Altered States, edited by Ajax B. Coriander – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Altered States, edited by Ajax B. Coriander. Illustrated by Kuma.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, June 2016, trade paperback $19.95 (319 pages), e-book $9.95.
This is a mature content book. Please ensure that you are of legal age to purchase this material in your state or region. (publisher’s advisory)
For the record, this book states inside that it is edited by three people; Ajax B. Coriander, Kodiak Malone, and Andres Cyanni Halden, two of whom also have a story in it.
Altered States is an erotic anthology of nine longish short stories and novelettes “of transformation and transmutation in many different flavors.” There is no introduction; the book gets right into it.
“Finishing Touches” by Ianus J. Wolf features Henry Wilson and his wife Carol. He’s a commercial artist who is commissioned to paint a rush-job cover for a fantasy novel whose original artist has defaulted at the last minute.
“He’d skimmed it quickly for visuals that might work, checking a few post-it notes from Ryan and the author at various pages. The novel itself wasn’t that inspiring, just another ‘band of unlikely heroes quests to destroy the evil power’ kind of thing. But now as he looked at hi own work, he felt he’d managed to get a pretty good image of noble citadel with banners flying and the silhouette of the evil wizard’s dark tower looming off in the background.” (pgs. 9-10)
Henry turns into an anthro wolf who can stand and talk without trouble. This multi-page scene is good but too long and detailed to quote. After a panicked WTF night, it turns out that Carol is a witch who has always wanted to have sex with a hunky wolf-man. Rawr! and Rawr! again. Henry adjusts to going out with Carol to furry conventions “in a really realistic fursuit”, and specializing in fantasy art using himself as the model for his wolf-men.
“A Mile in Their Paws” by Richard Coombs is narrated by Heelo Cortix, an egotistical young self-trained wizard. He is trying to give himself the powers of animals; the speed of the cheetah, the flight of an eagle, the gills of a fish, increased scent, and so on. One of his spells requires an animal part, so he traps a fox and takes its tail. The spell turns Heelo into a fox-man who can talk with animals.
‘Who’s there?’ I asked. ‘What do you mean that won’t work? Whoever you are, what do you know about magic?’
‘Apparently more than you,’ the voice taunted.
I looked around, but still saw no one. ‘Who are you to insult me in my own home?’
‘It’s my home too, fool.’
I blinked. My eyes slowly edged down until I was looking right at the cat, who was now just looking at me. ‘You?’
‘It appears you aren’t as dense as I thought. And for all these years, I thought you were both dense and cruel. Turns out I was only half right.’ The cat’s mouth never moved, and yet somehow I could hear a voice emanating from it, as though ever [sic.] little movement that it was making was somehow forming a word all its own.” (pgs. 54-55)
Heelo develops an empathy for the fox whose tail he stole and his mate, Moski and Sheeka, and for his housecat. They become the first friends that he’s ever had.
The story is satisfying, but isn’t very convincing. Heelo is too egotistical and proud to become sensitive to others’ feelings almost instantly by a transformation that appears physical only. He “talks with animals” who talk without moving their mouths. The narration by Heelo is artificially stilted. A plus is that Coombs gets a cat’s natural arrogance Just Right. Also, since this is in Altered States, I kept waiting for a NSFW sex scene. There isn’t any. This isn’t erotic at all.
“Leverage” by Ajax B. Coriander has an incredibly fascinating premise ruined by poor phrasing and proofreading. Private Daniel McCall is on an Army base where an alien virus is turning everyone into an animal. He’s a kangaroo; others are rats, raccoons, badgers, skunks, ferrets, and many more. They’re divided into aggressive tall Muscular Variants and submissive short Chub Variants. A colonel has gone mad and is organizing the Muscular Variants into a private army to “make America great again”. The infection is transmitted by bodily fluids. “It’s the first thing that happens, you just get so horny and all you want to do is fuck or suck someone off regardless of the sexuality you had.” (p. 80) Since this is an Army base, the soldiers are all men who become uncontrollably homosexual. Daniel tries to rescue the Chub Variants, when he isn’t being compelled by the virus to “fuck or suck” someone.
