Jackal, by Joel Gallay – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Jackal, by Joel Gallay
San Jose, CA, Gallanic Media, November 2017, trade paperback $12.00 (321 pages), Kindle $4.99.

Don’t be misled by the title. That is not a jackal on the cover but the narrator, Jobe Pungushe (pungushe is “dog” in Zulu), a battle-scarred dog-human hybrid soldier in late 21st-early 22nd-century warfare in southern Africa:

“‘And in local news,’ a newscaster proclaimed, somewhat dimmed by the white noise in my ears, and I went for my tinnitus meds in my wallet pocket. ‘A crime advisory is forecasted in Bulawayo’s northeast burrough given the influx of refugees from former South African states. As we know, officials in New Salisbury announced that they planned to accept the old South African Western Cape province’s offer to join Rhodesia. Offers made by Northern Cape, Free State and Lesotho are still pending. Rhodesian law enforcement predicts that, with the current, nearly anarchic state of the former South African provinces, that by taking in said provinces too quickly may result in adverse effects, from simple crime spikes to the reactivation of extremist cells and assorted loyalist violence, and thus must be undertaken carefully. The final lift on Martial Law in Western Cape is said to go into effect on September fifth. As we know, remnants of the International Kingdoms of Man, the racialist paramilitary group involved heavily during the Independence War, linger in various balkanized South African provinces, and many fear that they still receive support from their overseas comrades in the Greater Argentine Federation to operate as paramilitaries here in Rhodesia and in result, tensions in southern Rhodesia, such as Bulawayo and New Beitbridge, are on edge, especially with the horrors of the Independence War still fresh in many a Rhodesian and South African mind, human or hybrid. Local police urge residents to above all remain civil, and to report all suspicious behaviors to the police and not seek vigilantism or violent organization.’

A scowl met my face as I heard the name of the IKM once more, as my tinnitus subsided. I shuddered a little, despite the heat. My leg ached some more.” (p. 5)

Gallay says Jackal is set “in a world parallel to ours in the close future.” Jobe is a combat veteran, one of many returning to a civilian life in peacetime.

“‘Shit, Jobe.’ The foreman chuckled. ‘You were ready to slot that fucker, ain’tcha? Your fur’s all raised ‘n shit.” The foreman turned to look at me. ‘Kinda funny though. He kinda looked like you, didn’ he? You being a canid hybrid, I mean. Same color’a fur, spots ‘n all’” (p. 7)

But this prologue takes place about ten years before the main story. New Rhodesia has prospered since the war, and is more high-tech than the prologue makes it seem:

“Walking towards the convenience store, I brought up my holowatch, making a few motions with my opposite hand to bring up the display, haptic sensors spotting my movements. I brushed past the menus to my notes, seeing my shopping list. Carton of milk, smokes, dinner for the rest of the week. Frozen dinners were what I defaulted to. Maitabella pudding too, along with some cereal for breakfasts. I quickly paced my way inside, eager to get out of the coming rain. The store was manned by an older-aged draconic hybrid man with wrinkled red skin like dyed leather, wings drooping behind him as he eyed me with tired orange-yellow eyes. Draconics always seemed to draw my eyes, hard to be inconspicuous with those big wings of theirs stuck out like radar dishes.” (p. 8)

Jobe has a top-end electromagnetic flying hoverbike. He works for a pest control company in Bulawayo and the near countryside. He is allowed to carry an automatic rifle as part of his job.

Jobe foils a robbery at the convenience store, but he is arrested for using unnecessary violence against the robber, continuing to beat him after he is unconscious. Jobe, a standoffish loner at his company, is ordered to attend a friendly biweekly support group for anger control issues.

Instead, Jobe explodes at his first group meeting. Why does he need to change his attitude? It’s the rest of the world that needs to conform to him.

