Review: 'Watchers' by Dean Koontz

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WatchersDean Koontz first came to the public’s attention in the early 1970s. He was originally considered a science-fiction author (his 1975 far-future Nightmare Journey contains talking evolved descendents of animals), but he soon established a reputation as one of the leading authors of horror/suspense fiction with s-f, fantasy, or supernatural elements.

Watchers, his most popular novel, straddles the border between science-fiction and “realistic” suspense fiction involving genetic engineering. In a detailed analysis in Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers (1996), Joan G. Kotker argues that it is a successful combination of science-fiction, suspense, a technothriller, a love story, a police procedural, gangster fiction and:

… overriding all of this, an inspiring dog story whose suspense is based on a series of threats to a very special dog.

NYC, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, February 1987, hardcover $17.95 (352 pages).

Three comic book reviews: Pull List #23 ('GotG', 'MLP:FiM' and 'TMNT')

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Guardians of the Galaxy #7We’ve got three issues from what are becoming the core books of this Pull List series of articles.

The oldest title in the series is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which has been around since the first Pull List and 14 issues have appeared in 14 other pull lists, counting this one. Eight spin-off issues, including the original Micro-Series, the Villains Micro-Series and The Secret History of the Foot Clan have also appeared in seven Pull Lists, bringing the total TMNT number to 23 issues in 22 Pull Lists.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic began at the beginning with #1 in Pull List #6. Since then, 10 other issues have appeared in nine other Pull Lists, with seven issues of its Micro-Series featuring in seven Pull Lists, bring the franchise’s total up to 18 issues in 17 Pull Lists.

The new kids on the block are the Guardians of the Galaxy, with seven issues in seven Pull Lists and no spin-offs, so they’re also the easiest to keep track of.

Review: 'Claws and Starships' by M.C.A. Hogarth (by Tarl 'Voice' Hoch)

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Claws and StarshipsWhen the results of Earth's genetic experiments fled for their makers, they took their own name as they left humanity behind; centuries later, the Pelted have spread into a multi-world alliance of cultures and languages, cribbed from Terra or created whole-cloth. Claws and Starships collects six stories of the Pelted, ranging from the humor of a xenoanthropologist on the wrong side of mythology to more serious works considering the implications of genetic engineering in a far-future classroom seeded with the children of those laboratories. Come stamp your passport and visit the worlds of the Pelted Alliance in all their variety!

Includes the novella "A Distant Sun," and the short stories "Rosettes and Ribbons" (Best in Show anthology), "The Elements of Freedom," "Tears" (Pawprints), "Pantheon," and "Butterfly" (Anthrolations magazine).

This book is a warm blanket, hot chocolate, and cuddles by a fire.

I had read a short story of M.C.A. Hogarth's before, and was curious about how she would handle a larger work. Stumbling across this collection of short stories, I decided to give it a try.

Illustrated by M.C.A. Hogarth, afterword by Fred Patten, Tampa, FL, Studio MCAH, June 2013, trade paperback $12.99 ([2 +] 203 pages), Kindle $3.99.

See also: Review by Fred Patten

It's about time for a 'Mr. Peabody and Sherman' review

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mrpeabodyandsherman.jpgI had a friend in high school whose name began with an “S”. This friend, as it may not surprise readers to find out, was more than a bit geeky and nerdy. His name was not Sherman, but my dad once admitted to often forgetting his real name and replacing it in his mind with Sherman. He was reminded of the character from the old The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show segment “Mr. Peabody’s Improbable History”.

I never really cared much for that old show, and I don’t know if dad was actually a fan of it, or just found it unavoidable during his own childhood and adolescence. I doubt he’d admit to being a fan even if he was. That’s just the way my dad is. He is not, thank you very much, likely to be described as geeky or nerdy; so, his apparent remembrance of this show, and a strange fondness for the Vger twist from the first Star Trek movie are the only hints that there might be that side to his personality, so I was mildly excited about this movie for that reason, as well as the fact that Robert Minkoff, one of the co-directors of The Lion King, was helming it.

But, at the end of the day, this movie was just okay. I don’t regret seeing it, but I don’t have any especial need to see it again. It’s just an okay movie; nothing more, nothing less.

Review: 'Taboo', edited by Rechan

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (4 votes)

TabooTaboo is a work of anthropomorphic fiction for adult readers only. (publisher’s advisory)

It is rated NC-17.

Every society has taboos, from sacred vows which must never be broken to the limitations of sexual expression. These [fourteen stories answer] the question, "Which line would you cross?" (blurb)

This is a longer book review than usual, since it covers 14 individual short stories. If you don’t want to read a review this long, my critiques are all at the end.

Since this is a furry NC-17 anthology, you can guess that all fourteen stories feature explicit sex. Whether it fits the story or not.

