Review: 'Evolutionary Action', by Phil Geusz
Phil Geusz is famous in furry fandom for his fiction featuring genengineered anthro-rabbits. They are usually highly intellectual and non-violent. This makes the beginning of Evolutionary Action rather startling: Dr. Rusty Harrison, a professor of “the University” and a personal friend of the dean, is complaining about the mess in his brown fur that killing two assassins at close range has made.
I wrung out my sponge. There was a nasty bit of scalp lodged in it, and I didn’t want to get hair all over the place. I used hollowpoints in my .357, and the explosive effect tended toward the spectacular at close range. The least I could do for poor Alice was stick around and help with the cleanup. Even if I was working nasty little balls of coagulating blood so deep into my pelt that I’d have to soak for hours to get them out. I counted Alice as a friend, after all. (p. 5)
This is one of those novels that is difficult to summarize without giving away spoilers. Over 99% of mankind has died in the catastrophe known as the Breakdown, the Plague, the Collapse or the Outbreak, and the survivors are struggling to keep up some form of civilization. There are not enough to maintain the United States of America, and it has broken apart into many tiny independent state-based countries like the West Coast Confederation, the Sooner Republic, the Colorado Republic, Iowssouri, the Arkansas Free State, the Lone Star Republic and so on. Most of them are friendly and trying to maintain good relations with each other, but at least one is out for a war of conquest against the others, executing the governments of the conquered states.
The University, which was experimenting with genengineering before the Breakdown, has all of the intelligent Rabbits left in the world, and is one of the remaining practitioners of research. It is a politically independent enclave located in the Sooner Republic, which supports it. However, the armies of one of the aggressors are approaching the Sooners and neighboring Texas, and both the Sooner and Lone Star governments and the University administration are wondering what to do.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, September 2013, trade paperback $9.95 (187 pages).
The problem is magnified by the fact that the Rabbits were being designed to be pacifists. In fact, they are almost militantly pacifistic, if that is not a contradiction in terms. They believe in non-violence to the point of refusing to defend themselves even when confronted by human killers. Rusty is an anomaly; a Rabbit in whom the artificial non-violent instinct has not taken. He will defend himself and as a result, most of the other Rabbits look down upon him.
Rusty is the only Rabbit that the University can send out on information-gathering missions and expect to come home alive. Both the University administration and the Lone Star government want him to find them allies, but they are undercut by the prevailing mood among the Rabbits being against self-defense. They are hardwired to believe that any form of aggression is evil. They refuse to help the Texan defense. Rusty is torn between wanting to be accepted by his fellow Rabbits, and exasperated by their blindness. If they won’t learn to defend themselves, they won’t exist once the first aggressor gets as far as the University grounds.
Evolutionary Action is much more complex than this. There is what Rusty discovers on his explorations. There is the expanding picture of post-Collapse America. There is the mystery of who is trying to kill Rusty, and why. Why are most humans pathetically eager to meet a Rabbit, but someone important enough to hire killers wants Rusty dead? There is the mystery of what caused the Collapse, and whether it is pertinent to Rusty’s missions.
Despite’s Rusty’s attempts to be as peaceful and diplomatic as possible among allies and friendly neutrals, there are shootings, poisonings, spyings, boobytrappings, interfering bureaucrats and a Rabbit assistant whose help he needs but who despises him as a psychotic warmonger. One thing leads to another, and they all lead toward an apparent suicide mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. There may be one way out, but Rusty hesitates to take it …
Because I wasn’t sure if even I could stand to live with myself after slaughtering as many humans as I was going to be forced to kill in horrible ways in order to make the whole thing work. (p. 83)
As usual, Phil Geusz tells a well-written, impossible-to-put-down story.
The book says “Second Edition”, but Geusz says that it has just been written and that this is its first publication anywhere.