Coriander goofs by describing Daniel as having become a kangaroo, which makes scenes like “Daniel glided between the hangar and the building next to it, trying to move as quickly and quietly as he could.” (p. 76) ring false to anyone who’s seen a kangaroo. They don’t glide. They don’t run. They don’t wag their tails. The story is almost half over before it becomes clear that Daniel is just starting to become a kangaroo and can still move like a human at first. Also, the virus doesn’t change them into exact Earth animals. Daniel’s tail is much more supple and prehensile than a real kangaroo’s, so its wagging and grabbing things like a third hand become belatedly justified.
There are more errors. “He sat up and looked at what he’d tripped over, and it’d been his own shoes. He moved his paw back and forth watching as his boot moved like it was two sizes too big now.” (also p. 76) Kangaroo’s feet are not smaller than a human’s; they’re larger. Also, an Army base being all male? Has Coriander heard that both men and women are in the Army today? And the wrong words! “He swapped out the new battery for the new one”. The first use of “new battery” should be “old battery”. Wrong words are “whisperer” for “whispered”, “peaked” for “peeked”, “course” for “coarse”, “know” for “now”. These and more are constant irritants in a really imaginative story.
“On Common Ground” by Whyte Yoté features two nameless male werefoxes; one who turns from a middle-aged investment banker into a humanoid fox, and the other a natural fox who turns into a humanoid fox. Since the natural fox/werefox was never raised with “civilized” inhibitions, he knows nothing wrong with public masturbation or m/m sex. The investment banker shrugs and figures, “Why not?”
Whyte Yoté’s story is ethereally dreamy:
“Twigs and leaves from seasons past crackle under his pads, loud against the drone of crickets and faraway traffic beyond. Stands of evergreens give way to deciduous, and finally the werefox breaks into a grassy meadow bathed in moonlight. His feet sink deeper into sandy soil the closer he gets to the source, but his purchase remains solid.
A sparkling blanket of stars stretches across the horizon as far as the eye can see now, until the moon overpowers it all at one end of the sky. The air is alive with insects, snakes and small animals darting out of his way, a microcosm of activity. Amid all this grandeur, the fox makes his way to the edge of the grass and down a steep cliff leading to the rocky shore. One simple leap and he lands, his legs flexing to absorb his weight.” (pgs. 105-106)
The eroticism is gentle and fun.
“I bet no one else at the office has to deal with this shit, he sulks, but then smiles to himself as his mind wanders to all the possibilities of last night. Huh. A male fox. Am I a weregay too?
He’ll probably never really know, and that strikes his funny bone. He shakes his head and strikes out, an overweight, middle-aged naked man walking through a field from one life to another.” (p. 123)
“Core Values” by Apollo Wolf stars Staff Sergeant Adam Wentz of a Marine unit’s Alpha Company that is ordered to select its best men for a secret experimental test. Adam is first, which he assumes means that he’s the best of the best. When the test has unexpected side effects, Adam is isolated but allowed to have visitors from the other men in the test. Adam’s best friend is Sgt. Reginald Carter; they have been having joyous m/m sex for years. The story keeps jumping from before the test to after it, with Adam and Carter blowing each other in detail every chance they get.
Quoting from this story would reveal a spoiler, although it’s pretty obvious what Adam is turning into. Carter doesn’t let that stop them.
The sheer enthusiasm of the m/m sex, which evolves from between two men into between a man and a **** keeps the story relentlessly cheerful.
“The Wicked World of Charles Jacklyn” by Roland Jovaik, the first story here in a furry setting,./ is essentially a furry retelling of R. L. Stevenson’s Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Charles Jacklyn is a fox scientist in a city like Victorian London, trying to find a serum of immortality. Jessica Valentine is his vixen housekeeper who loves him. His best friend is Henry, a stuffy but loyal wolf. Charles drinks his serum and turns into a huge, immoral hunchbacked wolf, unnamed at first but who later calls himself Jack – it’s impossible not to think of Jack the Ripper.
