Briefly reviewed: Furry and animal-related books on Kindle
Here are some brief reviews and ratings of a number of Kindle E-books I’ve read in the past year. These range from man vs. animal (like Jaws) to talking animal (Watership Down-type) to outright furry to werewolves to fantasy with talking dragons.
This is by no means a complete list—simply what I personally read and can comment on. While some of these are only available in Kindle format, others can be ordered in hardcopy, so if you’re interested in a particular title and don’t have an e-reader, check the listing.
**1/2 Animal Kingdom: An Apocalyptic Horror Novel by Iain Rob Wright
The title pretty much says it all. If Little Birdies was surprisingly mild in the violence area, this one makes up for it in spades. A father and his young son are trapped in a zoo administration building with a bunch of other folks when the zoo animals go crazy and start killing everyone in an organized manner. The Kindle version has a few bonus short stories set in the same time period, featuring other hapless people being slaughtered by animals. It looks like Bigfoot counts as an animal, because they get into the act of killing people too in one of the stories.
*** Ascension: A Novella by Mark Wheaton
(There is no link to this because for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to be offered on Amazon any more.)
This is by the same guy who wrote Bones, so you already know there’s going to be an extremely high body count and the characters are probably going to die in horribly gruesome ways. Taking that as a given going in, this is still a not-bad book. Ascension Island is a real place—a tiny Atlantic island near Africa (that has an extinct rail, which is how I knew about it.). The protagonist is a black, HIV+ South African woman who’s going there for a job. She has the wonderfully unique name of Party. How can you not like a character named Party? Unfortunately, at the same time a colony of mutant super-army ants is also making landfall on Ascension Island. Party has to try to survive the ants with the help of an escaped Arab terrorist and stranded soldiers. Will anyone make it out alive? If you read Bones, you may have an idea…
**** Beasts of New York by Jon Evans
This was a great find. Even though I generally don’t like squirrels, this was exciting and well-written enough I could overlook the protagonist being a squirrel. After a particularly harsh winter, the squirrel Patch finds that another tribe of squirrels sharing New York’s Central park have made a deal with the sewer rats to wipe out or absorb all the other squirrel tribes. But the rats have their own agenda. Thrown into this against his will, Patch has to make a very epic journey. Gathering allies and antagonists along the way, our hero takes an astonishing amount of abuse that would kill any other squirrel. I can say that this book was never boring, and is highly recommended.
***** Bitterwood (Bitterwood Trilogy), by James Maxey
***** Dragonforge (Bitterwood Trilogy)
***** Dragonseed (Bitterwood Trilogy)
This was published by a mainstream publisher in hardcopy a while ago, and rereleased on Kindle. I loved this trilogy, which starts out as fantasy but ends up as pretty hard SF. Dragons are the ruling class, living in a very uneasy peace with the human villagers. Bant Bitterwood is an almost-legendary dragon-slayer, and when he kills the favored prince of the ruling dragon king it sets off a disastrous chain of events that that leads to war and genocide. Nothing in this series is cut-and-dried—there are bad and good dragons and humans, lots of moral gray areas, and characters that develop and change during the course of the series. Very highly recommended.
*** Bones: The Complete Apocalypse Saga & *** Hellhound (A Bones Adventure) by Mark Wheaton
Bones is a police K9 that sees a LOT of action. First he has to deal with a grody zombie apocalypse. Then, when all of Los Angeles is destroyed by a huge earthquake (followed by swarms of killer rats and birds), he gets sent in to help. Then all of civilization is wiped out by a killer virus, leaving only a few survivors and some very hungry dog packs. While Bones somehow manages to pull through all this, his human co-stars do not fare as well. Suffice to say, do NOT get attached to any of his human friends and handlers. Hellhound is a prequel novella, but with an equally high bodycount as Bones encounters a dog who somehow makes his owners turn into homicidal maniacs.
** Buddy the Rat by B.M. Hodges
This was a weird cross between Rat and Watership Down. Like Watership Down, the animals talk and have thoughts, although in this case the rat protagonist has inexplicably much more knowledge than he could realistically have (such as mentioning his father was taken away to be tested for Hanta virus). He also does a stint in a repressive rat colony not unlike Efrafa from Watership Down. But like the novel Rat, these rats come off more as vermin than sympathetic characters. There’s lots of talk about bodily functions, lots of cannibalism (including the eating of infants) and for the first half of the book Buddy is subjected to various privations and tortures devised by the family of sociopathic children that buy him from the pet store. Not really recommended unless you enjoy seeing rats suffer.
** City Under the Moon by Hugh Sterbakov
A plague of werewolves take Manhattan, and a special team is gathered to try and kill the original werewolf before the werewolf contagion spreads beyond New York City. These fit into the ‘werewolves as mindless monsters’ category, and any interest comes from the disparate people who have to try to find the chief werewolf. It’s kind of a dopey book, but if you don’t want anything particularly deep or thought-provoking I guess it would be OK.
