GeneStorm Book 2, Fort Dandelion, by Paul Kidd – Book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
GeneStorm. Book 2, Fort Dandelion, by Paul Kidd
Raleigh, NC, Lulu.com/Perth, Western Australia, Kitsune Press, 11/2015, trade PB $23.11 (347 pages), Kindle $7.95.
Gene Storm: Fort Dandelion follows closely after Book 1, City in the Sky. It is also “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,” as I said about Book 1. See the cover, unsigned but presumably also by Kalahari. Or this from the first page:
“Jemima Haversham Greyfin – known to all and sundry as ‘Snapper’ – pushed back her helmet and gazed lovingly off towards the south, towards the far off ruins. She patted the neck of her great pink riding cocatoo and dragged in a breath, savouring the rich, alien scents in the air.” (p, 5)
Other major characters include Kitterpokie, a female giant mantis with four arms (two with hands, two with pincers); Beau, a fox/golden pheasant hybrid; Throckmorton, a conglomeration of green, leafy flying plants with three pairs of wings, plus vines with heads that resemble pink and orange flowers and that carry a notebook, a crossbow, and a squeeze-powered air horn; and Sparkle, a massive crocodile/wild boar/rat hybrid. I could fill this review just describing all the minor characters, many of which have to be imagined to be believed.
Snapper and the first four are residents of Spark Town, a Wild West-type settlement isolated in a deep valley, somewhere in what was Australia before the collapse of civilization in the GeneStorm that mutated everyone into a hybrid of human and god-knows-what – no two alike — 150 years before. This was several hundred years in our future, as is obvious by the ruins of giant holograms, fusion reactors, aerodynes, and the like. Spark Town and the villages around it have been cut off from the rest of the world by the mountainous walls of the valley plus swaths of deadly radiation, until the events in City in the Sky.
Kidd has a talent for setting colorful scenes:
“At night, the streets of Spark Town were gorgeous to behold. Coloured lights were strung gaily along the streets, winding up into green trees. Little blue cat-birds nestled in the branches, each a chirping ball of fluff. The creatures twittered sleepily, watching as late night traffic walked through the streets below.
The roads were velvety soft sand, all shaded by plant-animals and trees. Walking back home from the ‘Dancing Dugite’ at midnight, Snapper strolled arm in arm with Kitterpokie, breathing in the scents of range dust and flowers on the sharp night air. Toby towed Throckmorton along on the end of a line – the floating plant had perhaps had just a tad too much to drink, and was all but asleep in mid air. […]” (p. 58)
As Book 2 begins, Snapper has been leading a small exploration party from Spark Town out of the valley for the first time since the GeneStorm. She, Kitterpokie, and the others find dangerous mutants, the ruins of a vast city, and lots of valuable relics to salvage. After two chapters of adventures, they return to Spark Town to report. The town council decides to send out a larger exploration party with Snapper in command, and to establish a permanent fort outside the valley to protect cautious colonists.
The last half of Fort Dandelion is the adventures that Snapper and her expedition have.
“Raymond and Snapper rode in beneath the great arched doorway. The bank’s main hall showed heavy damage from blaster fire: furniture had been shot to pieces, and a long counter fronted with clear glass had been all but blown apart. […]
The vaults had once contained hundreds of locked drawers. The bulk of these had been smashed open, and the trays inside hurtled all about the room. Here and there, a few strange items still remained, forgotten on the floor: shattered computer memory sticks, and heaps of mildewed plastic sheets covered in dense typing. A pile of bones lay over in one corner. A human skeleton, missing a large proportion of its head. It did, however, still have a blue suit of some sort of tough material, and a pistol lying near its hand. The plant [Throckmorton] drifted down and looked everything over, appropriating the silver pistol, a spare battery and a red ID chip that lay in the dust.
Kitterpokie and her budgerigar peeked into the vault.
‘Oooh — have we anything useful? Gold? Silver?’ Industrial metals were always welcome: silver was extremely handy for making percussion caps. ‘Ah. We seem to have arrived rather late to the party.’
‘Here is a gun-thing! It is nice and shiny!’ Throckmorton held up the pistol and examined it with great care. ‘Will it explode?’” (pgs. 134-135)
A character description continued from the above:
“The blue protective suit was delightfully stretchy, but the pants had been made for human legs: Beau’s lower extremities were rather more avian in shape. The upper garment fitted well, and the blue looked extremely handsome against the man’s golden feathers and orange fur.” (p. 137)
The GeneStormers are more than just weird-looking people. Their mutant attributes such as Snapper’s shark electrical-detection sense are used. Here is Beth, a rhinoceros woman:
“Beth and the rancher were each breaking furniture over one another’s skulls. They swirled about the balcony knocking over tables. The rancher managed to grab Beth’s horn and jam it into a wooden pillar. As the rhino struggled to free herself, the rancher gave her an almighty kick in the rear.” (p. 55)
The explorers find fascinating shattered futuristic ruins, insanely savage mutants, eerie mysteries, desperate battles, welcome and unwelcome surprises – but the deadliest threat comes from within their own party.
GeneStorm: Fort Dandelion is well worth reading for its exotic descriptions, its humor, and its action. Yes, it’s based on Kidd’s own GeneStorm Role Playing Game, but the fan who sniffed that he’d never waste his time reading a novel hacked out as a commercial spinoff of a role playing game is missing out on a very imaginative and enjoyable book.
– by Fred Patten