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Slashers, edited by Thurston Howl

Mon 20 Jan 2020 - 18:47
The horror genre has shaped our culture dramatically over the past thirty years with some movies, like Saw, being the frontrunners for just how creepy and torturous we can get, while other, more recent ones, like Get Out, illustrate a deeper, more political side of the fears that have come to appear in today’s society. The cool thing about furry is that we can explore all of the horror genre in a completely different way--by turning all the would-be humans into anthropomorphic animals. With this fantastical flip, the limits to our imagination have exceeded that of human-centric horror stories. With a group of passionate furry authors there is no telling what to expect, leaving SLASHERS filled with terrifying possibilities and a story for every horror fan out there.SLASHERS is a collection of horror stories written by eleven different furry authors. Each story is bordered by an overarching narrative that places the authors as victims you would find in a typical slasher narrative. A friendly retreat into the woods to talk about the horror stories they have been working on turns deadly when a murderous wolf begins his hunt. While the characters may escape the fear from each other’s stories, the real fear is lurking in the shadows. And if you’re curious about the writers involved in the making of SLASHERS, you can find a short biography for each one in the back of the anthology. I promise their biographies are not scary.Ritual FallacyThe first story of SLASHERS reminds me of a typical young adult horror movie, if typical young adult movies involved anthropomorphic animals, that is. Ritual Fallacy, by Nathaniel “LeCount” Edwards, is about three young adults who attempt to summon a demon at a friend’s uncle’s cabin. When things don’t quite work, his canine friends Allison and Francis quickly find that their previous beliefs about the occult were not as fantastical as they thought. One thing bothered me with this story: why did Tony want to do the ritual in the first place? Edwards doesn’t give us any hint as to why, which was unsatisfying to me. But maybe you just want to read a good story without thinking too much about what the characters want (because let’s face it, in an erotic horror anthology they might all die anyway). In that case, LeCount does a good job at getting the reader immersed in the story. With his terrifying descriptions of the creature and the fear of being followed, Ritual Fallacy is a great thriller.House of HaresIf you like “whodunit” stories, you’ll like House of Hares. Madison Keller does a great job setting the atmosphere for this chiller, and the unpredictability of what was going to happen drew me in close to its pages. The story takes place in the Winchester House, known for being confusing and haunting due to its WWII origins. A group of hares--not bunnies--takes a tour of this maze of a house, and after a scream is heard echoing through the walls Sam, an off-duty beaver cop, takes it upon herself to keep everyone safe. There were two things that really stuck out to me about this story: the human tour guide, and the chemistry between Sam and her bull boyfriend Oscar. Having a human in a furry story is a wild concept that may distract some readers, but Keller does a fantastic job at keeping the story focused on the furry aspect using animals’ heightened smell and sight to give them an advantage. Not only that, but Keller writes that having a human tour guide, “adds to the authenticity of the experience,” and I agree. As for Sam and Oscar, it was nice to see their trust for each other grow during the events of the story. Not every horror story has the capacity to keep both the compassion and the fear together, but this one did, and it was very enjoyable.A Killer Among OthersUsually, I imagine the prison scenes to happen after the events of a horror story, but A Killer Among Others shows us that prisons like Harmony Correctional can be just as scary as a cabin in the woods. MikasiWolf writes about a few prisoners, each with their own faults and backgrounds, who experience two deaths in this mystery thriller. After some talk about their histories, Georgie, an ex-cop wolf, is recruited to help figure out who the killer is. With some help from his cell-mates, the wolf risks both a longer sentence and his life to help get the prison under control. Once I got used to the prison lingo I felt part of the story. It was immersive, and the characters felt real. The horror was in the tension, knowing that at any moment everything could turn chaotic and deadly. I highly recommend this one, especially for its attention to detail, memorable characters, and a satisfying ending.I Can’t Stop ItI Can’t Stop It by Kirisis takes a more primal look at horror, focusing on the predator/prey aspect of furry. Ryleigh, a bunny, is being hunted by something they call The Serpent. After getting together with Buckley, a funny farming rabbit, he trains her in case she and The Serpent ever clash. Destiny calls, but there is another danger lurking elsewhere. This story caught me off-guard with its perspective switches. Sometimes it’s focused on Ryleigh’s thoughts and actions; sometimes it’s focused on The Serpent’s. I think it works for the story, but I also think it would be a good idea to put in events that are felt across both perspectives to help anchor the reader in time. The ending fell short, too. I was left with more questions than answers and wanted to know more about Ryleigh’s part in all of it. However, Kirisis does an amazing job with the gross descriptions of The Serpent, and getting into his mind had my face twisting inside out, just like a good horror story should.HomecomingWhat was supposed to be a nice reunion with a friend was anything but in Patrick D. Lambert’s Homecoming. Terrence, a cheetah, finds this out the hard way when he visits his old home in hopes of reuniting with his otter friend Eduard. Eduard seems to be missing, so Terrence fights his way through the cold and his memories to try to understand what is happening in this small town. He’ll get his answer, or he’ll freeze to death trying. This story had me shivering all the way through, and not just from the snowy environment Lambert describes. From the first line to the last, I was freaked out and worried. Lambert’s use of repetition and denial in Terrence’s mind is absolutely incredible. I couldn’t tell the fake from the real, but the danger was always there. As Terrence traveled further and further away from what he thought he knew, I traveled further and further into the realm of the unknown, gripping to any flame of hope that I saw. Lambert didn’t give much. In fact, Lambert gave the perfect amount to keep me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. Homecoming is an incredible short story, and I highly recommend it.Hell on a Two-Lane BlacktopNow, it’s important to remember that SLASHERS is an erotic horror anthology. Hell on a Two-Lane Blacktop really puts the “erotic” in that title. Imagine a blue panda who loves nothing but sex, cars, and violence. That is the main character in Hell on a Two-Lane Blacktop written by Weasel. The panda’s name is Rick, and in his escapades