* The Fallen (The Wynrith Chronicles: Prequel) by E. S. Lark,
This was a crappy story. I’ll admit I did not read the books this was supposed to be a prequel to, but if the books were half as bad as this, I lucked out. I can’t even really explain what it was about, so I’ll cheat and copy the Amazon summary:
Acanit wants nothing more than to belong with those of his clan, but their bipedal, birdlike forms are in stark contrast to his own. From his ebony coat to the spines on his back as he walks on all fours, everything about Acanit screams hardian—demon. Shunned by his kin shortly after birth, Acanit’s only ever known the life of an outsider. But when a clan of look-alikes steal him away from his home, he learns that fitting in has its price. As part of an ongoing experiment between his kin and his scale covered clones, Acanit is sought after by the Endarkened, who if given the chance, will use his blood as a weapon of war. Should they ever find him, they’ll make him an impossible offer—join them and watch his kind die by his own hand or die in their place. Acanit must choose: sacrifice himself and remain loyal to his kin or betray all of Wynrith.
This makes it sound far more interesting and coherent than it actually was. The writing was bad and the way the lead character acted made no sense. This was bad all around.
* Griffin Prince (Fantasy Erotica) by Katherine Hart
OK, I’ll admit it, I got one dirty story on Kindle. That’s probably why I ended up getting all those Bigfoot porn books recommended to me. Anyways, I don’t remember much about this. Some woman goes into the words where she’s supposed to have sex with whatever mythological creature claims her, and she’s taken away by a griffin, and they have sex. It wasn’t that great or I’d remember more of it. But I’m not getting any more dirty stuff on Amazon because of all the bizarre shit they’ll recommend every time I go back.
** The Howling Tower (The Bear Kingdom) by Michael Coleman
Imagine Planet of the Apes with bears instead. In an alternate earth cave bears developed a civilization and keep humans as slaves and pets. The boy Benjamin Wildfire is kept by a disagreeable old lady bear, but longs to escape and find his father and a fabled place where humans can live free. This book is written for children, so it’s kind of silly in places, but is decent for what it is. This is the first part of a complete trilogy, but I haven’t read the other books.
**** In Wilder Lands (The Fall of Eldvar) by Jim Galford [Fred Patten's review]
**** Into The Desert Wilds (The Fall of Eldvar) [Fred Patten's review]
While this is technically a straight fantasy with elves, dwarves, human warriors, necromancers, zombies and magic, it falls definitely into the furry category because all the lead characters are furry. Estin is an unnamed species (shown on the cover to be a ring-tailed lemur) living on his wits in a human city where furries (Wildlings) are second-class citizens. His love interest, Feanne, is part fox and lion. This is a very epic story, following Estin as his world expands, as well as the danger in it. I won’t say much about the sequel, because that would give things away. But there’re lots of fennecs in it, for fans of that species. Both these books are highly recommended for fantasy and furry fans.
*** The Island of Whispers by Brendan Gisby
A colony of rats has been isolated on a barren rock-heap island in the middle of a Scottish harbor for many generations, developing their own society. Upset with the unfair status quo imposed by the ruling rats, a number of the rats decide to try and make the dangerous journey to the mainland.
** The Kor by Warren Fahy
This was an odd novella. Some sort of hairy humanoids on what may or may not be a future Earth end up splitting their group over religious differences, and the story follows what happens to each group. Overall just a weird story. Not bad, just strange. I was sort of like “WTF was this about?” after I finished.
**1/2 Little Birdies! by Anthony F. Lewis
A scientist gets a grant to do some kind of DNA research on African Gray parrots (You could tell this author read Alex and Me) and ends up creating a flock of super-smart parrots. When the university orders the experiment terminated and the parrots destroyed, he secretly hides them and lies about killing them. They eventually have chicks, that turn into some kind of parrot-velociraptor creatures, that subsequently escape and terrorize the countryside. There are the two precocious kids who have a special bond with the raptors, a slimy reporter, a gun-happy redneck, and other clichéd characters. For an animal-amok book, this had very little bloodshed, so consider it a PG rated animal-amok book.
*** Meg: Origins by Steve Alten,
This novella is a prequel to the classic (and I use the term facetiously) killer-shark book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, about supposedly extinct megaladon sharks in the Mariana Trench. The science in the book is dubious at best, but if you’re a fan of this genre you could do worse. Just don’t think too much about it.
** Midnight's Tale (Kindle Single) by George Berger
A short story about a non-anthro goat. He’s raised as a 4-H project by a girl, sold to a petting zoo, sold to people who practice animal sacrifice, and eventually escapes into the wild. There’s no particular point to the story—it’s just life and times of a goat.
* Of Ants and Dinosaurs by Cixin Liu
This book sure was a turkey (and that’s insulting to turkeys). Translated from the Chinese, it probably has some deeper allegorical meaning I’m too dense as an American to get, but as a straight story it was idiotic. In the far past of Earth, ants and dinosaurs develop a mutually symbiotic relationship, eventually building a great globe-spanning civilization. Upset at the dinosaur’s weapons of mass destruction, the ants go on strike until the weapons are destroyed. This leads to a complete breakdown of dinosaur society, then war between the ants and dinosaurs. I suppose the ants could represent the Chinese and the dinosaurs the U.S. and/or the West in general, but this is no Animal Farm in terms of writing or believability.