The story is very well-written, but if you know the Jekyll-&-Hyde plot, there are no surprises. There are brief erotic scenes – one each – of m/f sex with Jessica and m/m sex with Henry. They feel like interruptions to the plot, written just to qualify the story for this erotic anthology.
“The Wander Inn” by Nogitsune Faux is also set in a furry world. Five college fraternity brothers – Basil (kangaroo), Zeph (cheetah), Jake (deer), Abe (spider monkey), and Dover (sea otter) – driving to a ski lodge are caught in a blizzard. They stop at an unexpected lodge, bright and almost palatial, whose only inhabitant is Gus, the fox caretaker. Naturally something is eerie about the inn, but nobody notices. At night Basil and Zeph pair up for some m/m sex; Jake and Abe do likewise; and Dover does with Gus.
“Before Dover could do anything Gus asked, ‘Would you like to see me get even bigger?’
Dover looked up and nodded. As he watched, Gus grew a couple more feet in height, his furry body gaining more muscle but retaining a layer of soft fat for a nice, cuddly look. The fox’s ears became tipped with lynx-like tufts and Dover could see he now had three large tails poking out behind him. The greatest change, however, was to Gus’ equipment.” (p. 229)
Gus is a mage. He reveals himself to Dover because he senses that Dover is a latent mage. During their stay at The Wander Inn, everyone is changed in wild and wondrous ways while having the most enjoyable m/m sex they’ve ever known. Dover stays behind when the others leave to learn more from Gus. An exhausting but happy story.
It’s not clear whether “Papa Panda and the Selfie” by Kodiak Malone travels back & forth between a human world and a furry world, or whether there are furries in our world who use magic to appear human. Papa Panda is close friends with Orson, the burly polar bear bartender of Papa Panda’s favorite bar. When they aren’t having m/m sex, Papa Panda looks at the gay porn pictures on Orson’s computer. Most are of human men, with a few bears like a grizzly biker passing as a hairy human biker.
Papa Panda is also a magician who can turn sexually repressed humans into bigger, cum-loving gay bears. He usually does it in person, but when he sees a selfie photo of cute but skinny Nicholas Land, he phones him and talks Nick through becoming first a huger, hairier, gayer human, then a huge, furry, gay polar bear like Orson. For Orson. Anything for a pal.
In “Weapon” by James L. Steele, a nameless (at first) man is turned into a high-tech werewolf as a futuristic military weapon. He’s transformed into a monstrous, mindless canine killer with the power of instant regeneration, programmed to let nothing stop him from finding and killing the enemy general. His pain sensors are reconnected to his pleasure centers, so the more that he’s shot, the better it feels.
“Something felt different as he ran. He felt like there were tiny pieces of metal in him, brushing against his muscles as he ran. Every step he took made him feel good. So good … He wanted to keep running, keep feeling the joy.” (p. 300)
“He had an extra problem. There were so many pieces of metal stuck in him that every step he took was orgasmic. He was having a hard time moving through all the pleasure. He wanted to lie down and let the erotic joy take him, but he kept following that scent.” (pgs. 301-302)
Imagine a giant, slavering werewolf running at you, with a raging erection ejaculating copiously as he comes. The creature is designed to be killed if he can’t complete his mission, but the enemy captures him alive. What they do to him results in an unlikely happy ending, but the story has too much pain first.
Nine stories. “Finishing Touches”, “On Common Ground”, “Core Values”, and “The Wander Inn” are unqualified winners. “A Mile in Their Paws” and “The Weapon” are flawed but worth reading. “The Wicked World of Charles Jacklyn” suffers from being too predictable. “Papa Panda and the Selfie” glories too shamelessly in macho m/m sex; it implies that nothing else in life matters except jacking off your best friend. (You wouldn’t know that women exist at all.) Even “Leverage” is worth reading, despite all its problems, for its vivid and unique plot. One story with m/f sex, one with pain = sex, one with both m/f and m/m sex (but not much of either), one with no sex, and five with m/m sex. Kuma’s illustrations are so cartoony that you can’t tell his werewolves and his werefoxes apart. But aside from “A Mile in Their Paws”, Altered States (cover by Kuma) is definitely an Adult Sex anthology.
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