Endtown 3, by Aaron Neathery – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Endtown 3, by Aaron Neathery. Foreword by Carol Lay.
Bellevue, WA, Jarlidium Press, December 2015, trade paperback $25.99 (279 [+ 1] pages).
Endtown is an Internet M-W-F comic strip of the dramatic serialized variety rather than the gag humor sort; a Dick Tracy rather than a Pearls Before Swine. It’s dystopian post-apocalyptic science fiction with funny animals. To quote a blurb, “A mutagenic plague followed by a global war fought with disintegration weaponry has left much of the Earth a desert of fine powder and what remains of humanity fragmented into humans, animal-like mutants, and bloodthirsty monstrosities with lots of teeth. The surface, still teeming with the mutagenic virus, has become the domain of the dreaded Topsiders; well-organized, technologically advanced, and heavily armed un-mutated humans sworn to exterminate mutations of any kind in order to clear the way for the eventual resurgence of a new, genetically clean humanity. Faced with annihilation, mutants and “impure” humans have retreated into the depths of the planet to form communities and hope to win, or at least survive, what may prove to be mankind’s final war.”
Endtown is set six years after the global doomsday war. The surface of the world is a lifeless desert. Most humans are dead, either killed in the war or mutated by the plague into mindless, horrific, ravening monsters. The only exceptions are those who were unconscious or asleep when the plague changed them; those became anthropomorphized animals with their minds and memories intact. Six years later, the world is divided between the Topsiders, the remaining humans who live in airtight protective suits and kill anyone else they find as a non-human plague carrier, and the animal-peoples who live underground in hidden towns.
Endtown began on the Internet on January 18, 2009, and is still going.
The book collections have a complex history. Jarlidium Press published Endtown 1 and Endtown 2 in June 2012 as attractive trade paperbacks on high-quality paper at $12.00 each. Endtown 3 and Endtown 4 were published in July 2013 at $15.00 each, but Jarliduim Press announced that their printer had raised its prices so much that even with its price increased to $15, the books would sell at a loss except by Jarlidium Press itself at dealers’ tables at conventions. It promised to republish them in a quality that could be sold on Amazon.com at an affordable price. This happened in December 2014, with larger paperbacks on lower-grade paper. The new Endworld 1 contained both 1 and 2 of the first edition, and cost $24.99. Endworld 2, published at the same time at the same price, similarly contained the older 3 and 4 collections.
Now the book collections have caught up and are moving ahead. The new Endtown 3 contains the strips from October 25, 2012 to July 10, 2015, printed two strips per page of two tiers each, or four rows of two panels each.
Endtown’s protagonists have evolved slowly since the strip began, but the two in this book are Wally Wallechinsky, a cat-man who had spent five years living alone in the Topside wastes before being brought forcibly into underground Endtown, and Holly Hollister, a mouse-woman working as an Endtown waitress. Wally and Holly fall in love, but each has an unrevealed backstory.
Endtown 3 contains two long story arcs. In the first, Endtown is on the verge of falling into civil war between those who want to hold onto their humanity as much as possible, and those who embrace their new animal natures. Holly is one of three animal-women put on trial for “disgusting” animal acts, such as cow-women using their milk to make dairy products, or chicken-women scrambling their eggs to be eaten. Although this is not technically illegal, and a panda bureaucrat promises that there will only be a show trial with the three women embarrassed but not hurt, there are too many signs that the trial is intended to end with the women sentenced to death. Wally and his friends set out to free Holly, and find so much cynicism and factions willing to use their unknowing supporters as martyrs for their causes that Wally and Holly decide to abandon Endtown and take their chances on the surface.
In the second story arc, Wally and Holly meet two Topside humans, Jim and Sarah, who are willing to turn into animals to cure Sarah of cancer. Jim and Sarah become a raccoon and a lizard, but all four are captured and brought to another underground town inhabited entirely by lizard-people. The plot of this arc revolves around a new form of species prejudice, and a new form of apocalypse. Many are killed.
Endtown is grim but fascinating reading; well-drawn with intelligent, taut dialogue. It was an Ursa Major Award finalist in 2011 and 2014 in the Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story category. As with other Internet comic strips, you can read the whole thing for free on the strip’s Archives; but reading the book is so much easier than waiting for each strip to upload. Buy the book, and the odds are that you will become a regular reader of the online comic strip.
What I like most about Endtowwn is that it can become anything at any point. Anything can happen, but it will somehow fit. Horrors? Gags? Science? War? Regular daily life? Science? Magic? Afterlife? Kitchen sink? Aaron Neathery is a rare man, a man capable writing all of the above and make it feel like a part of the same world.
As far as I’m aware, only Minna Sundberg and Steven King are also capable of this kind of “anything goes” kind of writing.
Endtown is one of the few strips I read on a daily basis (or, indeed, at all). I admit, I was suckered in with the mouse and cheese.