*** Petal Storm by Paul Kidd
Politics and civil war in a hive of anthropomorphic bees. A dying queen bee raises two princesses, one of which will take her place, and all the subsequent scheming that accompanies that kind of situation takes up the bulk of the novel. Unlike the talking but otherwise realistic-looking bees in the graphic novel Clan Apis, these are humanoid bees, upright, wearing clothes and wielding swords. Like most other Paul Kidd novels, this is very heavy on descriptive prose, romance and beautiful but wicked women. Luckily there is enough action and tension to keep the plot moving, particularly during the last quarter of the book.
*** Prey (Kindle Single) by D.A.Boulter
You could call this short story Enemy Mine with a Kzin-type alien cat (in attitude if not in appearance), and that basically sums it up. But hey, it was free. And if there’s a sequel, I’ll read it.
***** Ramblefoot by Ken Kaufman
Wolves in the old west, this follows the life and adventures of Raspail, a black wolf. One of the best Watership Down genre talking animal books I’ve read in a very long time, I can’t really discuss what happens without giving things away, but I can say things are never boring for the protagonist. One thing I particularly enjoyed was that there was virtually none of the mystical mumbo-jumbo that seems to plague a lot of recent animal books, and that these wolves are very earthy in their behavior and outlook on life.
**** Roam by Alan Lazar
Nelson, the happy beagle-poodle ‘oops’ mix, is adopted by pianist Katey. But when he is lost and can’t find his way back, he spends years with various other owners, living as a stray and in the wild, always thinking about his beloved first owner. An excellent animal point-of-view book, hard to read at times, but life-affirming in the end.
** Shadow Wolf (Wolves of Beyond #2) by Kathryn Lasky
The continuing saga of the orphan wolf pup with the deformed paw that was raised by a bear. Now living with a wolf pack, Faolan is the lowest ranking ‘gnaw wolf.’ Set in the same universe as the owl saga Guardians of Ga’hoole, this has some cross-over to that series, as Faolan tries to deal with a cunning rival and win his place in wolf society. This book is aimed at children, so is not super-sophisticated. Still worth reading if you enjoy wolves.
** Shark & The Wolf: Predators and Prey by Daniel D.Shields
This was a very weird book. It was not written by someone from furry fandom, so his contemporary mixed society of humans and furries comes off as very strange. The protagonist is a great white shark, but he lives on land, dresses in clothing and can do everything a normal human could do. His girlfriend is a fox and his sidekick is a dog. But the shark is also shown as being able to breathe underwater with gills, and bite with the force of a real shark. When the shark is kidnapped by ne’er-do-well humans planning to have a big gladiator-type spectacle of predators and prey at a Las Vegas casino, he has to count on his friends and enemies-turned-friends to help. This all sounds a lot more exciting than it actually was. I couldn’t get past how a shark could have sex with a fox.
**** The Shattered Sky by Paul Lucas
A sort-of follow-on to his earlier novel Creatura, this takes place far, far in the future, where a society of anthropomorphic bats lives on one of the shards of a shattered Dyson Sphere. They are contacted by more advanced human explorers, and eventually there’s a romance between the bat’s priestess-in-training and one of the humans. Like In Wilder Lands, this is a very epic tale, and a lot happens. This also counts as hard SF, and can be read and enjoyed by SF fans, furry fans or fans of epic fiction.
**** Smilodon by Alan Nayes,
OK, now this was a good killer-animal book. The science behind how a smilodon got into the American wilderness is pretty stupid, but anything other than cloning or time-travel is not going to make sense, so just forget about that for now. Otherwise this is an excellent example of the genre, without the excessive bloodshed and cannon-fodder characters that made up Animal Kingdom: An Apocalyptic Horror Novel.
*** Winter Awakening by Dana Bell
A colony of house cats lives in the ruins of a human town after an unspecified disaster throws the world into permanent winter. But the cats, as well as the other surviving animals, are growing more intelligent and changing their way of life, doing things like allying with the local wolves and snow leopards, and learning to read and write. An engrossing (if slightly far-fetched) read.
***** Wolf Hunt by Jeff Strand
This book was an absolute blast to read. Not great literature in terms of prose, but it gets 5 stars for sheer entertainment value. Two surprisingly amiable thugs-for-hire (think the two hitmen in Pulp Fiction, but not as smart) get a job to transport a supposed werewolf from point A to point B. Rather than the noble werewolf, this guy is a psycho asshole of the first degree, and when he manages to escape the two guys spend the rest of the book trying to recapture him, which results in everybody getting the ever-lovin’ shit pounded out of them chapter after chapter. Not for people who dislike violence, this book is a great read for werewolf-as-monster fans, and anyone else who likes a fast-paced action thriller.