Crafter’s Passion, by Kris Schnee – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

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

Crafter’s Passion by Kris Schnee.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, March 2018, trade paperback, $7.99 (247 pages).

This actually shouldn’t be reviewed here because it’s not anthropomorphic. But it’s in Kris Schnee’s Thousand Tales series, and the previous four books all had protagonists who became fantasy animals: a griffin, a squirrel-girl, a coyote-man, and a pegasus. If you’re a Thousand Tales fan, you’ll want to read it despite its protagonist remaining human.

Schnee’s Thousand Tales books aren’t meant to be furry fiction, but science-fiction. Schnee postulates that by 2038, Artificial Intelligences have become so advanced/powerful that when a new one code-named Ludo is put in charge of the Thousand Tales interactive game, and programmed to make sure its players “have fun”, Ludo does everything to ensure that they have fun – including giving them the choice of abandoning their human bodies and living in Thousand Tales permanently, as the creature of their choice.

The process involves the scanning of their brains (an expensive process that results in the death of their human bodies) and the transfer of their minds to Ludo’s control within its Thousand Tales universe. Most governments (much more regimented than today) oppose this. But it involves a person’s free choice, and some experts argue that the process involves the successful transferral of the person into a new body without being killed.

“On a whim he set the two computers down on opposite sides of the room. He said to the Slab, ‘Tell me about Thousand Tales.’

It displayed a list of search results. The first three were about a shadowy tax-cheat corporation encouraging the rich to abandon society through the guise of a video game that ought to be banned. The fourth was something about the game’s AI doing charity work. The fifth was back to negative coverage of why the expensive brain uploading procedure was really just a form of suicide. Stan had grown up knowing how search engines were engineered to ‘guide public opinion’ by arranging the results the right way. He could read between the lines and see that the people doing the guiding hated this game.” (p. 12)

Crafter’s Passion is set in 2038, when Thousand Tales is just getting started. Stan Cooper has recently graduated from high school, and is enrolled in a mandatory Youth Community Center to perform government services, to decide whether he will be allowed to advance to college. He becomes a farmer in California’s Imperial Valley, growing needed food. Stan emphatically does not want to be a farmer. Like most older adolescents, he is addicted to video/interactive games, and the hottest new one is Thousand Tales. Supposedly if you can afford it, you can have your brain transferred into the fantasy world to live in its virtual paradise world permanently. But Stan is penniless. He can only afford to buy a handheld console, to enter the virtual world temporarily in his spare time.

Stan is not interested in becoming a fantasy animal, and is happy to remain human. What he is interested in is creating things; in earning his own way rather than having things given to him, whether it’s the government’s minimum for all citizens or the game’s minimum for players who do not advance themselves:

“He checked his inventory. Besides the garbage and default clothes he had nothing. That was better than being handed a ready-made warrior. ‘How do I get a weapon?’

‘You can ask around for a hand-me-down, or start off with some beach-combing for rocks and sticks. There’s a basic crafting bench outside.’

He didn’t want anybody’s handouts. ‘Thanks, I’ll look around.’” (p. 9)

Stan slowly becomes skilled in wood- and metal-working and similar crafts, both for himself and selling what he makes to others. He can use his skills in both the gaming world and the real world, but his supervisor at the Youth Community Center tries to force him to spend all his time doing what the government orders:

“‘What’s so funny?’ said Hal.

‘It’s not important.’

‘Your thoughts are important. I want to know what was going through your head when you decided to run off for this particular event.’

‘I already said I’d scheduled it in advance. I didn’t know I was being automatically signed up for the blood drive.’ Stan sat up straighter. ‘I didn’t think the Community would start claiming my blood without my formal permission.’

‘You gave permission to the necessary rules by coming to the Youth Community Program.’

‘I never had a choice about doing national service years.’” (p. 131)

In the course of the novel, Stan spends more and more time in Thousand Tales and rises with Ludo’s help. This is at the expense of his duties at the Youth Community Center, and he suffers for it.

In addition to the lack of anthro animals, there are other differences. Ludo spends most of the time appearing to Stan as a man “with spiky hair, cool sunglasses and a cape made of stars,” instead of as a beautiful woman.

And Crafter’s Passion isn’t entirely without any anthro animals:

“The camera went to third-person to show him growing, stretching, until he burst free of the net in a flick of… fins? He was solid grey, a horizontal fluked tail thrashed behind him, and his air meter had expanded. He was a dolphin!” (p. 35)

“‘You’re a myth,’ he said.

The griffin said, ‘Not anymore!’” (p. 119)

“A series of thumps sounded from inside, and a muffled ‘Darn it!’ Something metal crashed and bounced. Stan stepped back from the door just as it opened. He found a harried white rabbit-man with his fur mussed, half-dressed in a steel breastplate and holding a pair of leather gloves with his big teeth. The bunny stood at about Stan’s height (counting ears) and was fumbling to get his armor on.

‘Davis?’ said Stan.

‘Yes, sir, I do believe I am. And what else I am is late. ‘Scuse me.’ He fiddled with some buckles.

‘Can I help?’

‘You know what? Yes.’ He turned around and let Stan help him with the armor. ‘Sorry not to be hospitable, but I am on set in five. Another time?’” (p. 198)

Crafter’s Passion (cover by NextMars) doesn’t have many anthro animals in it, and it’s very heavily into Thousand Tales as an electronic playable interactive video game rather than a fantasy world. But it’s still a Thousand Tales novel. Fans of Schnee’s series will know what to expect.

– Fred Patten

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