to find a new person to drive his hot-rod into he gets a bit more than he bargained for. The story is, at first, rather tame, but it immediately jumps the gun when Rick spots Kurt, a drunk fox who’s looking for a ride home. Rick sees his chance and takes it, giving Kurt a hell of a time. From there, Rick’s activities escalate, sending him way over the edge. I wasn’t particularly fond of this story--there wasn’t much of a plot or any significant character development--but if you have a taste for torture, and a need for speed, you probably will.A Question of LoyaltyA Question of Loyalty by Arcane Reno is as wild as the sea herself. It’s a small cast of characters, including Captain Robert, Martin, Sandy, Louis, and the main character Ivan. After the group spends some time out at sea exploring old shipwrecks, Ivan notices the captain acting a bit strange. His concerns are met with reassurance from the captain and compassion from his crewmates, but Ivan isn’t so easily convinced. His suspicions lead him to a truth he wasn’t prepared for, but when it comes down to it, it’s all just a question of loyalty. It was fun to read a story that takes place on a boat. The plot is short, sweet, and solid. Reno did a great job at raising and lowering the tension, like the sea, and in the final moments it had me on edge. When the story was finished I wanted more. I’d even suggest expanding this into a bigger story, or making some kind of series about it.KomakinoKomakino is your typical slasher story, so much so that it constantly references it throughout the story. Written by Cedric G! Bacon, this story is about Audrey, a fox who’s a victim of a slasher narrative. Ten years ago, all of her friends died by the paws of a murderer. Now, the killer’s parole is up, and he makes himself known by kidnapping Audrey and her therapist/friend Evelyn. As the killer pushes her through the old cabin where everything happened, Audrey remembers things differently. The fog in her mind is lifted, and she realizes the events of the past are not as clear-cut as she thought. Personally, I felt this story was lacking, and the motif about Audrey being the “Final Girl” was way too prevalent. There is a good story here, but I feel like making it about the sequel to the main story just isn’t strong enough. While reading, I wanted to know more about what happened all those years ago. Sure, Audrey retells it, but I feel like that’s where the real story is. Maybe a time-shift would help so the reader is put into that scene for a longer amount of time. That way, when this sequel story comes to an end, the reader feels like there’s a lot more pressure or a bigger need for things to be resolved. I enjoy Audrey’s thoughts, and the way she comes to a conclusion is interesting. I want to see more of that and the internal horror she has to deal with on a constant basis.Damned If I Don’tDamned If I Don’t takes erotic horror to its core. Thurston Howl writes about a group of five friends who take a vacation to a beach house. While the main character, a fox named Darius, sexually explores one friend, another friend is murdered. The group is left wondering what will happen to the rest of them. In that time, Darius seeks comfort in his other friends, sexually exploring them as well. A day or two later, Darius finds out who the real killer is and is asked a final, damning question. This story is not for the faint of heart. Howl does a good job making the horror erotic and the eroticism horrific. It is not a long story, but it feels long because of the time it takes to get from one horrific image to the next. The sexual scenes are pushed to their limit too. The satisfaction I felt finishing a scene was immediately replaced with a horrific realization of what happened next. I felt like the story relied on this to keep it interesting and scary. It worked.Nightmare at Elmwood CollegeHalfblood Cheetah writes a parody of the story of Freddy Krueger in his story titled Nightmare at Elmwood College. The story is about a few college students who discover a haunting truth: someone is murdering students in their sleep. With help from Randy’s notes about the murderer, Randy’s friends, Avery, Hank, Percy, and Kelly, hatch a plan to try to get rid of Teddy Rueger once and for all. This story was really fun to read because of the creative ways Teddy killed people. In dreams, anything goes, and it seemed like Cheetah had a great time exploring all the possibilities. The confusion I felt while reading this--specifically, is this real or is it fake--emphasized the horror. The characters didn’t feel safe at any particular moment, and as a result, I was left on edge the whole way through. The concept of pain that lasts between dreams and reality is also an interesting subject that Cheetah had fun with, although it seemed a bit off how the paramedics didn’t question the weird cuts they must have found on some of the bodies. I wasn’t able to focus on this for long though; I was too worried about what was going to happen next. Nightmare at Elmwood College is an exciting read.What’s Your Name?In this tale about a group of students who visit an abandoned school, Faolan combines sheer horror with extreme desperation and hopelessness. What’s Your Name? is cold and eerie. It skips all introductions and puts the reader right in the center of the horror. There’s something about the language that throws you into the story, watching these kids explore this school because they just wanted to have a fun time. A few minutes later, one friend is dead and the rest are running for their lives to escape a wraith that roams the place looking for her long-dead husband. Beware her question, for you may be the next one to die. This story does a great job at giving the reader a strong sense of fright. I felt the urge to be quiet because I didn’t want the wraith to know I was there reading along with the kids. At the times where I felt most hopeful, Faolan shut the door to those feelings with creepy sensory details and gruesome scenes that horrified me to my core. The small bits of compassion cut their way through the story and make it that much better. The story isn’t overly disgusting or terrible, and it doesn’t play games. It’s real and you feel it, even at the end.The overarching narrative of SLASHERS helps pull the whole anthology together. With the typical slasher plot seeping its way between every short story, the reader always has something to come back to. The title font is a nice touch to the horror aspect of the anthology. It’s not overbearing, and the regular text is easy to read. Each story is easily found on the table of contents, and the biographies in the back are great for readers to know more about the writers and even follow them if they so choose. The trigger warning in the front of the book is nice and clear, which is good because it is important for readers to know that there is content that may be hard for them to read. This book would appeal to those who enjoy horror stories that involve anthropomorphic animals. Young adults in their twenties or thirties would probably enjoy these stories the best since most of the characters are around that age. However, anyone who is a fan of horror movies would probably enjoy these stories.
Categories: News