"That Red Panda Girl" by Tarl "Voice" Hoch"

Raven, the almost-40 panther, is a high school teacher happily married to the beautiful nympho Holly the jaguar, who sets up some kinky sex activity for him almost every night. But that doesn’t keep him from lusting after one of his students, the red panda Leah. She’s gorgeous, she’s over 18, and she’s already unmarried-but-pregnant. Raven knows that a sexual liaison between a teacher and his student is taboo, and jeopardizing his relationship with his wife is really foolish. But Leah is also a nympho lolita, and she desperately wants him …

Illustrated by Kadath’s cover.

Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Publications, March 2014, trade paperback $19.95 (318 pages), eBook $9.95.

Furry comics for October 2014 (Previews and Marvel Previews)

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Guardians of the Galaxy was the only furry comic to make it to the top 100 list again, so I’ve got nothing.

Review: 'The Awareness', by Gene Stone and Jon Doyle

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The Awareness"Every now and again I sit back and wonder what it would be like if other animals could really fight back against the egregious violence to which we subject them in a wide variety of venues ranging from research laboratories and classrooms to zoos, circuses, rodeos, factory farms, and in their own homes in ours and in the wild. This thought experiment takes life in The Awareness and reflects their points of view, and it's clear they do not like what routinely and thoughtlessly happens to themselves, their families and their friends. By changing the playing field Gene Stone and Jon Doyle force us to reflect how we wantonly and selfishly abuse other animals and the price we would pay if they could truly fight back. This challenging book also asks us to reflect on the well-supported fact that we need other animals as much as they need us. It should help us rewild our hearts, expand our compassion footprint, and stop the reprehensible treatment that we mindlessly dole out." - Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado (quoted blurb)

Suspense/terror/horror stories in which all animals, or all of certain species, turn against mankind go back at least to Arthur Machen’s unreadable “The Terror” (1917). Probably the best-known is Daphne du Maurier’s “The Birds” (1952). I recently reviewed Steven Hammond's Rise of the Penguins (2012). In movies, the terror-animals have ranged from rats to all of the giant mutations like Them and Night of the Lepus.

How successful any of these are usually depends on two factors. The skill of the author (or the director) in building a mood of terror, and the plausibility of the reason given for the animals to turn against humanity. In The Awareness, both of these fail.

NYC, The Stone Press, March 2014, paperback $14.95 (ix + 221 [+3] pages), Kindle free.

Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 30th Anniversay Special'

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TMNT 30th Anniversary SpecialIDW has put out this comic to celebrate the fact that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have turned 30 this year, an age which is not only well beyond teenaged, but also past the point where pointing that out can be considered witty, but that’s not going to stop me.

The book contains a brief history of the ninja turtles, starting with their beginnings as a self-published comic in May of 1984, with various pieces of turtle nostalgia, including the sketch of what is now considered the “first turtle,” ads, posters and press releases for the first ever issue, as well as full page tribute art by Steve Lavigne, Michael Dooney, Ken Mitchroney, Ben Bates, T-Rex, Ross Campbell, Mark Torres, David Petersen and Daniel “Pez” Lopez, with a cover by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird with a back cover by Mateus Santolouco, not to mention a variety of alternate covers.

The book covers the history of the TMNT in the comics exclusively; it features brand new stories taking place in five comic book continuities: the early Mirage years, the Archie TMNT Adventures, the Image “third volume”, the later Mirage years and the newest IDW series, with a limited cover gallery showing the first issue of each of these eras.

May 2014, IDW Publishing, San Diego, CA, trade paperback $7.99, Kindle $1.99.

Review: 'The Bees', by Laline Paull

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The BeesThe man stared through the trees, not listening.

"There – thought for a moment it had vanished."

An old wooden beehive stood camouflaged against the trees. The woman drew back.

"I won’t come any closer," she said. "I’m a bit funny about insects." (p. 1)

The reader knows from the beginning that the orchard hive is on an old, out-of-business farm being sold, to be demolished so its land can be added to a light-industrial complex. But the bees in the old wooden beehive don’t know it.

Bees are controlled so much by instinct that it is very difficult to realistically anthropomorphize them. But it has been done, in A Hive for the Honeybee by Soinbhe Lally (original Irish edition, February 1996; U.S. edition, March 1999), and the award-winning 1998-1999 five-issue comic book Clan Apis by Dr. Jay Hosler, a neurobiologist specializing in the study of honeybees, collected into a 158-page graphic novel in January 2000. And now there is Laline Paull’s complex dystopian The Bees.

Front., bee illustrations from Meyers Konversations-Lexikon 1897, NYC, HarperCollinsPress/Ecco, May 2014, hardcover $25.99 (340 pages), Kindle $12.74.

