Griffin Ranger. Volume 2, The Monster Lands, by Roz Gibson – book review by Fred Patten
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Griffin Ranger. Volume 2, The Monster Lands, by Roz Gibson. Illustrated by Cara Mitten, Amy Fennell, and Roz Gibson.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, August 2017, trade paperback, $19.95 (557 pages), Kindle $2.99.
Griffin Ranger. Volume 1, Crossline Plains, 369 pages, was published in January 2015. It ends on a cliffhanger. This book is not so much a sequel as the conclusion of a single 926-page novel. There is a 3-page What Has Gone Before, but you really need to have read Volume 1 and then continue directly with this Volume 2.
To condense what I said about Crossline Plains:
“Griffin Ranger is set in a totally alien alternate universe. The land masses are the same as on our Earth, but the life forms and civilization that have evolved are dominated by birds. (The reader will have fun identifying both geographical features such as the Twin Continents, the Alpha River, the Five Lakes, and the Endless Ocean, and the cities and towns like Defiance, Flatlands City, and Foggy Bay.) Since birds don’t have hands, the main intelligent landbound mammals are the raccoon/lemur-like ‘hanz’ that are their symbiotic partners, and two species of canines: the wild wolfen, and the more domestic herders that have evolved from them. This Earth’s civilization is dominated by the griffins, who are the principal inhabitants of what the reader will recognize as the Americas, Europe, and Asia. But in the last few hundred years the greenies, an aggressive bird species, have erupted from the Emerald Isles (New Zealand) to spread over the world. The griffins of the Northern Continent have allowed the greenies’ partial settlement there under strict supervision, but there are suspicions that the greenies are preparing to take over totally.
“Griffins during their adolescence traditionally go on a continent-wide ‘wander’ of exploration. Harrell, the Griffin Ranger in charge of an area north of Earthquake City, learns that his daughter Aera, who is on a joint wander with four companions, is a week overdue. They went missing near the central Northern Continental agricultural city of Crosstown Plains, populated about equally with griffins and greenies. Harrell is worried, but not enough to abandon his territory to search for the missing youths, until his ex-mate Vaniss, the Ranger in charge of Earthquake City and his organizational superior, assigns him to find them. To aid Harrell, Vaniss gets him two assistants: Kwaperramusc (Kwap), an exotic griffin from the islands north of the Dry Continent (Indonesia and Australia) and the Rangers’ best Investigator, and Tirrsill, an inexperienced but willing young female hanz.
“Harrell, Kwap, and Tirrsill go to Crossline Plains, despite unexpected opposition. The lower-ranking greenies are cooperative, but they don’t know anything. The non-cooperation of the greenie officials is expected; what is more troubling is the unconvincing innocence or open hostility of the local griffins, especially the resident griffin ranger.
“The trio learns that other griffins and their hanz have gone missing near Crossline Plains. Their investigation draws them into a series of violent attacks, attempted murders with a high body count of bystanders, and more. Someone is desperate to keep them from learning anything. What they find could destroy their whole world.”
Crossline Plains ended with Harrell, Kwap, and Tirrsill learning that the greenies there and their unexpected alien allies have constructed a dimensional gateway. The trio go through it, Harrell is captured, and Kwap and Tirrsill escape into the alien dimension – our own Earth. The Monster Lands is set almost entirely around what would be Crossline Plains in our Earth, and tells two stories: Harrell’s captivity in the fortified gateway building of the greenies and their human allies, and Kwap and Tirrsill’s desperate struggle to remain free and either rescue Harrell or somehow communicate with their world to summon help. There is a deadline unknown to them: the greenies and their human allies are planning the genocide of all griffins and hanz in their dimension.
One of Gibson’s nice touches in The Monster Lands is that the trio don’t just step into a different world than they are used to. Our Earth is toxic to them. The air is almost unbreathably thin to them, and full of potentially deadly diseases. They don’t know what foods are safe to eat. In addition, Kwap and Tirrsill cannot let themselves be seen by the monster natives, and the villains have sent agents to kill them. The book is 557 pages of almost nonstop suspense. That’s 557 pages almost to the edges of the paper with very narrow margins, too.
Some of my favorite quotes:
“Kwap flew straight up, trying to escape the corona of light that surrounded the monsters’ building. His lungs burned with effort. The air had no substance as if he were flying through a vacuum. Riding on his back, Tirrsill clutched his equipment harness so tightly the straps dug into his breast and stomach, making it even harder to breathe. Behind him, the greenies screeched as they poured out the door. He had a small lead, but there was no way he could outfly them carrying Tirrsill. He had to find somewhere to hide.” (p. 11)
“Silence for a moment, then a voice much closer, echoing in the dwelling. ‘Look at all this blood! Did he get shot?’
‘Not unless the hanz shot him by mistake. None of our people had any weapons,’
‘Maggoty rotten rules! Make sure to gather up every single feather here. We don’t need the locals wondering where they came from.’
‘What about the blood?’
‘Nothing we can do,’ the first greenie spoke louder. ‘Kenkret-Eet! Peep them back! Have them send some more builders here to help us search this area!’” (pgs. 26-27)
“When the monsters returned to clear the food dishes, they were accompanied by the white-tunic alpha and three others wearing white. One of the newcomers had skin that was a very dark brown, with fur on the top of its head that flared out in a circle. Harrell thought the monsters had only two color varieties – pale tan and pink – and he was surprised to see a different color. Beyond the dark skin and odd fur texture, it was the same size and proportion as the others. Maybe the monsters were like herders and had a number of color variants.” (p. 153)
Griffin Ranger. Volume 2, The Monster Lands (cover by Char Reed) was also funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign. Fortunately! Crossline Plains is a great appetite-whetter, and its ending on a cliffhanger is really frustrating. It would have been maddening if this conclusion had not achieved the funding to get published. It’s been a 2½-year wait, but here it is!
In case you need it spelled out, Griffin Ranger. Volume 2, The Monster Lands is most highly recommended.
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