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Fluff Pieces Every Week

Tag: squirrel

Urchin and the Raven War, by M. I. McAllister – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

51Nh4vyr8BL._SY346_Urchin and the Raven War, by M. I. McAllister. (The Mistmantle Chronicles, Book 4.) Illustrated by Omar Rayyan.
NYC, Hyperion Books for Children, October 2008, hardcover $17.99 (284 pages), Kindle $6.99.

Urchin and the Rage Tide, by M. I. McAllister. (The Mistmantle Chronicles, Book 5.) Illustrated by Omar Rayyan.
NYC, Disney • Hyperion Books, July 2010, hardcover $17.99 (268 pages), Kindle $6.99.

This is a guilty review. I reviewed the first three Mistmantle Chronicles for Cubist’s Anthro magazine in 2007 and 2008. Then Anthro ceased publication. An additional complication was that the first three books appeared first as British paperbacks, with the American hardcovers as reprints. When I looked for any subsequent books, I looked on and didn’t find any. This was because there weren’t any more British editions. Books 4 and 5 were only published in America. So I never reviewed them when they were first published.

Fortunately, they are still available, so I am correcting that error now. The Mistmantle Chronicles are technically children’s books, but they are very similar to Brian Jacques’ Redwall novels, and those are enjoyed by readers of all ages. If you are fond of serious adventures featuring talking animals, don’t miss The Mistmantle Chronicles.

The setting of Urchin of the Riding Stars (January 2005), Urchin and the Heartstone (April 2006), and The Heir of Mistmantle (March 2007) is the isolated island of Mistmantle, hidden by thick sea mists (I was going to say fog, but McAllister makes a distinction between fog and mists). It is a kingdom shared by four British woodland animal species living in harmony: hedgehogs, moles, otters, and squirrels. When the series starts, Mistmantle is ruled by good King Brushen, a hedgehog. But there have been other dynasties in the past, and there is no prejudice against a new king from one of the other species. Whenever a dynasty does not have an heir, the senior captain becomes the next king. The captain (there are traditionally three) is a combination of a royal advisor and leader of the royal guards.

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Neighbors, by Michael H. Payne – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

5132WJOdC0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Neighbors, by Michael H. Payne
Balboa, CA, “Hey, Your Nose is on Fire” Industries, October 2014, trade paperback $10.00 (212 pages), Kindle $3.00.

August Lancer, the narrator, is a young resident of Haven Space, a sanatorium and rehabilitation clinic in Southern California. Dumped there by his father (who sends expense money but never visits), Gus is a loner in a wheelchair, afflicted by a degenerative condition that has paralyzed him from the waist down and made it almost impossible to talk. His only pleasure is watching a TV cartoon series about ponies.

This all changes when Gus is adopted by a hospital therapy black cat named Spooky, who tells him that her name is really El Brujo.

“‘El Brujo?’ I heard myself ask with words that weren’t words. ‘But … you’re female. Aren’t you?’

Another little smile. ‘I’m a bit of a trendsetter.’” (p. 19)

Gus finds himself able since her appearance to talk with the other animals and birds around him. Serena the squirrel. Jefe the crow and his flock. The sparrows who nest just outside the window. Nobody else notices anything unusual, even when El Brujo and Jefe dance together, so Gus worries about it.

“Another thought hit me hard, then, one that I’d tried my absolute damnedest over and over the last bunch of months to stop myself from thinking: what if El Brujo and Serena and the sparrows and crows this morning and the weird little voices I heard in the trees and bushes out in the neighborhood –

What if it was all in my head? What if the shredded chunks of my nervous system weren’t making me understand the animals but were instead making me imagine I could understand them? Was it just a matter of time before rows of dancing chipmunks were telling me to set things on fire and kill people?” (p. 31)

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Rat’s Reputation, by Michael H. Payne – Book Review by Fred Patten.

by Pup Matthias

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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2040: Reconnection; a “Thousand Tales” Story, by Kris Schnee – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

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

20402040: Reconnection; a “Thousand Tales” Story, by Kris Schnee. Illustrated.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, December 2015, trade paperback $4.99 (86 pages), Kindle $0.99.