Furry Movie Award Watch: November 2013

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Since this is so late, I’m going to somewhat use hindsight; however, I’m going to be honest with what I thought was going to win at the time (for instance, I would have put money on My Little Pony: Equestria Girls winning the Ursa Major right until the end). However, back in November, it became clear that Frozen was going to take the two animated awards (I don’t think anyone could have predicted how unfurry the furry award would get).

For the record, it’s a boring movie, and the fact that both the Oscar and the Ursa Major have gone to movies trying to eat their cake and have it to on the “feminist” Disney princess thing is pretty much the saddest outcome ever. At least it wasn’t an upset this year at the Oscars.

Review: 'Doc Rat Vols. 11-12', by Jenner

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Doc Rat Vol. 11Doc Rat Vol. 12I reviewed volumes 8-10 here in May 2013. My review was so favorable that part of it is quoted in the back-cover blurb on volume 12. Here are volumes 11 and 12, equally enjoyable and not-to-be-missed.

These two pocket-sized books contain the Doc Rat daily Internet comic strips from #1427 to #1558 (December 13, 2011 to June 13, 2012), and #1559 to #1758 (June 14, 2012 to March 20, 2013). Volume 11 is a normal one, collecting six months of the comic strip. Volume 12 is a giant-sized one, collecting more pages to take the story to the conclusion of a long story-arc.

Dr. Craig "Jenner" Hilton has been simultaneously an active furry fan and an Australian doctor since the early 1980s. His anthropomorphic cartoons were published in the progress reports and program book of the 1985 World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne.

For about twenty years after graduating from medical college, Hilton was assigned to provide medical services for a series of small towns around western Australia, from which he sent his furry cartoons to America. During a stay as the doctor for the coal-mining town of Collie, he drew an anthropomorphic comic strip, DownUnderGround, for the local newspaper. He finally settled in permanently as a GP in a suburb of Melbourne. His character of Doc Rat began appearing in individual cartoons in medical and non-medical publications during the 1990s. On June 26, 2006 he launched Doc Rat as a Monday through Friday comic strip on the Internet. Since then Doc Rat has picked up an international following, including placing as one of the five finalists in the Best Comic Strip category for the Ursa Major Awards for 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 voted upon this year.

Doc Rat is a combination of stand-alone comedy strips, usually emphasizing medical humour of the groaner-pun variety, and urban drama in an anthropomorphic world where carnivores are allowed to hunt and eat the herbivores, although they have to do it legally. This involves a lot of red tape and filling-out of forms. Often the carnivores are too impatient to do this, and they hunt illegally, which provides much of the drama of the strip. The herbivores are working politically to make all predation of intelligent citizens illegal, which is also a plot point.

Doc Rat. Vol. 11, "I’m Fair Off Me Tucker, Doc", by Jenner, June 2013, Platinum Rat Productions, Melbourne, Vic., Australia, trade paperback AUS $16.00 or US$12.95 ([76 pgs.])
Doc Rat. Vol. 12, "It Hurts To Swallow, Doc", by Jenner, December 2013, Platinum Rat Productions, Melbourne, Vic., Australia, trade paperback AUS$18.00 or US$14.95 ([110 pgs.])

Review: It’s the Muppets again in 'Muppets Most Wanted'

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Muppets Most WantedThe latest Muppet movie begins at the end. Not like in media res, I mean like the first thing you see in this movie are the giant words “THE END.” We’re back at the end of the last Muppet movie, and it slowly dawns on the Muppets that the cameras are still rolling. This could mean only one thing!
Obviously, James Bobin forgot to shout cut.

No, wait, the Muppets are doing a sequel! So, the movie begins with a meta moment when the Muppets realize they’re now in a sequel, and they sing an absolutely hilarious song about this fact entitled “We’re Doing a Sequel.” So now they’re puppets, who are actors, who are playing themselves in a movie. It’s kind of like This is The End, except I don’t think James Franco is a puppet. At least I’m pretty sure he’s not.

Anyway, the best part? This movie was going to be called The Muppets Again! Because it’s about the Muppets, again! It’s so absurdly stupid it’s kind of brilliant, which is why it was changed at the last moment to Muppets Most Wanted. They went with a more descriptive, less generic title that somehow managed to be less descriptive and more generic.

Everybody got that?

Good, now explain it to me.

Review: 'Red Devil', by Kyell Gold

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Red DevilRed Devil, a sequel to Kyell Gold's Green Fairy, is both the second volume of his Dangerous Spirits series, and part of his Forester series (Out of Position, Isolation Play, Waterways, Bridges and others), set in an alternate contemporary America inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. Solomon Wrightson, the homosexual teenage wolf who was the protagonist of Green Fairy, is the best friend of Alexei Tsarev, the fox protagonist here.