Infurno, edited by Thurston Howl

Sun 19 Jan 2020 - 14:31
Throughout history, there's probably no subject more debated than what comes after death. From the Nirvana and Naraka of Buddhism, to the Elysium and Tartarus of Greek Mythology, passing through the Aztec's Mictlan, and everything in between; multiples texts, religions, and philosophers have all tried to come up with an answer to this question. Chief among these texts is Dante's The Divine Comedy, which tells the poet's journey through the three realms of Christian afterlife (Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory) while accompanied by two spiritual guides: Virgil, a master poet, and Beatrice, his one true love. Dante's work is so influential that it basically ended up becoming the basis of all modern depictions of these realms, and no part of The Divine Comedy is more well known than the first one: Inferno, the chronicle of Dante's journey through Hell, and the inspiration for this book.Infurno is an erotic horror anthology by Thurston Howl Publications, and the first part of The Divine Clawmedy series (oh, the puns!). This anthology tells the story of Kyle and Terry, a gay couple living in Detroit, who end up traveling through the several circles of Hell while accompanied by Atha, a doe and their guide on this realm. Just like its source material, the couple meet several people on their journey and learn what it is they did to deserve being there. However, unlike its source material, they do so by reliving the events which led to their demise and damnation. Unsurprisingly, each of these is one story, each by a different author, and it is these stories which make up the bulk of the anthology.Be warned that, given the themes and subjects of the stories within (bad people going to bad places for doing bad things), this anthology features depictions of such sensitive topics as rape, violence, torture, gore, murder, suicide, self-harm, racism, physical and emotional abuse, among many others.The anthology has a strong start with "Blur" by Weasel, representing Limbo. As expected from the only "innocent" circle of Hell, the protagonist of this tragic story, Ely, a white lab mouse on the run after a life of prostitution, is moreso a victim of circumstances than of his own foil. Weasel's depiction of regret makes it easy to sympathize with our main character, and also heightens the sense of dread as the story goes on until its eventual outcome.The next story, "A New Toy" by Tarl Hoch, shows a more traditional type of horror. Anderson, porn store owner and the protagonist of this story, is a fox who decides to try a new sex toy he bought from a mysterious otter. Described in a way that would make Lovecraft proud, I got a quick smile which promptly faded after finding out how said toy was used. While Hoch manages to hit some good notes on the horror scale, I feel that this story faces a tough competition from other stories further down in the anthology, even when specifically talking about sex and the role it plays in the story, and, maybe it's just me, but there were some parts I had to reread several times to get a clear picture of what was going on.The third circle brings two stories: "Down Among the Damned" by R.S. Pyne, and "Go Nuts for Donuts" by Jensyn Grayves. "Down Among the Damned" stars Ray, a restaurant critic who proudly and boldly embodies everything related to Gluttony, and that means more than just a taste for food. Pyne excelled at making Ray a truly unlikable character and cementing his place in Hell, being the first story to mix both pre- and post-damnation scenes, though the lack of horror and over-reliance on flashbacks could not mesh well with some readers.As for "Go Nuts for Donuts", I have mixed feelings about it. Grayves' story of Mike, a raccoon working at a donuts store who falls for one of his coworkers, is well written on my opinion with a relatable character and situations, but it's also the first story to show one of my issues with the anthology. For starters, Mike feels more like a representative of Sloth than Gluttony, but, more importantly, the raccoon did not really strike me as someone deserving to be condemned to Hell either by his actions or his attitude. Moreover, the story did not fit the erotic bill, with no sex scenes at all, and I'm not really sure if it would count as horror outside of its ending, which does work more with the genre. Perhaps, this is one story that could have fared better until the next installment of the Clawmedy.For the fourth circle we have "The Eyes of Aquana" by Faolan, and "The Cold" by Cedric Bacon. Representing Greed, Faolan's story is that of a master thief trying to steal the eponymous eyes along with his protégé. An entertaining story with a protagonist that does earn his spot in Hell, yet one I feel has the same problem as the previous one of not really feeling like a horror story and, while it does have several sex scenes, I don't think they're enough to make it erotica either. Not a bad story by any means, but maybe one that would feel more at home in a different anthology or even as a stand-alone (I mean it, I'd certainly read a complete novel based just on this world and characters)."The Cold" returns us back to the horror with a simple setup: two dogs, one sack of gold, and a storm forcing them all to be together. Slightly reminding me of Alvin Schwartz's "The Wendigo," Bacon's portrayal of Masterson's decent into madness is a believable pleasure to read, and, while the story can be a little predictable at times, it does manage to hide enough twists to keep the reader on their toes."A Cat in Hell's Chance" by James Hudson and "Je Reviendrai" by Kirisis are the representatives of the fifth circle: Anger. In Hudson's story, we follow Jim, a tabby cat whose life has been constantly haunted by a mouse named Terry. Starting strong with a no-holds-barred in medias res, the story quickly loses its pacing as Jim recounts his many episodes with Terry that led to that moment. On the plus side, Jim's inner monologue and the scenes set in the present can be quite entertaining.On the other hand we have "Je Reviendrai", a Gothic horror story centering on Georgia, a noblewoman concerned with possessions and her public appearances. On its core, Kirisis' story is good and suspenseful with one of those protagonists that you love to hate by design, yet it is held back by the excessive use of flowery language (which does make sense in context given the narrator, time period, and genre). Moreover, while Georgia does show Anger from time to time, I feel like this story would feel more at home in another circle, Greed or Pride quickly coming to mind."Metal Hellth" by Ferric starts what I'd consider to be the better half of the book. The sole representative of Heresy, "Metal Hellth" deals with Justin, a lead singer from a metal band who ends up performing one last performance before a strange group of spectators. Brutal at times yet whimsical at others, Ferric's tone is a huge contrast with the rest of the anthology, though a welcome addition, indeed. This story quickly became my favorite the first time I was going through the anthology, though little did I know that that spot would get quickly taken away by......"In the Name of Science" by Allison Thai, first story of the seventh circle and the crown jewel of this anthology. Representing Violence Against Others, this story chronicles the live experiments done by Sorae, her father, and the team on war prisoners. Thai's cold and clinical tone, coupled with detailed descriptions of gore and the occasional images, really bring this story to life and hit the gross-out and horror with each passing experiment, each one more deranged than the previous one. If you had to pick any one story to read out of this anthology, make sure to make it this one; I'm sure you won't regret it.However, "A Soul Removed" by Stephen Coghlan is more than worthy enough to stand side by side in the same circle as the previous story. Representing Violence Against The Self, "A Soul Removed" details the life of Seers, a god-fearing bull terrier who starts taking religious doctrines too literally for his own good. Unlike "In the Name of Science", which focused more on the gore and revulsion, Coghlan's story focuses more on dread. More specifically, the anxiousness coming from knowing full well what the protagonist is going to do next and the helplessness that it brings you as a reader. Just like the story before it, "A Soul Removed" excels at what it does, making this my favorite circle in the anthology.Representing the eight circle (Fraud), we have "Waiting" by T.J. Minde. This story's about Xander and Page, a gay couple who... actually, there's not much I can say of the plot without spoiling it. It is said that the purpose of art is to evoke emotions, and, under that definition, Minde's really an artist given all the frustration and fury I ended up feeling while reading it. Without going into details, I'd say that the punishment the protagonist got, fitting as it might be, was not enough for what he did; and this story was the first since "Blur" to leave me with a sour taste after reading it (in the good way, so to speak).Finally, for the last circle, we have "Those Delicate Fingers" by Hypetaph and "The Night Betrayed" by Jaden Drackus. In "Those Delicate Fingers" we follow Maverick, a werewolf looking for a way to end his curse. Technically the only non-furry story in the anthology, Hypetaph's depiction of regret and visceral descriptions are initially really welcomed. However, the over-reliance on those strengths coupled with a lack of world/character building hurt what could have easily turned into another favorite.Last, but definitely not least, "The Night Betrayed" follows a couple of assassins tasked with getting rid of one very specific target by an Emperor. Curiously enough, the only story where the narrator (or narrators) is not the one being punished; Shadow and Ra'jarr's plan is quite interesting and intriguing, though a slow pacing can make it feel longer than it really is. While it does include a little gore, I think that this story just like "The Eyes of Aquana" might feel more at home in a fantasy anthology than in this one.Reviewing an anthology with different authors can be difficult, but, as a whole, the anthology, along with its framing story by Thurston Howl and the accompanying art by Drkchaos, fulfills its purpose in an acceptable manner; however, seeing it by its parts, you can see a few cracks appearing here and there. Stories that don't fit or would serve better somewhere else, the difference in quality and style between stories, and the overall cohesiveness of the anthology leave it with high highs and low lows; though that's to be expected when having to deal with so many authors for a single piece of work.If you're looking for a wholesome, feel-good series, this is definitely not the book for you. However, if you're looking for horror, stories of debauchery and comeuppance, or are a fan of the original work, this anthology might be for you. With 10+ authors you're bound to find more than a few stories that make it worth the price, and it'll be a good warm-up for the next part: Purrgatorio (the puns...).
Categories: News

Disbanded, by Frances Pauli

Thu 16 Jan 2020 - 13:31
This is a review of an advance copy we received! The book will come out March 6th with Goal Publications, so keep your eyes out for it.One-time Coyotl award winning and two-time Leo award winning author Frances Pauli has released a full-length novel in her Serpentia universe: Disbanded. Published by Goal Publications, this novel expands on her free short stories available, "Before The All-Dark" and "Feast or Fast." This story follows the adventure of Sookahr, a snake ready to take his final exam to become an architect of The Burrow where he lives.It also takes a look at a society formed by snakes living alongside rodents in its halls. These snakes have vast territories, trade routes, treaties with other species and wars to potentially be fought. The story weaves into its pages a species-accurate representation of such a life. Proper movements, the way snakes actually taste and see, even the very architecture Sookahr would design is all written into the characters and stories allowing a level of immersion few other novels can provide. Sookahr is able to examine the life that society has provided him when given an opportunity to rise above the status currently afforded to him in his caste. Alongside his Kwirk, his mouse aid, he is given the task of redesigning a military outpost against avian attacks. He has to juggle the pressure of this life changing opportunity against potential feelings for a close friend, and a voice in his head that seems to warm him of things to come.Disbanded is the first in what I hope are many Serpentia novels in the future. I not only want to see more of Sookahr going forth to change his world but potentially learn more about how other species operate in the world. Disbanded was a book I simply couldn’t put down until it was finished. While I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys anthropomorphic literature, even moreso if you want to see the world through the eyes of a serpent. Give this book a read: you won’t regret it!
Categories: News

