Camouflage, by Kyell Gold. Illustrated by Rukis – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

Camouflage, by Kyell Gold. Illustrated by Rukis.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, December 2017, trade paperback, $19.95 (293 pages), Kindle $9.99.

Camouflage is a spinoff of Kyell Gold’s popular five Dev and Lee novels. It features tiger footballer Devlin Miski’s cousin Danilo in a very different plot. That puts Camouflage into Gold’s Forrester University world.

Danilo is an adolescent English 19-year-old white tiger, currently studying at the Student Center of the Université Catholique in Tigue, Gallia, on the Saône River.

“Tigue, like many Gallic cities, contained many identities within her borders. The main campus of the Université Catholique lay on the edge of one of the newer parts of the city, a small suburb that had been built up twenty years ago, stretching sleek glass and elegant steel skyward. Old photos of the Université’s stately limestone buildings from before the expansion showed their red clay roofs over grey-white arches amidst of modest forests and fields. In the Presqu’Ile campus in the heart of old Tigue, ancient limestone and red clay dominated, broken up by cold grey churches, and through them, modern cars honked along the rain-slick street, though down on the riverbank, the babble of the crowd faded next to the light hiss of rain into the river.” (p. 13)

“Currently” is the year 2008, when Dev has just had his press conference in the States announcing that he’s homosexual. Danilo is much more private and withdrawn, and he’s not interested in sports. He hasn’t announced his homosexuality yet, although he does have a gay lover; Taye, a mouse Romany fellow student. (Actually he’s bisexual, but he doesn’t realize that yet.) Readers of Out of Position, the first Dev and Lee novel, will know that Dev was forced to “come out of the closet”. Danilo resents the notoriety-by-association that makes it harder to conceal his own sexual orientation.

“Gah, this was going to drive Danilo crazy. All because some cousin he’d only met a couple times decided to make his sexual preference public. Who did that, anyway? There was a question he could ask: why would you do that, declare that you’re gay in a big spectacle for everyone to see? Nobody needed to know. Maybe when you were a big football star, you lost sight of the fact that not everyone cares about your private life. Maybe you didn’t stop to think about the other people who would be affected by your actions, like your cousin across the ocean who had used you as a shield because he couldn’t play footer, and nobody in this country wanted to play cricket.” (pgs. 14-15)

Danilo’s sister Lena is thrilled by the news (“He’s the first professional athlete to come out. He’s a homosexual. Isn’t it wonderful?”), and is determined to tell everybody, which makes him feel even more exposed. He tries to get away from his classmates by retreating to a private spot he’s found, underneath an old stone bridge across the Saône.

And then suddenly, impossibly, he’s transported back in time to 1508 A.D.

Why? How? The reason doesn’t matter as much at first as just trying to stay alive in 1508 Tigue. Danilo meets two local teenagers; Théodore, a mouse very like Taye but more aggressive, and Luc, an otter. Luc takes pity on him and takes Danilo to his room within sight of Tigue’s Saint-Jean le Baptiste cathedral:

“Danilo took a moment to stare at the cathedral. In 2008, it had been impressive, but as a monument. […] Here the cathedral rose in its prime. One square tower stood behind its twin, and to their right, the arched roof extended on and on, five times longer than the largest other building Danilo could see, all of it shining bright and new.   No, wait: that part on the was something older, where the stone did not gleam as brightly. But the cathedral itself still towered over the town, even across the river, and Danilo’s paws trembled against the window. As far as he could tell, it looked the same as it had been in his time (in the real world?); he wondered whether that weird clock was there and if the other features he remembered would be the same.” (pgs. 36-37)

Gold writes a good time-travel novel. There are a few quibbles, such as Danilo peeling potatoes in 1508 before they had been introduced from South America, but no more than in most authors’ time-travel novels. The magic that transports Danilo into the past turns his 21st-century Gallic into 16th-century Gallic. Danilo finds that 1508 Gallia is filthy and disease-ridden compared to 2008. He has to get used to much less modesty than he expects. Over weeks trapped in the past, he meets friends and enemies, discovers hetero sex, and builds a new life.

More importantly, Danilo discovers what it really means that 16th-century Europe was dominated by the Catholic Church. This was the century of the Iberian Inquisition and executing heretics; and neither the Church nor society in general are tolerant of those who stray from heterosexuality.

“The otter withdrew his paw slowly. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘the first time you are caught, the Church removes a testicle. The second time, you are castrated. Fully.’” (p. 107)

Danilo, as a bisexual, can pass as heterosexual adequately, but Luc, his first and best friend, is openly gay. Tigers are unusual but not unknown in Gallia (everyone thinks he’s from far-away Etrusca), and Danilo stands out by his white fur:

“‘Well, white fur in Tigue – in Gallia – is quite rare. White-furred people are said to be pure, to be touched by God. And so you will be more welcome in the church than… well, than if you were not white, we will leave it there.’ Luc lowered his voice.” (p. 74)

Danilo’s white fur brings him to the attention of Tigue’s highest ecclesiastical authorities, for both better and worse. When Luc is arrested and condemned to mutilation and execution, Danilo determines to rescue him. Somehow.

“All he knew was that he had to rescue Luc somehow before he was castrated, if that hadn’t already happened. […] Danilo sighed and rested his head in his paws. The only other option he saw was a movie-style jailbreak. And this was a sixteenth-century jail, so it was probably pretty solid, not one where you could bust up a computer panel or fake your entry and then knock out the guard and take the key.” (pgs. 160-161)

Cover by Rukis

Camouflage (cover by Rukis) is a novel of religious mysticism more than of materialistic s-f. Gold says in his Acknowledgements that he visited Lyon, France, the model for Tigue, in 2013, and the novel is steeped in the ancient city’s anthropomorphized history.

Fred Patten

Like the article? It takes a lot of effort to share these. Please consider supporting Dogpatch Press on Patreon.  You can access exclusive stuff for just $1, or get Con*Tact Caffeine Soap as a reward.  They’re a popular furry business seen in dealer dens. Be an extra-perky patron – or just order direct from Con*Tact.