by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Special Feature, by Charles V. DeVet.
NYC, Avon Books, June 1975, paperback 95¢ (176 pages)
Special Feature is a terrible s-f novel about terrible characters. It is hard to tell which are the more unlikable, the humans or the cat-people. But taken as a noir thriller in which the reader is gradually brought to sympathize with some seriously flawed characters, or as a funky “how many things can you find wrong with this s-f scenario?” quiz, Special Feature is an unusual and fascinating page-turner.
Pentizel, a cat-women from the banned planet Paarae, has stolen a spaceship and flown to Earth. Due to the icy climate of Paarae, she chooses St. Paul, Minnesota in winter in which to secretly hide.
Although her goal is pointedly kept mysterious (except for being given away in the cover blurb), she is immediately identified as arrogant, cruel, and contemptuous of humanity:
“Once inside her room [in a slum hotel], she locked the door, drew in a deep breath and let it out. Her whole body relaxed with the expelled breath. A world lay within her eager grasp, a world in which to lose herself. And a billion decadent weaklings to be maneuvered in any way that suited her.” (p. 8)
Unknown to Pentizel, St. Paul is completely covered by surveillance cameras, in seemingly every street and almost every room of every building. Howard Benidt, manager of TV station RBC, sees the cat-woman’s assault and stealing of a pedestrian’s clothes, and her checking into the flophouse in disguise. Benidt decides to make a “Special Feature” out of this alien invasion of Earth, to boost his channel’s ratings and his own prestige among its management:
“The room was getting warm. Benidt took off his coat and hung it on the back of his chair. ‘Now I want a top-grade build-up on this. Play up strong the potentiality of violence: assault, murder, blood. Make it good. Start cutting in immediately — on whatever program’s running on the channel now – with tantalizers. Don’t tell them exactly what the feature will be. Let them use their imagination. Build up their curiosity – and impatience – for the start of the biggest, live thrill show in the annals of video.” (p. 15)