Titles, by Kyell Gold

Mon 13 Jan 2020 - 22:06
Kyell Gold has once again written an update to a certain tiger and fox’s football adventures adventures in the Forester Universe: Titles. Dev and Lee’s adventures first began their adventures in Out of Position back in 2009 with eight books released before Titles covering their adventures, the life of Dev’s teammate Ty, and a collection of short stories covering many characters through the entire series.A quick warning before we continue: this book does contain mature content. I will also be avoiding any major spoilers, but there may be hints at what happens in the book in this review. If you want to miss any of that, skip to the last paragraph where I’ll talk about recommendations for the book. With that in mind, let’s get back to the book itself!This most recent outing takes place a solid chunk of time after Over Time, the first few chapters setting up for a story that takes place closer to the time we’re in now as we read it. As Dev weighs retirement while chasing a championship ring, Lee juggles a new job offer with getting comfortable in a new family dynamic when his father remarries giving him two new stepbrothers. Or as he learns, as a stepbrother and stepsibling. Lee learns that one of them is genderfluid and helps them along their adventures in trying to discover themselves. Seeing a genderfluid character featured so prominently to me was one of the highlights of the novel: I love stories with diverse characters! The book also explores the current political climate we face today through the lens of a new group in the Forester Universe: The Nativists. It’s interesting to see how anti-immigrant sentiments would play out in an anthropomorphic culture and how it relates to what we face today. Dev and Lee both are able to have different perspectives on the problems Nativists cause through their differing lines of work, though both poke plenty of holes into their horrible ideas on what society should be. I have to give a lot of credit to Kyell on how he tackled this subject matter; it was approached well and tactfully covered.Despite the positives, this book isn’t without its flaws. This is one of the shorter books in the series, and you can feel why when reading through the pages. It lacks some of the magnitude of difficult hurdles the couple has faced in previous novels, the happy ending so obvious from the beginning that it leaves little surprise when it happens at the end. Without giving spoilers, the ‘flirty gay bobcat’ teased on the book’s back cover ended up feeling like such a disappointing storyline to me as well in terms of Dev’s growth through the series, feeling out of character after the events in previous novels. With all these criticisms in mind, I sat down to read this book at 9:30 at night, expecting to read a few chapters before bed. Suddenly 3:33 AM and I had finished the final chapter, amazed at how much time had passed. This book may have weak points, but it’s still a wonderful read. It does feel like the story leaves room for one last book at the end, but if it never comes to be, Titles would be a wonderful cap at the end of a well loved series of novels. I absolutely recommend it to anyone that enjoys Kyell Gold’s works and has loved Dev and Lee’s stories thus far.
Categories: News

Furnicate, edited by Weasel and Sendokidu

Sun 12 Jan 2020 - 19:50
Enjoy it, while it lasts.The premise of Furnicate is to build a collection of flash furry erotica. It’s a lofty goal; with many different authors and stories making their way into the anthology, there should be something for everyone. The real challenge in this is that each author must construct a compelling narrative in a short amount of time. For my tastes, I believe that some authors might have benefited from more time as some stories felt flimsy and inconsequential. However, others navigated this challenge with ease, flaunting their literary sexual parts to great effect.“Sex-Furred Stories” by Thurston Howl and KC Alpinus is the embodiment of the challenge of Furnicate, using a mere six words to make a story. It is a collection of pictures painting several erotic situations. There isn’t much form or reason to these stories, simply beating each one into you after the other. While each is strongly sexual in its own right, I would have liked for more organization or structure for the work as a whole. It’s disorienting, and I can’t help but think the work would have been improved with more thought put into the piece rather than just the individual stories. However, these stories do set the tone for the entire collection, preparing the reader for what is to come.“Like Playing a Volkswagen” by TJ Minde depicts a group of friends riding in a bus together. The bus has a special meaning for them, since it’s the bus they ride to their gigs in. The friends are a band, by the way. The Volkswagen bus represents the band’s journey in addition to, as one member puts it, sex with a new partner. The connection was a bit weak for me, and I don’t think I’d ever go to such lengths to turn a crude joke with my friends into something legitimate. But it seemed like the boys accepted it and a new jam began. The story doesn’t have much of a destination, but it got there well enough.Tygacat paints a beautiful picture of an old couple enjoying much more than each other’s company in “Base Desire.” The barely contained desire of a lady raccoon turns into a night of sex. Even though the couple has been through their fair share of engagements, they still get a lot of pleasure out of each other. The reader is easily able to gauge the extent of the couple’s love, and the ensuing pursuit is beautifully coarse. I’m not really used to elderly couples exhibiting their love and need for each other so emphatically; in this way, the story isn’t as believable for me. However, it is still enjoyable and the age of the characters doesn’t detract from the atmosphere at all. If I suspend my own disbelief, their ages may even add to the effect.A mole enjoys a night of sexual pleasure and war-fueled trauma in Mog Moogle’s “Homecoming.” Reality itself is bent as Mog depicts a mole that has just come home from the war. Understandably, Douglass (the mole) finds it difficult to forget the traumatic experiences that appear in the form of flashbacks that blend into a sexual encounter. The result is a wonderfully disorienting merge of two realities. The story is relatable and important; one that needs to be told delicately. The challenge is handled well, and the end result is a rewarding experience. The combination of elements in stream of consciousness doesn’t overwhelm and instead places the reader in a position to better understand the central conflict. To me, it seems like the single best way this story could have been written.When I thought about how DookFiend must have come up with the idea behind “Throwing the Preakness,” I have to admit that I laughed a little. The writing is masterful and the pace starts at a fast clip. Vivid imagery places the reader right in the stall with the stallions. The story is about a horse that threw a prestigious horse race for a breathtaking sexual encounter. So you know it must be a pretty good experience. While I’d like to think about the psychological circumstances that would cause this offer to be agreeable to the horse, I don’t really think that’s the point. I can’t help but think that the entire story was written for the punchline. And it was a pretty good punchline at that. Corny, but good. For me, the ending of the story seemed a little rushed and didn’t have the same strength as the rest of the action. But, like races, stories are sometimes finished before you’re ready for them to be.“Oral Fixation” by Thurston Howl engages both the subject and the reader in a thrilling guessing game involving a tongue and several…surfaces. The scene is set as the subject is bound and deprived of all senses except for the pertinent ones. And then the tasting begins. The imagery and presentation in this story is done masterfully, placing the reader in a similar situation as the subject albeit a little more comfortable. The evaluation process as the surfaces are identified also seems real and methodical. Whoever was bound was much better at this game than I was!Stubs McGee creates a frustratingly realistic VR meeting place for animals of all kinds in “The White Rabbit.” I say frustratingly realistic because of the small ever-present annoyances that seem to interrupt at every possible moment. Whether it be broken servers or incorrectly calibrated equipment, these small reminders of reality don’t do enough to halt the hookup between the titular rabbit and a Doberman. The dialogue is just the right amount of awkward, perfect for the scene. The world that McGee creates seems like it could easily exist in the next 10 years. This story seems similar to Striking Vipers from the Netflix series Black Mirror, except with animals. And less exposition. It is told well all the same and the characters are easy to empathize with.Two carnivores meet in a room and start eating each other. No, that isn’t the start to a joke, it’s “Teeth” by Rechan. In this one, a lioness engages in dangerous play with a wolf. Involving teeth, described in thrilling detail as they come oh so close to tearing their prey apart. The extent to which these partners know exactly what they want with just the smallest signals is depicted in an exceptional fashion. It’s a delicate dance between the two, walking the tightrope between pleasure and severe pain. It is thrilling for the reader as well as the action stretches on, dangling them tantalizingly from the jaws of the story. This one runs its full course, leaving nothing else to be desired.We’ve all been home alone, wishing for the warm embrace of our significant other. Or otter, as it were. “The Third” from Riley Black has one such otter yearning for her mate. She obsessively takes pictures searching for one to elicit a response. After she sends it, the interaction goes in a direction she wasn’t quite expecting as her mate says he was thinking about her having sex with someone else all day. The “third” that was alluded to in the title. The interaction gets harried at this point as the pair presumably indulge in their liquid excitement. I have to say I enjoyed the writing for this one. The phone texts seemed forced at times, but the tension built from waiting for a response was relatable. The surprising change in direction was interesting and put the conversation in an unexpected light. Using the words lutrine and tenrec to describe the characters made me laugh as well. In the end, an enjoyable piece.“The Dare” by Ferric the Bird is pretty to the point. A group of friends tells each other about their sex lives; Lisa the rabbit had the title of “best at oral” and had to defend her title. By signing up for a slot at a local glory hole of course. She doesn’t quite know what to expect but still has her skills to fall back on. The story was alright; it spent a lot of time on the lead-up and made the actual action seem too short. It was moderately detailed and coherent but too straightforward for my tastes. Lisa’s night lasted for far longer than I was able to enjoy this story. While it’s a good thing to leave your audience wanting more, not giving it enough in the first place doesn’t satisfy.“The Precipice” from Russell Rottie is exactly that: a dizzying fall hurtling straight off the cliff of literary sanity. Two lovers are in the middle of an orgy, the goal of which is to get them to levels of arousal they’ve never reached before. Every action in the story is described with fantastic detail and clarity. Special attention was given to the sounds made and the meaning behind them and that painted a vivid picture of the ravages these two underwent. There isn’t much other than action here. The motivation is primal and the pleasure is pure. Rottie keeps the story fast paced and full of motion while keeping the reader from getting too lost. While this one does require more attention to keep up with, it is more than welcome as you’re able to fully enjoy the rollicking narrative.Furnicate’s goal is a difficult one to complete. It requires skillful writers and heavy commitment to making every word count. I believe that many of the authors featured in this anthology succeeded in that. I would have liked for a little more attention given to grammar and spelling as there were a few mistakes that took away from the overall effect; however, most of them are easy fixes. The organization was fine, I think the placement of certain stories was meant to beat you over the head with the fact that this is flash fiction. I think the beginning of this collection could have been much stronger after seeing the stories that were included in it, but the overall quality of the inclusions was satisfying.The variety of environments and situations depicted in this collection make it suitable for most erotica readers. There’s something in this for nearly everyone and, while many of the stories cut the experience short, enough of them should hit the mark to make the read worth it.
Categories: News