This thin booklet is not a sequel to Schnee’s Thousand Tales: How We Won the Game (CreateSpace, June 2015), but it is set in the same world. Or rather Ludo’s world.

Ludo is the advanced Artificial Intelligence who can scan anyone’s brain and recreate it in “her” fantasy world, in the setting and body of their choice. Handsome men and beautiful women, noble warriors, flying griffins, anthropomorphic animals; anything, living in an ancient Greek or medieval European or sci-fi futuristic paradise. Of course, their original body in 2040 A.D. Earth is dead, and the consequences of this back on Earth may be unknown, but who in Ludo’s world cares?

Alma does. She’d been an old man dying painfully from cancer:

“She’d signed over her modest estate to Ludo in return for having her cancer-infected brain slowly diced, analyzed and recreated as software. As each chunk of brain matter got sheared away she’d lost parts of her memories, her senses, only to have them come back from that terrifying void. She’d gone blind in the surgical room, then seen test patterns and finally the vibrant colors of the digital world. The ruling AI’s voice had asked her, incidentally, what sort of body she wanted once the process was complete.

As an old man whose flesh was incurably ruined and destroying itself horribly, Alma had begged to become something different.” (p. 1)

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Off Leash – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

OFF-LEASH_cover-800wOff Leash, by Daniel Potter. Illustrated by Sabertooth Ermine.
El Cerrito, CA, Fallen Kitten Productions, October 2015, trade paperback $12.99 (vi + i +288 pages), Kindle $3.99.

“It had started as a good day. Objectively that was a lie, but after six months of unemployment self-delusion becomes a survival trait. I was two days from getting booted off unemployment, with my girlfriend AWOL for the last week. By ‘good day’ I mean I had wrestled a small drop of hope out of my heart that one of the half dozen jobs I had applied to while guzzling down iced coffees might result in an interview.” (p. 1)

Thomas Khatt, unemployed librarian, has been practically living in his local coffee shop for the last six months as he applies for job after job. Over the weeks he has noticed his reclusive neighbor as another regular customer; an old man, presumably retired, reading books with a pet cat. One day Thomas and the old man happen to leave the shop at the same time. The old man is immediately struck by a hit-&-run car. As he dies, Thomas blacks out and awakens in his own home as a cougar.

While he is trying to figure out what has happened to him, his door unlocks itself and an elderly hippie witch, Mistress Sabrina, comes in to welcome him to “the Real World”. She demonstrates enough magical power to convince him that objecting would be a bad idea, so he follows her and Rudy, a talking squirrel, to her home where he meets her familiar, a sable named Cornealius. They magically restore his power of speech. While this is going on, Thomas is barraged with a confusing flood of information about how the Real World works:

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Furry news of the week: new E-zine, Buzzfeed, dolphin experiments (6-11-14)

by Patch O'Furr

New Furry e-Zine – Buzzfeed on Furries – Documentary movie: trippy 1960’s dolphin experiments – More
Here’s the regular feature of news bites, scoops, and Snausage links. Tips welcome- I’d love to post yours!

2nd issue of monthly e-zine released in web hosted flipbook and PDF download. A quick review finds inner-focused fan articles and art, covering:
– Featured artist (a welcome feature for better introduction than random web browsing.)
– Interview with a Furry (skippable for casual browsing due to length without focus. The series started long before the zine.)
– Movie reviews
– Stories
– Advice (from a familiar fuzzy face: Ask Papabear.)
– Furry Things and Places (vehicles, buildings… it shows creativity and humor I could see getting a humor/general interest place in a non-fan publication.)
Minor criticism: the cover graphics so far say “zine” to me, with underdeveloped art backgrounds. Favorite feature so far: #1’s “Furriest shirts from The Mountain” article brings refreshing humor about t-shirts with wide familiarity.

Buzzfeed writer takes a trip to Califur.

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