A request came in for furries to review a non-furry author’s book. Many thanks to Enjy for offering her thoroughly attentive writing. Find What’s Bred In the Bone at Amazon, see the author’s art and writing at her site or read a brief cover summary and another short review in the Twitter thread. (- Patch)
Cover art by Jody A. Lee
What’s Bred in the Bone is a novel written by Jan S. Gephardt, a multi-talented artist and author who has been in the science fiction fandom for most of her long life.
The story, which is the first part of a trilogy, centers around canine police officer Rex Dieter-Nell and his human partner Charlie Morgan as they attempt to solve an explosion on a ship. Rex is a sort of genetically engineered canine resembling a German Shepherd, but much larger, called an “XK9”. Through harrowing and abusive training, he and his Packmates, the other XK9s, gain insane amounts of intelligence alongside their normal dog abilities. This all takes place in a campy future setting, as shown by the cover art done by Jody Lee. It has an aesthetic that reminds me of the old Mega Man boxart from the NES, so this sci-fi is less Alien and more Logan’s Run or Flash Gordon. It has outlandish alien species, gadgets like brain links and vocalizing collars for the dogs, and outfits for the higherups that are described as garish and colorful, Fifth-Element style.
While these ideas can all combine into something great, Gephardt leaves a lot of ends loose to the point where it can leave the reader feeling left behind as we are zoomed from half-idea to half-idea.
Indeed, Gephardt has put quite a bit of effort into world building. Aliens have their own pronouns, there are inter-stationary politics abound, and the author does an excellent job of setting a scene visually. One of the most frustrating things holding back this world building is that it does not seem that we, the reader, are ever allowed an explanation for things Gephardt knows, but we do not. For instance, she is very gender-inclusive in the book, in one instance having Rex address a gathered assembly as “Gentlepersons”. However, this also leads to a sense of confusion with the other aliens, with pronouns like “k’kir” and “nem” that are never fully explained and hard to keep track of. On top of this, there are concepts like a capital-F Family that seems to differ from what we now consider one, although how I could not tell you because it is not explained, and also an “Amare,” which I assume is someone you love, but this is also not delved into.
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