The Furry Cookbook, edited by Thurston Howl

Sun 12 Jan 2020 - 01:21
From folktales like "Stone Soup" to modern-day anime like Restaurant To Another World, people have been fascinated with stories based around the foods we eat. The Furry Cookbook, edited by Thurston Howl, seeks to explore these concepts through a unique lens only available with anthropomorphic characters. As Thurston puts it himself, “You get to deal with whole new elements: predator-prey dynamics, ethics of cannibalism, vegetarianism, heightened senses, and even food law.” Each of the nine stories in this anthology comes with a unique recipe you can cook yourself at home to fully immerse yourself in the works. These are accompanied by pictures with the ‘hosts’ for the book Destry Roden and Rakedu which add wonderful levity after reading through some of the darker themes within. As a fair warning, these stories can deal with erotic or other adult themes so this book is for those eighteen and older. With this in mind, let’s talk about the stories!The Flower Of CarnageIn this story, Cedric G! Bacon explores the hellscape of a war zone and the effects it can have on those that live in it. Quincy is an aging feline that was able to live through the war, thanks to the help of the shrewd Olga Koch. In a warzone, no one can be picky about what they have to eat but Quincy and Olga both end up consuming what might be considered a delicacy: The Flower Of Carnage. Quincy, now much older, is looking to try this dish with Olga one last time. This story explores some dark themes in a most fascinating fashion, an excellent story to start off the book. My attention was fully held from start to finish, and the ending left me wanting more, the greatest praise for any story!The Greatest Steak"A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach" is a common enough phrase, but does it apply to ladies as well? Alison ‘Cybera’ Cybe writes about a college-aged squirrel named Ricky trying to win the affections of a mouse that frequents the diner where he works. The story is cute enough, if a bit short. The end to this tale is a guaranteed smile however, making it a worthwhile read.The Diner’s ClubWould you eat lab-grown meat? Ever wonder how the sausage is made? Elmer is a lion working for Synth-Pro making lab-grown meats for purchase and consumption. Seeing just how his meal is made every day has made him weary of food, but a fellow lab tech named Victor knows just how to help: an exclusive dining club. Elmer quickly learns that maybe a salad is the better option after an unforgettable meal gets him wrapped up in unbelievable trouble. The idea of lab-grown meat eliminating the need to slaughter animals is a big thing to consider, and Frances Pauli explored it well. The small outro to the story he wrote was also an excellent look into what inspired this great piece of fiction. Bucking The TrendBe they smores of pudgie pies everyone has a favorite campfire meal. "Bucking The Trend" by Madison Keller not only looks at food but talks about being trans through a unique anthro experience which I found very enjoyable. Theo, the main character of the tale, ends up sharing a surprise meal with a stranger around the campfire. Good stories, good food, and good company could lead to something even better. A Slice Of A Non-Invasive Species’ LifeHow can you sustainably supply meat in a world with anthropomorphic carnivores and herbivores living together? Is it okay to let carnivores eat those that have died? What about if some animals aren’t sentient, is it still wrong to eat them as an animal yourself?In this story by Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen, when a deer and his wife invite over a wolf for dinner all these questions and more are on the table, alongside a home-cooked Danish meal. An exchange between the cultures of wolves and deer lays the backdrop for a look into what this kind of world might be like. Even with just a short story, the world is built up wonderfully. It would be interesting to see more stories in a similar setting.SprinklesA brief warning, this story by Al Song does contain rape elements as roleplay. If this is something you are uncomfortable with, this story is not for you. With this in mind, the story makes it very clear that it has a roleplay scene within and has a warning like this before it as well. Both were excellent touches.This story took a sharp turn in the middle I wasn’t expecting. The transition of storytelling style was a bit abrupt, but it led into a creative story. How do you manage to help your partner get into shape when normal personal training methods don’t seem to work? This story is a sexy look at unique ideas to do just that. It’s as enjoyable as the cookie dough recipe at the end (yes, I had to give it a try)!Blind Taste TestThis story by Kevin Miles gets deliciously naughty but does so in a thoughtful way. To anyone that has delved into the world of kinky play or BDSM, they may remember just how intimidating it could all be at first. Amanda is a mouse going through these exact feelings as her girlfriend Carol tries to help her get comfortable and enjoy herself in a most unique way. This story not only talks about proper consent and setting scenes for play but also keeps things saucy and exciting until the climax.Cedar HouseWhat if one day you could suddenly turn into an animal? I know plenty of people would love their new powers! What if however, it wasn’t your choice? Or those with these powers were forced away into havens away from normal society, how would you deal with a loved one suddenly changing and being forced to leave your side?Fenrir Black takes a look at questions like these as Rachel goes to a haven to meet her boyfriend. Her boyfriend has become an anthropomorphic Therian Lion and has been living at Cedar House the past three years. Over a picnic lunch, we learn a lot about the struggles found by Therians in this world and the struggles of trying to date and love someone quarantined from regular society. It’s a touching story filled with strong emotional conflict. This anthology took stories from the serious to sexy and combined them all together for an enjoyable read. It’s always a good sign when you suddenly realize some hours have passed that you missed as you were too enthralled to put a book down. This collection of stories is wonderful for any fan of food in general, but even more so those that like to dig deep into a story and think. The stories presented, even some of the naughtier ones, are done so with nuance providing quandaries worth considering in depth. This is the kind of anthology that sticks with you a while after reading: I would highly recommend it.
Categories: News

