Scurry: The Doomed Colony, by Mac Smith – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Scurry: [Book 1] The Doomed Colony, by Mac Smith. Illustrated.
Vancouver, WA, Easy Prey Entertainment, November 2017, hardcover $30.00 (unpaged [104 pages]), softcover $20.00, Kindle $11.99.
This is the first collection of one of the best, largest (13.7” x 8.3”), and most beautiful anthropomorphic-animal comic strips on the Internet. Mac Smith, a graphic designer in Portland, Oregon, began Scurry: A Post-Apocalyptic Mouse Tale on January 17, 2016, and has been posting about two pages a week. The Doomed Colony contains Part I, Lingering Light, Part II, Beasts of Winter, and Part III, Grim Shadows. These add up to 84 pages, and an Afterword, an extensive Cast of Characters, and samples of Smith’s working process bring The Doomed Colony up to 104 pages.
Smith ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise $8,000 to publish this book. He got $101,230 from 2,129 backers in a month. Smith says in his Afterword that he has not read any of the anthro-animal books that readers have been recommending to him. His influences are 1980s movies like The Secret of NIMH, The Dark Crystal, and The Neverending Story.
Scurry is set in a “post-apocalyptic” world in which the humans are dead or gone but their cities are undamaged. There has been no explanation yet of what happened to the humans (despite the book’s cover, no bodies or skeletons are around), or whether what happened is responsible for the animals’ intelligence (although probably this is just a talking-animal fantasy). The mice in the colony wonder whether the humans could return, or whether there are still some left elsewhere. The setting could be Smith’s Pacific Northwest; the fauna and flora fit it. The rusted and decayed look of the buildings and vehicles, and the overgrown lawns implies that humanity disappeared about a year earlier. Food in the houses has run out. Pets like cats have turned feral and hunt the mice for food.
The Doomed Colony is that of the mice in a house in an unnamed suburban neighborhood. They have eaten all of the food that they can find in their own and other nearby homes. The local ex-pet cats are growing increasingly dangerous. Feral wildlife is moving in; some like beavers and moose are harmless, but others like hawks, wolves, snakes, and owls eat mice. The colony is divided between those who want to stay put and explore farther for food, and those who want to move the whole colony into a nearby city where there may be more food and shelter from wild animals.
Politics makes the debate more convoluted. The mice have been ruled well by an Elder Council, but the Council is literally dying of old age. Is the Council’s preference to stay put based on wisdom, or a refusal to consider new ideas? Is Council Leader Orim’s wish to be replaced by his daughter Pict, whom he has trained to replace him when he dies, a good one, or is it pure nepotism? Is Resher, who leads the faction to move into the city, really working for the colony’s benefit, or does he plan that the colony’s upheaval will give him the chance to take over its leadership?
The protagonist of The Doomed Colony is Wix, a young mouse who is one of the best scavengers in the colony. He is potentially Pict’s boyfriend, but he’s really more interested in exploring new locations. Part I introduces Wix and his best friend Umf, a rat, looking for food in the last house in the neighborhood and running into the neighborhood’s cats; and Pict with her father arguing over the colony’s politics. In Part II there is a rumor of the discovery of a human food delivery truck, resulting in an expedition to find it, which lures Wix and others out of the colony. Part III takes Wix into the forest and introduces some of the more feral characters in Scurry: a hawk, a moose, a wolf.
Smith’s plotting and dialogue are taut. His action seldom slows down. Wix, Pict, and Umf are constantly escaping from huge, bloodthirsty cats and hawks, and enemies among the mice themselves scheme for their betrayal and deaths. The book ends on a cliffhanger, and a notice that Book II, The Drowned Forest, will come in May 2018.
In the meantime, read the semi-weekly Scurry on the Internet.
(Although this book says that Easy Prey Entertainment has a Vancouver, WA address, its Facebook page says it is a Portland, OR business. Scurry is beautifully printed on thick, glossy paper in China. If I may be permitted a personal kvetch, books without page numbers on thick, glossy paper are very annoying because it’s hard to tell when you’re accidentally turning two pages at once.)
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I’ve been following mac on tumblr for years.
It’s good to see his work gaining attention by the furry community. He definitely deserves the attention, he’s done an astonishing amount of work.
As far as similar works, I actually prefer Scurry to other works such as Squarriors. It’s dark without being overly edgy and gets the spirit of Redwall onto a comic audience without trying to be a direct copy which is wonderful.
the art itself is lovely and painted, I would definitely recommend adding this to any bookshelf, furry or not.
I listed this on my Furry Kickstarters a few months ago. =3 I hope some readers saw it and managed to make a pledge!