Review: 'Tales from the Chakat Universe', by Bernard Doove
'Tales from the Chakat Universe'; North Charleston, SC, CreateSpace, May 2012
Trade paperback $19.95 (321 pages; illustrated).
This latest collection is divided into two parts. The first contains four “stories that did not directly fit into the Forest Tales sequence of books, although they all feature one or more characters encountered in that series.” (pgs. 6–160)
The second is a series of “factual” articles that illustrate and provide detailed background material on the universe of Doove’s 24th century interstellar centauroid hermaphrodites: “An Introduction to Chakats”, “Sapient Races in the Chakat Universe”, “Foxtaur Facts”, “The Great Game of Chakker”, and more. (pgs. 162–321)
Familiarity with the chakats, foxtaurs, and the others in the previous books will help but “Tales from the Chakat Universe” stands nicely on its own – except for lacking an introduction to the hermaphroditic pronouns ‘shi’ and ‘hir’, but the reader will quickly pick that up on ‘hir’ own. There is one on page 173, “Forms of Address”, but by this time the reader is deep into the book. The four stories are “Savannah’s Journey”, “Tales From The ‘Pegasus’”, “Briar Patch”, and “Danzhouken”.
In “Savannah’s Journey”, Savannah is a Stellar Foxtaur, dividing hir time between being a trader in hir back-to-nature primitive foxtaur village on the planet Arisia, and hir duty as a biologist in the interstellar multispecies civilian Star Corps. Shi is due to travel to Arisia Freeport to meet a freighter starship carrying trade goods for hir village, but delays caused by spring flooding cause hir to arrive just as the starship is leaving again. Fortunately, the portmaster signed for the goods for hir. Savannah packs up and returns to hir village by a different route. The conflictless story is an extended travelogue to show the reader the different colorful regions and foxtaur breeds of the world.
The F.S.S. Pegasus is one of the military Star Fleet’s interstellar vessels, crewed by a mixture of furry centauroids, animal-morphs (like the centauroids but bipedal), and humans. The protagonist is Lieut. Commander Midnight, the black-furred chakat Security Chief aboard the Pegasus. In these three stories, Midnight passes an evaluation for competence and performance slanted against hir, stops an attempted rape of a crewmember, and tries to educate an arrogant new recruit into working smoothly with the rest of the security team.
In “Briar Patch”, the Kanawa’s Pride, a Voxxan (humanoid fox)-crewed merchant starship, is captured by Voxxan space pirates who use her as a Trojan horse to attempt to take over the foxtaur-manned Arisia Gateway space station. But the Gateway’s complement are Starwalkers, not normal foxtaurs. A desperate and bloody battle ensues between the pirates and the Starwalkers plus the rescued Kanawa’s Pride’s crew.
In “Danzhouken”, Captain Zhane ap Nashene na Zhane, the Rakshani (a tiger humanoid) commander of Federation Star Base #3, finds her biological imperative in conflict with her duty. To be blunt, she’s in heat. She tries to alleviate it in her culture’s traditional non-sexual way. The casual open sex of Doove’s nonhuman characters have made his Chakat Universe stories controversial with many readers. In “Danzhouken”, the characters try to avoid sex, but the story leaves little doubt as to what sex is normally like in Rakshani society.
The “Facts & History” may be boring to readers who want drama rather than matter-of-fact statistics, but there is a wealth of background detail here. For example, the section on the centauroid hermaphroditic chakats gives their external and internal physiology, sexuality, aging, extrasensory talents, and sociology – forms of address, dress, family life, morals & beliefs, and relationships with other interstellar species.
The section on their planet Chakona gives their history, geography, language, government & politics, age limits, policy toward alcohol & drugs, economy, currency, education, arts, religion, public holidays, tourist offices, customs & documentation, interstellar embassies, etc., etc., etc. If you have a fondness for imaginary biology, sociology, and bureaucracy, then this section alone will make Tales of the Chakat Universe worth its price.
All of the art from the Chakat’s Den is here, unfortunately in black-&-white rather than full color. The artists are Kacey Miyagami, Roy D. Pounds II, James L. Brandt, Shawntae Howard, Sara Palmer, Anhes, Rick Griffin, Mitti, Heather Bruton, J. W. Kennedy, Roz Gibson, Tao Dog, Stephanie Stone, Hyptosis, Monika Livingstone, Ted Sheppard, Mountaineer, Dark Natasha, and Zambuka. The wraparound cover is by EosFoxx.