Splice: Conditioning, by Billi Wolf

Sat 11 Jan 2020 - 14:04
Billi Wolf’s Splice: Conditioning promises wild erotica from the very beginning, heady escapes from the characters’ lives in a world that leaves everyone suffering the effects of global warming, and the anthropomorphic dog residents as slaves. This first story in the world of Splices weaves together the lives of two pairs of Splice and human partners, in a tale that begins in a dystopian megacity, followed by fleeing to a spacious Nebraska farm start up. The Splices themselves are genetically modified dogs of varying breeds that can be bought and sold for a variety of tasks, often companions and pleasure partners. They are all human-sized with human intelligence, with very human emotions. German Shepherd Splice Kaleb is markedly different from his fellow canids, and that attracts unwanted attention from the company responsible for his creation. Another Splice joins their little harem, introducing them to the Freedom For Splices (FFS) revolution. Intense action and intrigue builds the world, and brings the heroes face to face with dangers they never imagined, intertwining their lives forever.Honestly, I enjoyed Splice: Conditioning. It felt a little clunky to begin with, but was certainly heavy on the erotica as promised by the author in the foreword. Once it gets rolling, it is an easy, fast-paced read. The characters are all likable with their own flaws and fears. Some of the anatomy is questionable in a couple of the sex scenes, but by no means does it ruin the fun. I will admit that the promise of Weredogs had me confused, as the anthropomorphic dogs in the story are full time furry. I’m wondering if that just means that with further genetic manipulation we’ll see transformation in the future.If you’re looking for a story that openly plays with sexuality, with a smattering of hypnosis and foot fetishes, you’re in for a great time. The plot, when it does happen, is icing on the cake. If you blush easily, I wouldn’t read this one in public, despite the tame title.
Categories: News

