Kismet, by Watts Martin – book review by Fred Patten
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Kismet, by Watts Martin
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, January 2017, trade paperback $17.95 (323 pages), e-book $5.99.
Kismet, by Watts Martin
Dallas, TX, Argyll Productions, January 2017, trade paperback $17.95 (323 pages), e-book $5.99*.
This is a first for furry publishing, as far as I know. The only differences between these two editions are the publisher’s name and illustrated logo on the title page, the ISBN number, and the cover by Teagan Gavet. Both are dark blue and feature the protagonist in a spacesuit in deep space, but the Argyll cover displays her at a distance without showing what she looks like, and the FurPlanet cover is a closeup showing that she is a rat-woman. The FurPlanet edition is marketed as furry science fiction; the Argyll edition is marketed as just science fiction, for those outside furry fandom who may buy s-f but not a furry book.
Whichever it’s read as, hard s-f or furry fiction, Kismet is a winner. Several hundred years in the future, mankind has settled the Asteroid Belt. Mankind has also developed advanced bioengineering that enables people to have themselves bioengineered into anthropomorphic animals. There has been the mix of social acceptance and rejection that this results in for over a century. At this present, most of Earth is human and most of the anthropomorphs have migrated to the Asteroid Belt. In the Belt, the humans are called cisforms and the anthropomorphs are totemics.
Gail Simmons is a rat-woman totemic in the Ceres Ring, with her AI spaceship Kismet. She’s a salvage operator, a salvor, doing odd jobs of space hauling and space junk reclamation. She’s basically a hermit, living inside Kismet; the ship smart-AI brain is her only friend. Gail is contacted by an old childhood acquaintance who she hasn’t seen in two decades; he’s a yacht charter pilot now, and he’s just seen what looks like a derelict spaceship while making a chartered flight. His customer won’t give him the time to check it out, so he’s notifying Gail. Gail and Kismet find what appears to be an abandoned or sabotaged spaceship and two dead bodies. When Gail reports this, it leads to her being accused of theft and murder, and the missing cargo to be a handheld databox – a Macguffin – that holds information that at least one party will kill to get, that can mean “the end of the human race”.
The adventure involves action, suspense, betrayal, and murder. Gail and two allies (it would be a spoiler who say who they are) travel to different parts of the Ceres Ring and discuss a lot of totemic history. Other totemics met include Ansel Santara, a red fox-man; Bright Sky, a wolf-woman; Karen Dupree, a rabbit-woman; Robert Bunten, a raccoon-man, Officer Jon Wolfe, a leopard-man (there’s a joke about a leopard named Wolfe); Travis Duarte, a stag-man; Nevada Argent, a gray fox vixen; and an implied thousands of other background totemics as bank officers, mechanics, police and judiciary, waitresses, and more in the Belt. And plenty of cisforms (humans), because totemics may be the majority in the Belt, but there are lots of humans, too.
Jack Thomas, an FBI agent from the U.S. assigned to Interpol and sent to the Ceres Ring on a case that turns out to be mixed up with Gail’s, is a handy character to explain the totemics to:
“Ansel sniffs. ‘We don’t need shoes.’
‘Says the fox bitching about walking on gravel,’ Gail chuckles. ‘I think some of it’s kind of aesthetic, but some of it’s practical. Shoes and fur aren’t a comfortable combination.’
‘I’m still trying to get a sense of what animal characteristics totemics have adopted and why [Jack says]. I can read our emotions through your ears. And tails. But I’m presuming that while Ansel has better hearing and smell than I do, he has full color vision, isn’t allergic to chocolate, and doesn’t have any other drawbacks from canine/vulpine genetics mixed in.’
Ansel grins. ‘That’s an advantage to being able to mix and match genes. On the flip side, cisform humans can wear clothes that fur makes impractical. And they don’t get fleas, mange, or other furry problems that can’t be addressed by flipping a genetic switch.’” (p. 128)
The civilization of the Asteroid Belt – Cerelia River, Ceres Ring, the Panorica Federation, the Rothbard Republic, and several independent arcologies like New Coyoacán; plus organizations like PFS (Panorica Federation Security), RJC (Ring Judicial Cooperative), and RTEA (River Totemic Equality Ass’n) – may be confusing all at once, but Martin develops them gradually, one or two new locations or terms at a time. It’s like being a tourist in an exotic foreign country; if you don’t stay in your hotel room, you pick up on things fast. New Coyoacán is very tourist-friendly.
But Kismet also takes you places that a tourist wouldn’t see:
“She’d seen pictures of Alexandria before the accident, but it’s shocking how grand the entrance plaza still remains. Copper walls – from the scent, it’s not paint, but a true high-copper alloy – soar behind her up into darkness overhead. High, long windows provide multi-story panoramas of space and the ships docked outside. The plaza itself forms a wide, tiled avenue running between buildings and the buildings, full of unnecessary steps and too-high rooflines supported by grand columns, drip with the opulence of wasted resources. The closest ones, she’s sure, had been museums, the tourist destinations the platform’s owners had expected to be the primary draw. If she remembers right it never came close to breaking even. One conspiracy theory suggests the owners sabotaged it themselves for insurance money.” (p. 285)
Kismet is grand in scope and close in depiction of both its cisform and totemic characters. This novel is also a sequel to Martin’s 20-page “Tow” in The Furry Future – Gail is on the cover of both books. She’s someone that you’ll remember.
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