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Tag: classic

The Prophecy Machine and The Treachery of Kings – Book Reviews by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

the Prophecy MachineThe Prophecy Machine, by Neal Barrett Jr.
NYC, Bantam Books/Spectra, November 2000, 0-553-58195-3 paperback $6.50 (342 [+ 1] pages).

The Treachery of Kings, by Neal Barrett Jr.
NYC, Bantam Books/Spectra, August 2001, 0-553-58196-1 paperback $6.50 (326 [+ 1] pages).

In works of fiction, usually the focus is upon the plot, or the main characters. In The Prophecy Machine by Neal Barrett, Jr. and its sequel, The Treachery of Kings, it is the setting: the weird, wonderful world in which the stories take place.   In its land of Makasar, to quote The Prophecy Machine’s blurb, “Its two major religions are Hatters and Hooters. During the day, Hatters, wearing hats of course, wander about jabbing pointy sticks into bystanders. The night is ruled by the Hooters, who hoot and set fire to people and things. Hospitality is considered a capital crime. And Newlies, the humanized animals, are treated lower than scum.”

The protagonist in this fey world is Master Lizard-Maker Finn, who runs The Lizard Shoppe in Ulster-East, where he makes mechanical lizards such as the one on his shoulder when he is introduced aboard the ocean vessel Madeleine Rose:

“‘What I thought is,’ the captain said, rubbing a sleeve across his nose, ‘I thought, with the salt air and all, the ah–object on your shoulder there, that’s the thing I mean, might be prone to oxidation, to rust as it’s commonly called.’


‘I’ve been some curious, as others have as well, just what it might be. Now don’t feel we’re trying to intrude . . .’

‘Of course not, sir.’ Finn smiled, taking some pleasure in finding the captain ill at ease. ‘What you speak of is a lizard. I design and craft lizards of every sort. Lizards for work, lizards for play. Lizards for the rich and poor alike. I make them of metal, base and precious too, sometimes with finery, sometimes with gems. The one you see here is made of copper, tin, iron, and bits of brass.’

The captain closed one squinty eye, looked at Finn’s shoulder, then looked away again.

‘And these–lizards, what exactly do they do, Master Finn?’

‘Oh, a great number of things,’ Finn said. ‘When we have some time I’d be pleased to explain. It might be I can make one for you.’” (The Prophecy Machine, p. 3)

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The Island of Dr. Moreau: A Possibility, by H. G. Wells – Book Review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

The Island of Dr. Moreau: A Possibility, by H. G. Wells. Frontispiece by C.R.A. [Charles Robert Ashbee]. London, William Heinemann, April 1896, x + 219 [+ 1 + 34] pages, 6/-.

the-island-of-doctor-moreauThis is arguably the first “furry” adult novel, not counting the talking animals of children’s literature such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (Or the adult Metamorphosis/The Golden Ass of Lucius of Apuleius, which was caused by a magic salve and the gods.) It was intended as an anti-vivisection polemic, and it made quite a stir when it was published, although not entirely for the reason that Wells intended. According to the introduction by Alan Lightman in a later edition (Bantam Classic, 2005), Ranked among the classic novels of the English language and the inspiration for several unforgettable movies, this early work of H. G. Wells was greeted in 1896 by howls of protest from reviewers, who found it horrifying and blasphemous. They wanted to know more about the wondrous possibilities of science shown in his first book, The Time Machine, not its potential for misuse and terror.”

The public focused less upon the animal-men than upon Dr. Moreau’s callous vivisection experiments. In the novel, the physiologist comes across as an obsessed sociopath who cares only for his scientific research, and is oblivious to the pain he causes to his animal subjects. But to the public, he was a crazed monster. This image is clearly emphasized in the second motion picture adaptation, Island of Lost Souls (1932), in which Charles Laughton plays Dr. Moreau as a whip-cracking sadist who seems interested in his experiments only as a justification for his cruel tortures of his victims, and to create subjects whom he can rule as a god.

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Needle, and Through The Eye Of A Needle, by Hal Clement – book reviews by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

Dear Patch; Here is my review of Needle and Through the Eye of a Needle by Hal Clement that I wrote for Cubist’s Anthro several years ago.  Maybe only one fan in a hundred will take the trouble to track these down, but they’ll probably be glad if they do.  Another way of looking at it is that Dogpatch Press will have the only mention of these proto-furry books before there was a furry fiction genre.

Needle, by Hal Clement.
Garden City, NY, Doubleday & Company, March 1950, hardcover $2.50 (222 pages).

NEEDL1950Hal Clement, whose real name was Harry Clement Stubbs (1922-2003), often told of how he wrote Needle as the result of a dare. John W. Campbell, Jr., the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, the most prestigious s-f magazine in the 1940s, was given to making lofty pronouncements that were understood by his writers to be dares to disprove them. On one occasion, Campbell had said that it was impossible to write a genuine science-fictional mystery story. Any such would turn out to be a standard mystery with s-f trappings, such as being set in the future or around a superscientific macguffin; but stripped of those elements, it would turn out to be just a standard mystery. Clement wrote Needle, which Campbell conceded was a genuine mystery that could only exist as also a genuine s-f story. Campbell bought it as a two-part serial for Astounding in its May and June 1949 issues.

Needle begins with two spaceships streaking toward Earth. Their alien occupants are, for the reader’s benefit, referred to as the Hunter and the Quarry. They are a jellylike or amoeboid lifeform, used to living inside a larger lifeform in a symbiotic relationship:

“The Hunter was a metazoon – a many-celled creature, like a bird or man – in spite of his apparent lack of structure. The individual cells of his body, however, were far smaller than those of most earthly creatures, comparing in size with the largest protein molecules. It was possible for him to construct from his tissues a limb, complete with muscles and sensory nerves, the whole structure fine enough to probe through the capillaries of a more orthodox creature without interfering seriously with its blood circulation. He had, therefore, no difficulty in insinuating himself into the shark’s relatively huge body.” (p. 15)

The Hunter’s people live within the bodies of animals called perits in a symbiotic relationship evolved on their world over eons. By themselves they look rather like jellyfish, and the Hunter briefly impersonates one on Earth. The metazoons provide the intelligent direction and the perits provide the physical mobility. When the Hunter’s spaceship, pursuing the Quarry, crashes into the South Pacific Ocean, his perit is killed and he is forced to move into an Earth host body:

“The Hunter’s attitude toward the animal [perit] resembled that of a man toward a favorite dog, though the perit, with its delicate hands which it had learned to use at his direction much as an elephant uses its trunk at the behest of man, was more useful than any dog.” (p. 12)

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