12 Days of Yiffmas, ed. Thurston Howl

Tue 24 Dec 2019 - 15:07
On first glance at the well-decorated reindeer on the inside cover I knew I'd possibly be in for...well exactly what I'd signed up for when agreeing to do my first review of a more, risqué anthology in the genre of furry literature.The 12 Days of Yiffmas, by title, leaves little to the imagination. A compilation of twelve winter holiday-inspired short stories with more raunch in them than a similarly named salad dressing. Accompanied by a soundtrack with an introduction done by Howl and 12 somewhat, campy Yiffmas carols to help you envelop yourself in the holiday cheer. Beyond that, there's also an accompanying art piece for every interaction to ensure your full immersion with a handy-dandy visual aid.Every story is introduced by our narrator with Howl and guests and the antics they get up to every new story much like those little holiday specials they tend to love rerunning ad-infinitum and does add a new flavour to how one can approach this anthology. Beyond this, they also took the time to give certain trigger warnings where appropriate. I appreciated this. Especially with some of the topics that were covered in the anthology. With that said, let's delve right on in."A (Not yet) Merry Christmas" by White Claw. Illustrated by TabaxitaxiThe story follows a surly dalmatian named David, who finds their scroogy, business-sona slowly being enamoured by the addition of the smallest amount of mint liquor and a few Christmas related movies (one horror) by our far more Christmas-inspired deer named Ollie.An interesting lead-up into this smut inspired anthology. It ensures that we take some levity in our holiday-making in what is certainly one of the more clichéd entries. Our characters are easily identified, and it does end with a very Hallmark “we all learned something here folks” message, even when it's found in the midst of a satisfyingly written dog-on-deer “action” scene. Our characters are written into their roles well and with the raunchy conclusion and afterglow it reads like a Hallmark holiday special but for Porn-hub."Freyr's Game" by Faolan. Illustrated by JakensitouThis story follows an anthro snake named Lysander, in the throes of winter's regret for their own species, who gets invited by their friend, a white goat named Christian, to try a new kind of party, a Yule celebration. (I only realized the irony of this as I wrote it.)True to form it doesn't take long for the clothes to come off, the drink to flow and the festivities to be had. Multiple interspecies mingling in the menagerie, along with a ménage à trois somewhere in the mix.Our characters are well-fleshed out, well-considered and very open to the possibilities of a Yule feast. There was no shying away from tradition nor the partaking of it. Solid premise and a solid execution. Especially when it came to the stranger bits of anatomical correctness."Where the Lovelight Gleams" by Colin Leighton. Illustrated by FaukxChristmas aboard the USS O Riordan, 1943, near the Solomon Islands is where the next short story takes place. Enter the lone Ensign Grady Turner on watch at the helm. His captain, Robert Ferrandin, joins him for a quiet chat about what could be missed on these long nights at sea. What follows is one of the gems of this anthology with good pacing and narrative nous that sometimes gets lost in the creation of a short story focused on sexual exploits. However, my own bias for stories like Brokeback Mountain probably shines through here.This story manages to find the niche that mixes both emotion as well as passion in a well-crafted package and delivers our characters from their situation fraught with danger to a place of peace and release. And maybe a bit of regret. Truth be told I got a bit emotional with this one. Wonderful piece of writing. I am truly hoping to see more from the writer."Do not Open Until Xmas" by Kuroko. Illustrated by TabaxitaxiAn interesting premise, once again focusing on a more open and interesting relationship. Our main character, a red panda named Devon, is, thrust...or, will be thrusting, into the secret life of his partner, Isaac at a high-end house of pleasure. He's forced to make a few life-altering choices. Accept his lover's unconventional working environment or forever lose them because of his own initially prudish consternation.Very intriguing use of some of the kinds of bits and bobs one would find being administered for the subservience of your partner. "Yule Carol" by Cedric G! Bacon. Illustrated by StedilnikAdd this one to the “stories that made me tear up” pile. A vixen named Kyo from Japan had fallen in love with an American coyote named Heath who was taken too soon by fate. She finds a way be able to spend one night, Yule, with him again. Her preparations are meticulous so that she would be able to feel his embrace.I honestly have so much to say about this and very few ways to hopefully do it justice. I guess maybe the idea that if “Full Metal Alchemist” had a way to do the ritual right in some sense.Poignant, heartbreaking and possibly something I'd consider doing if I lost my soul-mate. Brilliant narration and brilliantly written. It's also the attention to detail in respect to cultural nuance that really helps me feel so engrossed with the story.I'd need to mention that of the compositions, not only is Carol of the Bells one of my favourite Christmas songs (read only one I like), but the adaptation for this story was on point and added to that feeling of loss that this story brought."Ice Fishing with Nick" by Sisco Polaris. Illustrated by BoneitisBrokeback Mountain thoughts come to mind again, this time with the more, “going on a fishing trip” vibe. Hot steamy and risqué all around. It makes for an interesting interaction between the two as some of the back story that our author provides makes for some really intriguing fan theory with Rudolph X Santa aficionados. Add in some Bojack-like devil-may-care attitude and you have a pretty solid solitary-cabin in the woods romp.Our characters were written in a way that there's a certain focus on lore, who they'd probably have shacked up with and even the church gets a mention here with all their rules and restrictions.Overall a fun little romp with a small unexpected twist near the end."Band Over" by Miles Reaver. Illustrated by Iudicium“Rock Star” vibes to some extent from this story. Dropped in hot on the introduction to our protagonists Owen and Rick, one an asexual fox and the other a very sex-forward wolf. Let's just say, showing “the horns” in their opening scene may in fact be a little more than risqué...probably dangerous.Owen is also family to the two foxes who made it big as part of the biggest openly gay rock band in this world. I am all for this story. All credit to our author for making this a believable part of the twincest trope. I feel bad for our co-protagonist, inasmuch as I feel these pangs of regret for my partner, but it has done a lot for hopefully bridging that gap.There's a lot to unpack beyond the sexual nature of this story, and it does well to maintain both believability as well as interest in the side-plot. Big-ups for that. The climax of this story has an extremely well-considered point of view with both character progression as well as gently looking at the details from either side of the spectrum."Snow-Plowed" by Nathanial “LeCount” Edwards. Illustrated by TabsleyWith a very dark accompanying song and some major warnings in respect to dark thematic content, I found it difficult to read this. I assume that was the point. Our story follows a duel protagonist/antagonist perspective with a homophobic bully and his victim and the way their initial encounters set up their evening encounter.The way the story juxtaposes the two encounters during this story and attempts to meld them together scene by scene is commendable. For the more dark parts I'm glad that most of these Freddy Krueger-esque nightmares only exist in dreams. I genuinely feel unnerved by the way this was written. Which in this case means that our author achieved their goal. The minor key rendition of the accompanying song, listened to after the reading, sent a couple of unsettling shivers down my spine. I need a topped-up glass of something strong after that. If you're into horror-themed juxtaposition, this is your go-to in the anthology."Family Comes First" by Ferric. Illustrated by FlowamaiWhat to do when you're a dragon in a world of mammals? Two brothers from different clutches, Tyler and Tony, meet over the holidays and times that they can go home to enjoy the comfort of each-other's embrace. This is an interesting story; it makes for some good plot points. Also seems somewhat Hallmark-y. However the interplay between the two of them and the slight jibes they give one another still seems believable and adds an interesting twist in the mix of their...machinations. A solid story for what it sets out to do."Thirty-Nine-and-a-Half-Foot Pole" by Thurston Howl. Illustrated by ErkhyanAdaptation rules supreme as we follow our pro- er, antagonist The Bulf. Emphasis on capitalisation. He rides in with his...Reindeer? Jay and steals all the townsfolk's questionable Yiffmas toys! Oh no! Doubt that would stop them...A titular look at a more yiffy variation on our tale of the Grinch. I will however voice my own displeasure of Thurston's criticism of the colour green. Beyond that, a fair retelling of the debauched nature of the furs from Furville. Seriously, feels like I walked into one of the adult MUCK rooms.Special props to the song here as well!"Jingle Hell" by Patrick D. Lambert. Illustrated by Joseph ChouSpeculative fiction, with the fear of Krampus. Horn dogs all around might enjoy this! Alphonse, our main character, a subservient rottweiler, finds himself visited by Krampus one quiet, near Christmas day. His offence? Numerous, one of which is unabatedly teasing his neighbour with his open curtain antics.Very low-key, to-the-point short story and does a fair job in set-up and progression. It felt a bit disjointed in places but for its purpose the story served ably."Waggy" by TJ Minde. Illustrated by IudiciumA holiday get away with a mixed furry x human couple. In Hayden our human and Wagner (aka Waggy). The two of them begin their journey of self-discovery and pup-play on this trip with every day being part of the learning curve.There was a lot of information put into this particular short story in its emphasis on how pup play is engaged in. It spoke at length about how BDSM is a trust exercise and the characters brought that to light pretty faithfully.This focus in and of itself lends very well to the overall feel of the story and for anyone curious in reading about what can be described as a first-hand emotion-driven narrative to full realisation in the topic (this without being coerced into it by RL questioning), this story does surprisingly well.Our anthology wraps up with a short word from every author and artist involved and asks them for what kind of yiffy gifts they'd like for the holiday and helps bring a small bit of insight into every contributor.While I had a few notes on some of the songs and the singers, I felt the album did go a long way to bring that cheesy Christmas spirit to full mast and was done competently both in composition as well as execution. The album is a bonus on buying the anthology itself and the premise of listening to each song after reading is a fun little immersion tool.While every story and author had their positive points and achieved their varied goals, I'd like to point out that Colin Leighton, Cedric G! Bacon, Miles Reaver and TJ Minde's stories were personal favourites to me. Once again, this is due to my own personal bias and some might not see them the same way I saw in them.Special thanks as always to Thurston for being our narrator on this trip and for the content warnings that were a nice touch especially when dealing with some of the topics the short stories did.
Categories: News

What's Bred in the Bone by Jan S. Gephardt

Tue 10 Dec 2019 - 11:48
Despite the title of this book, this is less of an erotica book and more of a bioengineering sci fi book.The premise of Gephardt's book is basic enough: a super-intelligent canine works as a forensics detective to help solve cases and then typical spy plots go through.In general, the plot bored me a bit. I wanted something a bit more evolved from the typical "pet detective" narrative, seen in films like Garfield 2, Cats & Dogs, and even Detective Pikachu: evolved animal shows off their skills to viewer/reader, gets a new case, finds clues only they can recognize, no one believes them, but they solve the case anyway. This book generally followed that narrative, and it made me lose interest in the particulars of the mystery.But what this book lacks in plot and creativity it makes up for in side characters (granted, I do like the main character XK9 Rex a lot). Even from the first chapter, I was instantly hooked to all of the character subplots and motivations. I was less interested in the main mystery and even the world-building. It was the character interactions that really sold the book to me. Gephardt excels at making characters shine with both complexity and empathy, and this is a book I would assign as a case study in character interactions.If you are a fan of the typical spy intrigue or sci fi action genres, this might be a perfect book for you. If you like heavy character novels,this would be a book for you. If you don't like either, you might consider looking elsewhere.
Categories: News

