Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Cover by Louvelex
Rat’s Reputation, by Michael H. Payne. Illustrated by Louvelex.
St. Paul, MN, Sofawolf Press, July 2015, trade paperback $19.95 (viii + 359 pages).
To pat myself on the back, when I edited the first anthology of anthropomorphic short fiction from pioneering furry fanzines of the late 1980s and 1990s (2003), the earliest story that I chose was Michael H. Payne’s “Rat’s Reputation” from FurVersion #16, May 1989. Rat’s Reputation the novel is Payne’s fixup and expansion of his “Around About Ottersgate” short fiction featuring Rat and his neighbors of the animal community of Ottersgate and environs. It’s his second novel in the “Around About Ottersgate” world, following The Blood Jaguar (Tor Books, December 1998; reprinted Sofawolf Press, June 2012).
“The rustling grew louder, seemed to come closer, and Alphonse [a gypsy squirrel] stopped as the ground started to shake.
An earthquake? He’d been through a couple when the caravan traveled out west, but here?
The shaking grew more violent with each passing second, and he was huddling down, glad he was out in the woods where nothing could really fall on him, when with a crash like a landslide, something tore out of the ground ahead, molten rock fountaining all fire-red and ash-black up over his head to smash into the trees, cracking and falling in a perfect circle around the pit of lava that yawned open, a sudden sulfurous stink plastering Alphonse’s face.
Then everything froze, Alphonse blinking to clear his eyes, a lumpy mass of darkness rising from the pit, its vast golden eyes swinging around to fix on Alphonse. The silence went on and on until a voice spoke, soft and rough as a step into sandy soil: ‘I reckon you know who I am, son.’
Alphonse could only nod.” (p. 7)
When the High Ones call you, you come. When the High Ones give you a duty, you do that duty. Alphonse’s duty is to find the baby rat on the streambank and raise him up. Except that the rat isn’t a baby; he’s four years old.
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