Review: 'Bound to Play', by James Robert Jordan
Bound to Play is set in Bernard Doove’s Chakat Universe. It features those hermaphroditic centauroid felines, along with their national game of Chakker. Chakker is explained in Doove’s “The Great Game of Chakker”, in his Tales from the Chakat Universe or on his website.
Chakats Grill and Midsun are cubhood friends living in Melbourne on Earth in the 24th century, where there is a large Chakat community. They are also Chakker enthusiasts who are now in their late adolescence and on the same junior league team, the Blind Bight Cubs. Although they are hermaphrodites, Grill is more masculine and Sun is more feminine; something that they have always been aware of intellectually but now feel emotionally since they are going into heat. Being Chakats, they are less embarrassed about mating in public than being caught mating together since they are known to their families as just Best Pals.
Most Chakats are strongly empathetic. “Chakats under the age of eighteen played [Chakker] in the junior league, and the standing rule was they were required to wear headbands that had built in empathetic dampeners so the passion of the moment in an intense game didn’t cause problems.” (p. 5) Grill persuades Sun, who is more skilled at electronics than shi is, to work up a tiny device that blocks the dampening so they can use their empathetic bonding to improve their Chakker teamwork. This is cheating, and of course they get caught at it. Worse – or better – the emotional intensity of practicing together without the dampening creates a permanent bonding that makes the two lifemates whether they like it or not. Fortunately, they do. Even more fortunately, their “mothers” are best friends who, being hermaphrodites, are considering becoming more than that. But they do not hesitate to punish their children for the cheating.
Grill and Sun are allowed to play in the junior league finals against the Werribee Roos, since it would wreck the Blind Bight Cubs to pull them out at the last minute. But Grill is kidnapped by a human professional criminal who blames his family for having foiled a paid sabotage attempt, ruining the criminal’s credibility. The climax is Grill’s rescue.
Among all this are numerous other Chakats, including Midsun’s mother Midsnow, Grill’s mother Blacktail, their other siblings (including Coldeyes and Coalspot, who Blacktail is the “father” of), Sun’s and Grill’s fathers, lots of humans, a rabbit morph college professor, a wolf morph policewoman, a rat morph secretary, a foxtaur and his badger morph mate … there is plenty here for the Furry fan. The erotic scenes are mild and in good taste. Give Bound to Play a PG to R rating. There are also illustrations by eight artists, all on Fur Affinity; not counting the cover artist, Mosa Sakkine.
Now for the real criticism. Either this book has not been proofread or the author does not consider capitalization consistency important. I am guessing that Chakats and Chakker should be capitalized because they are lower-case about half the time. So is the difference between Blind Bight and Bind Bight. The only word for laughter that the author seems to know is “giggle”. Everyone giggles all the time. I have no objection to young children or women giggling, but it seems unmanly for the adult males to giggle. (All right; call me a sexist.) Sentence structure leaves a lot to be desired. The first two sentences of this novel are, “The door slowly creaked as it opened. The white pawed footsteps moving slowly against the laminate flooring hoping to not make any more sound then what was already made.” (p. x) One of the weaknesses of CreateSpace is (I am guessing) that they do not do any editorial criticism of the works submitted to them for publication. (For example, I would recommend, “The door creaked as it slowly opened.”; a “slow creaking” is improbable.)
There is a good story here. But you have to plow through what would get so many red markings if this was a school paper that it would look like the manuscript was splattered with red paint. The book ends with a preview of the sequel, The Cat’s Eye Pub. I seriously suggest that the author have someone with editorial experience fix it up before it is submitted to a publisher.