Alexei, a young Siberian in the States on a student visa that expires in two months, hopes to impress the Vidalia Peaches semi-professional soccer team enough to become a member.

If they sponsored Alexei, he could apply for a visa that would allow him to stay in this country indefinitely. (p. 3)

Besides being good athletes, everyone on the Peaches is gay. Alexei has only recently come to the States from his hometown of Samorodka, Siberia, partially to play soccer but really to escape the brutal anti-gay attitude prevalent in Siberia. (Gold is clearly using Siberia to refer to all Russia in this anthropomorphic world.) Alexei misses his sister Caterina, with whom he was especially close. They were exchanging letters, but she has not answered his last few missives. Alexei is sure that their abusive parents are preventing her from writing.

Alexei is rooming with Sol at the house that Sol shares with Meg, the mannish teenage otter from Green Fairy, in Sol’s room where his portrait of Niki, the murdered 19th-century fox transvestite is hanging. Alexei, who semi-believes in ghosts, already is influenced by the spirit of his great-grandmother “Prababushka”, whom he feels may have followed him to the States to protect him. In addition to worrying about Cat back in Samorodka, and getting onto the Peaches soccer team to stay in the States, Alexei has developed a crush on one of the Vidalia amateur players, Mike, a friendly Dall sheep; but the insecure, withdrawn Siberian fox is always being shoved aside by Kendall, a more brash and self-assertive pine marten also on the local amateur team. Alexei is unsure whether Mike is just being polite to Kendall, or if he really prefers the more outgoing marten. Or whether Alexei should continue to concentrate on his feelings for Mike, rather than looking for another boyfriend in Vidalia and the States’ more open and relaxed straight and gay sexual atmosphere.

Illustrations by Rukis, St. Paul, MN, Sofawolf Press, January 2014, trade paperback $19.95 ([iii +] 269 [+ 2] pages), Kindle $9.99.

Three comic book reviews: Pull List #22 ('Howard the Duck')

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Howard the Duck #8For all the hubbub about Marvel Studios deciding to go with an obscure team featuring a talking raccoon with a machine gun for their latest movie, they’re only continuing on as they started.

Think about it; not counting serials, what was the first DC universe character to get his own movie? Batman, followed by Superman (followed by Batman, Batman again, even more Batman, Superman, Superman and next Batman and Superman together). That’s their two biggest guns, and barring that weird Ryan Reynolds thing and Vertigo adaptations, that’s about it.

What was Marvel’s first superhero to get his own theatrical movie? Howard the Duck, followed by Blade, a character who struggles to headline his own comic books, but somehow managed a trilogy of movies. Yeah, Howard the Duck was the first obvious warning sign George Lucas wasn’t perfect, but now that Guardians of the Galaxy movie doesn’t sound so weird, does it?

Anyway, this is a special edition of Pull List; we’re taking a look back at one of the odder cult characters in mainstream comics. Howard the Duck got his start in a horror comic, of all places, created by weird writer extraordinaire Steve Gerber (four words: elf with a gun). Howard would have been a nobody in his home universe, where everybody is a duck, but he got stuck in our world, “trapped in a world he never made,” as the series’ tagline goes (which kind of applies to everybody, but whatever), so he got his own comic book series here.

His comics’ introduction describes him:

From the time of his hatching, he was … different. A potentially brilliant scholar who dreaded the structured environment of school, he educated himself in the streets, taking whatever work was available, formulating his philosophy of self from what he learned of the world about him. And then the Cosmic Axis shifted … and that world changed. Suddenly, he was stranded in a universe he could not fathom. Without warning, he became a strange fowl in an even stranger land.

Review: 'Trick or Treat', edited by Ianus J. Wolf

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Trick or TreatThis is Rabbit Valley’s Halloween 2013 theme anthology, “something for the adults to enjoy”. It presents eleven new stories; five scary horror “tricks” and six “delectable romantic and erotic” “treats”. The book’s fine wraparound cover is by Stephanie "Ifus" Johnson.

Ianus J. Wolf says in his introduction that this is the first of Rabbit Valley’s planned annual Halloween anthologies, to mix furry horror and adult erotica, so there will be more to come for those who like it.

Halloween just isn’t Halloween without both the scary and the sweet.

The two sections are each introduced by the two EC Comics-style ‘horror hosts’ shown on the cover, Trick the wolf and Treat the cat. The “tricks” all come first, to leave you with a pleasant taste. They are “Hellhound” by Renee Carter Hall, “Son of the Blood Moon” by Bill “Hafoc” Rogers, “Slough” by Ray “Stormcatcher” Curtone, “Unrealty” by Rechan, and “Wild Night” by Tarl “Voice” Hoch.

Las Vegas, NV, Rabbit Valley, September 2013, trade paperback $20.00 (313 pages).

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