so much metal that it attracted electricity … electricity that would arch to everything if she didn’t keep it controlled. That’s where Hunter’s Training came in. He was the only certified Silver Fox Trainer in the world. He taught her how to keep the electricity circuiting along her fur so that she wouldn’t short circuit things by walking past them. Even now she could feel her electricity moving counter-clockwise along her body.” (p. 12)
“There was a gurgling trill, followed by claws landing on the floor and scrabbling across the hardwood floor.
‘Hey, Charuse!’ Xena heard Hunter scramble out of his chair.
‘That thing belongs on a leash,’ Kathra said.
Around the corner came a mammal that looked like an iguana. It had olive colored fur scribbled with black stripes and two black, sideways comma shaped patches around its eyes. On its head and back were spines that changed colors with his moods and the electricity in the air. Right now they were orange. Normal.
Charuse darted straight for Xena and climbed up onto her shoulder where he nuzzled her neck with his head. He loved Xena because of her electricity. He, like all traiungai, had the ability to absorb excess electricity. Thus, he had been instrumental in helping Xena learn how to control hers.” (p. 17)
This idyllic beginning doesn’t last past Chapter 3. The new King Maximilian has tracked J. R. down, and what seems like the entire Drymairadian National Guard and police force are sent to arrest him and his family. Xena, who has just gotten a fast car for her birthday, escapes with Kathra, Hunter, and Charuse. But where are three teens, two of whom are unfamiliar with the world much beyond their small-town home, going to go? Worse, Kathra blames Xena for all their troubles, and Xena is afraid of getting Hunter and Kathra captured if they try to hide her. Where can she go on her own?
The title gives away the answer. Going into neighboring Expermia, an authoritarian police state, is a desperation move. But (1) nobody will expect it; (2) Hunter has escaped from there and won’t go back. Into Expermia it is.
What Xena finds there is an education for both her and the reader. To give away one spoiler, the Expermians are experts in their revered Silver Foxes, and Xena’s secret doesn’t last long. Yet what they want her for is not what she nor the reader expect. There are surprises and suspense. The long-forecast war between Drymairad and Expermia breaks out. Into Expermia reaches a satisfactory conclusion for its main characters and the reader, but the war has just started and there is more to come.
Tazia Hall, who did the covers of the previous novels, collaborates with the author on this one. Yes, Expermia is a largely desert nation. Read the novel to get more details.