The Laputan Factor, by Tristan Black Wolf – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Laputan Factor, by Tristan Black Wolf. Illustrated by Dream and Nightmare.
Bloomington, IN, AuthorHouse, June 2015, trade paperback $16.95 (viii + 193 pages), Kindle $3.99.
Chapters 1 and 2 feature “the large, muscular tiger” shown on Dream and Nightmare’s cover. He is Lieutenant Ambrose Bierce “Night” Kovach, a space soldier aboard the Heartwielder, a huge star cruiser sent to the region around Gorgonea Tertia.
“Gorgonea Tertia was not exactly one of the top stars in everyone’s constellation list, but there were some reports from that general region that might indicate some trouble for travelers going within a short distance of the place. A contingent of Starhawks was to check out the area and report back; orders were strictly recon, no contact and no engagement unless exclusively defensive.
Kovach was to be part of this team of six, designation Snake Lady, with the call code Medusa, in honor of the most famous of the gorgons. He was to be Medusa Six, covering everyone’s tail – a job he knew how to do very well indeed. He met up with his contingent at the SimCenter shortly after the briefing. It made sense to warm up a bit before going out in the deep cold of space.” (p. 5)
Medusas One through Five, his contingent, are Lentz, a black panther; Tolliver, a German shepherd; Perryman, a hard-looking lop-eared rabbit; Rains, another tiger; and Baptiste, a female Husky. They all answer to Sgt. Sumner, a grizzled bulldog who chomps on a conspicuously unlit cigar.
But in Chapter 3, Night wakes up relaxing on a beach next to his lover, Donovan, a hyena. He’s had a particularly realistic dream, the result of getting hit in the head by a volleyball, he says. He and Donovan are on vacation; two weeks he’s earned from Waveforce Biosystems Technology after being in a coma for two days after testing the experimental SimCenter at work. Donovan doesn’t want him to go back, but he’s okay …
Except in Chapter 4 he’s back to Lieut. Kovach on the Heartwielder, waking up in the sick bay because of a simulation glitch in the SimCenter. Sgt. Sumner tells him:
“‘Nothing bad, but the feedback seems to have knocked a few of you senseless. Tolliver and Perryman are in the next couple of beds. You’re the first one to wake up.’” (p. 19)
He, Tolliver, and Perryman have been caught while taking a routine SimCenter workout that apparently reacted somehow with the Heartwielder’s new Bradbury engines. Or maybe Tolliver had fired one of their equally new plasma shuriken into it:
“The four-five-one engine created a warp field that literally folded space. The ship inside the field was fine, but anything around the ship for a radius of about a half-dozen klicks was ‘folded’ – matter was taken out of three dimensional space and dropped into two or even one dimensional space.” (p. 19)
Etc. at considerable length, including mentioning the coincidence of a researcher named Bradbury inventing the four-five-one drive and his ancestor being a s-f author who wrote a novel titled Fahrenheit 451. The next several pages and Chapters keep with him as Lieut. Kovach on the Heartwielder, until he abruptly turns back into Night O’Connell working at Waveforce …
Night keeps alternating back and forth, unsure (as is the reader) which is the reality; the futuristic space soldier aboard the Heartwielder, or the present bioresearch genius working on a simulation device. References in his future scenario to Bradbury and Fahrenheit 451 are matched by references in his present scenario to his favorite TV program, The Prisoner, with its hero being Number 6 (Medusa Six?). Those are spelled out for the reader; other references (and The Laputan Factor is full of them) are just thrown out for the reader to catch.
In the present Night has a gay male lover, Donovan; in the future he has a girlfriend, his teammate Baptiste. In both scenarios he suspects that something unknown is going on, and that his life may be in danger. In both scenarios he is attacked? seduced? by “Gemini”, a handsome young wolf posing as a space cruiser sick bay’s nurse/a resort’s masseuse, who may be trying to help him or may be trying to trick classified information out of him – for who or what?
Night starts his own investigations at first:
“Kovach handed the pad back to him [Perryman]. ‘Erase that. And if you’re smart, you’ll erase it from your onboard chip too. You’ve got us as backup for your memory.’
‘Getting paranoid, tiger?’
‘Getting practical. Don’t leave any trails, and don’t talk about it out in the open. Whatever this is, I think we can agree that someone didn’t think that it was supposed to happen … and maybe it shouldn’t have.’
Perryman’s natural eye narrowed somewhat. ‘Meaning?’
‘Meaning we may have just stepped in something we weren’t meant to know about.’” (p. 33)
Later, when his investigations may attract attention, he’s brought into another layer of the mystery:
“‘What the bloody hell have you gotten me into?’ the tiger hissed angrily. ‘Is this a spy game or something?’
‘That would be a ‘something’ category,’ the old bulldog said, ‘but I have no idea how to explain it to you.’
‘Neither do I’ the wolf admitted. He glanced at Sumner, an unasked question in his eye.
‘Can open, worms everywhere.’ He retrieved a cigar from a waist-pouch, jammed the end of it into the corner of his mouth, and set his jaw. ‘Let’s do it.’
‘Do what?’ Kovach asked, his muscles tense.” (p. 67)
There are references within references, worlds within worlds, and if you think you know where this is going, you’re probably wrong – it’s more complex yet.
The Laputan Factor keeps up the mystery, and it’s a very clever one although it does include a lot of high-tech gobbledegook. There are double-references everywhere, but they are easy to ignore for those who do not want to bother with them. Dream and Nightmare (that’s a single artist; he says on FurAffinity that Night is his personal fursona) has ten full-page illustrations in addition to his cover. This is a novel that most furry fans will enjoy.
To support writing by furries, for furries, please visit Dogpatch Press on Patreon. You can access exclusive stuff for just $1, and support all of the team’s news and reviews.