Project Anthro, by Dallin Newell – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Project Anthro, by Dallin Newell
Raleigh, NC, Lulu Press, October 2017, hardcover $28.80 (264 pages), trade paperback $12.00, Kindle $9.00.

I am confused. This book says both that it is printed by Lulu Press and by CreateSpace in North Charleston, SC. It also says “First printing, 2017”, but the Barnes & Noble website shows it with a different cover (but the same blurb), published by Page Publishing, Inc. and dated December 2016. Newell has a Facebook page devoted to Project Anthro, where it is described as “A Book Series”. Newall says, “Project Anthro 2 is written and ready to go out to publishing,” and that it is a planned quartet.

Whatever. The premise as described in the blurb seems furrier and more exciting than the novel itself. “During the Cold War, a project that was introduced during WWI has been revived, which involves weaponizing and creating anthropomorphic animals to become operatives, known as anthros. Chance Logan is a red fox, standing at five eleven, born in Australia [Newell says on Facebook and in the novel that Logan was born in London and raised in Canberra], and worked for ASIS (Australian Secret Intelligence Service). […]”

Chance learns that a high-placed American CIA executive, John Lance, has gone rogue and is planning to use America’s secret agentry “to completely obliterate the two world superpowers, the USSR and the USA.” Lance is also a human supremacist who believes that all anthros are bioengineered to “do nothing but kill.” Logan recruits “a whole team of anthros” to stop Lance and prove that anthros are more than killers dominated by their animal instincts.

That’s a great premise. Unfortunately, Newell develops it as a substandard Mission Impossible action thriller with funny animals. It’s wacky enough without wondering why funny animals? Chance Logan is introduced in the midst of a firefight with the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. He’s one of only two anthros (the other is a cougar) in a U.S. Army unit caught behind enemy lines. They don’t do anything that human soldiers (like John Rambo) couldn’t do, plus Chance gets his bushy fox tail caught and he has to be freed. Under what conditions is a bushy fox tail an asset in jungle warfare? This also makes the reader wonder if Chance is wearing a complete Army uniform with a tail hole, or (as the cover implies) only a helmet and Army jacket, and nothing below the waist?

Whoa! Here’s the answer. “‘By the way,’ he [a human lieutenant] said, ‘you guys may want to try on some pants when we get back to the States. Just try it.’

‘Nah,’ Kay [the cougar] said as he swiped the air with his paw. ‘We’ve got fur to cover our junk, right Chance?’

‘Yeah, right,’ I agreed with a forced chuckle.

All of us anthros never wore pants; it was a lot more comfortable to go without them. Even Katie [Chance’s girl friend, an Army nurse; also a red fox] wouldn’t wear them.” (p. 15)

But cougars don’t have much fur over their junk. Even an anthro fox standing up might want to wear pants when closely mixing with humans in social situations. It’s especially unlikely that anthros would go nude below the waist and not wear shoes or boots in jungle combat conditions.

“The cool water felt so good as it ran down my body. After sweating for many long hours in the hot and humid weather of Vietnam, nothing felt better than a cold shower. I scrubbed myself with a strong-smelling men’s shampoo that made my nose tingle whenever I smelled it.” (p. 19)

This is a furry red fox taking a cold shower. I may be obsessing too much about this, but to me Newell’s constant switching from calling attention to his anthros having fur and tails and not wearing anything below the waist, then being described as having smooth skin and apparently nobody noticing that they’re pantsless animals, keeps destroying the believability of the situation.

Oh, Chance has a flashing device that he shines in civilians’ eyes to make them not remember him as a fox. I think Newell has watched too much Men in Black, but that might enable anthro foxes with bushy tails and not wearing any pants to go about unnoticed in big, crowded, human metropolises. Maybe?

Whatever. Chance, Katie, Kay, and several regular soldiers are air-rotated back to the USA.

“‘Chance,’ Katie said, breaking the silence between us. ‘I really want to know; do you love me?’

I smiled, put my arm around her, and gave her a kiss on the cheek.” (p. 23)

Are fox muzzles capable of kissing? Licking, maybe. But to bioengineer the foxes to talk normally, the muzzles would have to be eliminated entirely … I get a headache trying to reconcile all the differences.

Whatever. During their plane’s stopover in London, Chance and Katie are warned by a friendly MI6 agent that someone is trying to maneuver the USA and the USSR into declaring nuclear war on each other, and America’s CIA is ready to make Chance its scapegoat. Chance decides to stay in London instead of returning to America (I thought he was Australian), but “they” come after him:

“‘You can’t come in!’ I said, blocking his way. That was when he pulled a pistol on me.

I quickly and vigorously slammed the door on his hand and he dropped it, then I kicked him against the wall. He hit his head on the wall and was knocked unconscious.

I began to walk out when someone with a pistol came out of the room across from me. I grabbed his arm with my left paw as he fired a wild shot, punched him in the gut with my left, and kneed him in the head as he bent own from the impact on his stomach.

Another guy came from behind me. He hit me in the back of the head and kicked […]” (p. 27)

It goes on and on. “[…] He screamed in pain as he fell […] another man came out […] Another came out […] yet another guy was waiting […] Another guy came from behind me […] I began to run down the hall, and a guy with a pistol came out of the next room […]” Even James Bond usually only faced one adversary at a time.

How about this:

“I looked at the [bullet] wound, carefully examining it. ‘It missed the heart,’ I said, ‘you’ll be fine.’” (p. 29)

Presumably getting shot anywhere except through the heart is only a mild flesh wound.

People keep coming out of rooms or down halls or staircases after Chance with pistols and knives for another three pages. All are human secret agents except a one-eyed anthro tiger with a big red star on each shoulder. Guess which country he’s from.

And I’m only up to page 34. Project Anthro (cover uncredited) reads like a James Bond movie scripted by the Three Stooges. Is it worth reading? Hey, the Three Stooges are popular.

If you don’t read Project Anthro, you’ll miss the scene where Chance and his team of anthros hide out in Disneyland disguised as Robin Hood and other animal characters, with their Berettas, Walther PPKs, Kalashnikov AK-47s, Uzis, katana and shuriken out of sight. Chance/Robin, of course, can carry his bow & arrows openly.

“‘Oh, my God,’ the girl said, ‘your costume is so cute!’” (p. 213)

Project Anthro comes to a definite, satisfying conclusion, but Newell says that there are three more volumes coming.

Fred Patten

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