Jackal segues from two parallel stories; Jobe’s descriptions of the present and of his past, to his future. It’s from his peaceful youth that the reader learns about the Independence War; and from his future that the reader learns about the rest of the world:

“My [adoptive] parents were huddled around the television screen, sitting in silent concern, my mother’s draconic face washed in concern, wingtips quivering, dad’s arm around her waist with a hand gripping the top of her hip fearfully, though his face only portrayed a concerned distain. My schoolbag dropped to the floor as I watched with them. It was the national news channel, but it looked a lot different. I didn’t see the usual symbol in the corner, our national flag. Instead I saw the flag that I’d seen a couple of times on the news- the new flag of South Africa. It seemed to be an emergency service broadcast rather than news, repeating a phrase in a kind, female voice.

‘Attention: In Accordance to the Zimbabwean-South African Treaty of 2027, the nation state known as Reformed Rhodesia and all her provinces, including those of the annexed territories of Mozambique and Botswana, are hereby under the jurisdiction of The People’s Republic of South Africa, and Salisbury is now under our total control. The 2043 Reunification Act is recalled. A curfew is now in effect. All people found in active dissent with South African Command Forces, and in extension, the IKM-CTF, will be death with harshly. In accordance with South African law, all firearms must be turned in at your nearest police station or you may face the harshest penalty of South African justice. Please do not panic and cooperate with your officials, and together we can create a better tomorrow for the Greater Southern African States.’ The looping audio paused, before a few seconds later, the recording began anew.” (pgs. 48-49)

“‘…Do we really have that many ships?’ I asked.

‘Nah, a lot of those are Texan and from the Floridian Archipelago,’ Elliot explained, pointing to some of the ones looking a little different, more seaworthy. ‘Since we’re allies with ‘em they’re sending their Expeditionary forces to help us. Same with the Alaskans- I hear their navy will be here by next week. So far they’re letting us use their recon satellites and ionosphere platforms.’” (p. 138)

The present New Rhodesia seems like a hybrid’s paradise:

“‘Now, today, I think we’ll have a good discussion,’ Ono began, smiling ever so slightly at all of us in that circle of seats, every humanoid sitting, save for that canidtaur Mark and that orange serpentine, having bodies not really accommodated for chairs. Matter of fact, that serpentine hybrid girl sat right beside me, coiled up on her tail and sitting down on it the way their kind did. The very tip of her tail strayed close to my foot, quivering softly every now and then.” (p. 43. Ono Zelwaya, probably Jobe’s best friend, is a black human from Liberia.)

“‘… Lotta ‘taurs don’t wear shoes, Mark said.

‘Well, maybe you don’t because you’ve got metal legs,’ I said. ‘Most ‘taurs I see wear those shoes, the more shoe-like back ones and the kinda glove-y front ones. Maybe in the city they don’t, but out in the bush they sure do. Four legs just means two more to keep from getting bitten by snakes. But you know what I don’t get?’ I asked. ‘’Taur pants. Shit always looks weird, no matter what. I mean I get that sometimes you don’t want to be underdressed, but it just looks like a hassle. Like if I was one of you, I’d probably just stick to a shirt, a utility harness and the shoes.’

‘…Nuts’re hangin’ in the breeze, tho, that’s the thing.’ Mark added.” (p. 59)

But Jobe’s own history, his actions and his thoughts, are really fucked up. Eventually, even though peace has returned, Jobe wants, he needs to go on fighting:

“‘So you want to keep fighting. I get that. South Africa is 100% out of your Rhodesia but the war ain’t over. You’ve still got ass to kick if you want them to get the point, huh?’ He chuckled.” (p. 218)

That’s the leader of the Bloody Dogs, a PMC (Private Military Company) – mercenaries – talking as he recruits Jobe. That’s the Jackal talking.

Jackal (cover by Jason Cai) is 321 pages of teeny-tiny type that would be 400, maybe 500 pages in a normal book. I can’t decide whether to recommend it or not. It’s quite well-written, and it’s furry enough, but boy! is it a downer! Jobe isn’t just emotionally fucked up; he is FUCKED UP! (As he puts it, he hasn’t wagged his tail since he was a child.) If you like lots of descriptions of military hardware and action, and details of mental depression, mixed in with scenes of humans and anthropomorphic animals (some pretty exotic, like the serpentines) living happily together (except in IKM territory), go for it.

Fred Patten

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