Review: 'Claws and Starships' by M.C.A. Hogarth (by Tarl 'Voice' Hoch)
When 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.
See also: Review by Fred Patten
M.C.A. Hogarth is an amazing character driven writer. Her characters come alive on the pages and their lives draw you in. No matter the length of the story, you will find something enjoyable in each piece, be they a couple pages to the longer works that make up the first two stories in this collection. At times I found myself feeling the character's pain and loss, and others their frustration and rage at the antagonist of the story. It was hard not to get swept up in each person's individual lives, their feelings, their world.
I will admit that Hogarth writes stuff that I don't normally read. Her tales are more slife-of-life than anything else in this collection, though the tension and climaxes are apparent and worth the read to reach. It's hard not to get pulled along with how her characters react to their situation or the world around them. Even if it is a card game, Hogarth manages to make the conflict come alive.
There were points in a couple stories where the nature of her characters species, as well as the way dialogue and interactions are written, that was hard to follow who was speaking or doing what actions. However, this only occurred in the shortest of stories.
Another issue was Hogarth's species and their mind boggling diversity. Though there were often enough descriptions to allow the reader to understand to what level of anthropormorphication each and every character has, there were also times where it seemed to become confusing and muddled with the sheer variety of species (and the variations within those species themselves) within her world. It almost felt as if every variation existed in some form or another. If you are unprepared for this level of complexity in furry characters, or are an outsider to the fandom, this has the potential to be very jarring and confusing.
In the end however, I found Claws and Starships to be a series of short stories that left me with a warm and cozy feeling inside when I finally set the book aside. I enjoyed each and every story in this collection, something I don't often find with a single author's collected work. So if you are looking for a book to curl up with where the characters are faced with more realistic personal problems than one would find in most books, this will be for you.
Because every so often, we need to sit down and have our characters face real world issues that affect our personal lives rather than the often over the top issues most characters face within furry fiction. I highly enjoyed and most definitely recommend this book.