Mind of a Witness, by Bill Ricardi

Sun 29 Sep 2019 - 12:59
The novella, Mind of a Witness, is an “OthEarth” story, or a tale which is set in an alternate history where magic is quite real and the existence of ogres and werewolves (or lupines) is part and parcel. This particular tale follows the Queen’s Witness, a human named Andy chosen by the Queen to be bonded to her and function as an extension of her will. Of course, enemies are afoot, the Queen has fallen for a Lupine prince, and somebody wants someone dead. Several attacks on Andy and the wolf prince, Gnarl, suggest the target is either the Queen herself, or one of them, and an investigation ensues with Andy and Gnarl at the lead. Mind of a Witness is an engaging story and a fun twist on history that is well researched and full of intriguing characters and concepts. The relationship between Andy and the Queen is unique and original and I enjoyed the exploration of discrimination between the humans and lupines, and between various classes and professions of humans, a great deal. The writing waxes a bit “telling” in places, and the action is bogged down in technical jargon that is likely fascinating for a student of fencing but felt a bit like the author trying too hard to share all his research with the reader. It stalled the flow for me in places as did the times when the characters used modern turns of phrase or spoke in ways that seemed out of period for the timeline chosen. Not only did the dialog wax modern in places, there were times when the choice of verbiage made the characters seem suddenly much younger than they’d been portrayed. Despite these few quibbles, the story really held my interest. I liked the characters and felt good rooting for them, and the detailed research will be a big draw for fans of history, fantasy, and the two working in tandem. The ending, however, came very quickly and without much resolution. The story stops in mid-step and nothing is really resolved or answered for the reader. This gave the novella the feel more like the first installment in a serial than a complete story in its own right, and if the reader wants to know exactly what was going on and what the answers are, they’ll most definitely need to seek out a future sequel.
Categories: News

Kherishdar's Exception, by M.C.A. Hogarth

Thu 19 Sep 2019 - 13:42
Before tackling M. C. A. Hogarth’s Kherishdar’s Exception, the fourth book in the series, potential readers should start with one of the earlier books: The Aphorisms of Kherishdar, The Admonishments of Kherishdar, or Black Blossom. The first two books are more accessible: interrelated collections of short-short stories (500 words or so). Aphorisms comprises various vignettes of Farren—a calligrapher/artist—and his interactions with customers and friends. Admonishments follows Kor, Kherishdar’s “Shame,” a traveling judge of sorts, who’s duty is to ‘correct’ rather than punish various lawbreakers. These corrections are supposed to bring the guilty back into ‘harmony with their ishas,’ (spirit) , but a lot of these corrections seem to involve ropes, whips, gags and public humiliations, so I guess one culture’s correction is another’s punishment.The Kherishdar books feature nominally furry aliens, the Ai-Naidari. Their furriness is what the late Fred Patten would refer to as “window dressing,” i.e., the characters are described as being furry, but they don’t do anything that a human wouldn’t or couldn’t do. They’re basically human-shaped, but a bit taller, a lot thinner, with long necks, cat ears and tails. More interesting than their appearance is their society, which is extremely hierarchical, conformist and xenophobic. It’s a world of polite people, where everyone is nice to each other, citizens are happy with their station in life, and there’s no social discord. They’re ruled by Therukedi, a benevolent, immortal emperor, who oversees a complicated social structure of Regals, Nobles, ministers, public servants and so on. There ‘s little opportunity for personal advancement—if you’re not born a Regal or Noble, you’re stuck. But it’s all good, because the Regals and Nobles take their nobeless oblige VERY seriously, and if they abuse their power they get a visit from Shame.With a few exceptions, the world of the Ai-Naidari ‘s is very low-tech. People either walk or ride ‘beasts.’ The only real SF element are the world gates, ancient structures that allow instant passage to various colony worlds. In both Aphorisms and Admonishments there is talk of (and brief encounters with) ‘aliens,’ called aunera. They’re not described or really interacted with until the novel Black Blossom, where a group of Ai-Naidari have become ‘tainted’ by dealing with aunera, who turn out to be a small colony of humans. It’s unclear if there are any other alien species known on Kherishdar.Kherishdar’s Exception is told in first person by the Ai-Naidari Haraa, and takes up directly after Black Blossom. Formerly a ‘Decoration’ (sort of a Geisha/courtesan that’s owned by a particular house or family) Haraa is now living in a blended household with Kor, Farren and a number of other people. She’s charged by the Emperor, Thirukedi, to learn the human’s language and society. That sounds interesting, but it mostly serves as an author soapbox to expound on the evils of abortion and the hypocrisy of making pets of some animals and eating others. The humans come off as dolts, incapable of (or unwilling to) explain the complex biological, evolutionary and the societal forces that shape human behavior.Most of the direct human interaction is in the first part of the story, and early on it looked like things might get exciting when one of the humans is openly hostile to Haraa due to events that happened in the previous book. But she ends up making friends with him, along with the other humans she gets to know. Later on the narration shifts to Haraa’s interaction with various members of her household, including an unrequited crush on Farren (who views her as a daughter), discussions about relationships (including a gay couple who are romantically involved but don’t have sex) and ongoing conversations with the Emperor Thirukedi about the humans. When another member of the household has a baby, Haraa is so overwhelmed with baby love that she immediately decides to have one too. A male character helpfully obliges with some great sex, despite declaring in a previous volume he didn’t want children. Only in the latter part of the book does anything external happen that throws Haraa’s ordered world into chaos, if only briefly. We find out that the Ai-Naidari are so xenophobic that they’d rather let their people die than accept any help from the human colonists, an attitude that is not really explained, particularly since the first two books had scenes with aliens being out and about (if accompanied) among them.And what of the Exception, the title character? She is the one person among all the Ai-Naidari who has no caste or rank and can comment on society with impunity, which makes her a potentially fascinating character. Unfortunately we see her only a few times, briefly, saying some rude things that upset Haraa. Other than the Exception the most intriguing character is Therukedi, whom Haraa adores so much she’s sent into orgasmic bliss simply by his touch. This volume does answer the question about who and what the Emperor is, and gives some background on the development of their society, so if you’ve wondered about that after reading the previous books then there is some payoff.Would I recommend any of the Kherishdar books? The Aphorisms of Kherishdar and The Admonishments of Kherishdar, yes, if only because their format and brevity keep things moving. The novels are another story (so to speak.). If you’re looking for a dynamic page-turner with action, conflict and suspense, look elsewhere. If you’re interested in a long, meandering tale about relationships, personal introspection and Ai-Naidari cultural customs, you might want to give Black Blossom and Kherishdar’s Exception a try.
Categories: News

Mark of the Conifer, by L.K.D. Jennings

Thu 19 Sep 2019 - 12:54
The path of L.K.D. Jennings’s Mark of the Conifer to publication is almost as epic as the dinosaur saga itself. After an unsuccessful initial Kickstarter campaign in 2016, she retooled it and successfully funded the book in early 2017. Fully illustrated in color, it promised to be a handsome volume. Unfortunately, the printer she picked proved to be less than reliable, and delay followed delay, ultimately ending with her having to sue the printer for breach of contract. A year after the Kickstarter ended the EBook was finally released, with the hardcopy following some months later. Because I was a backer for only the EBook (I was really broke at the time), I have no clue how the final printed version came out, but expect it looked awesome.Readers can be thankful that the author was so persistent in bringing this book out, because it is a first-rate tale. If Baker’s Raptor Red set the bar for naturalistic dinosaur fiction, then Mark of the Conifer sets the standard for dinosaur fantasy. Any book featuring talking animals is invariably compared to Watership Down, but a more accurate comparison would be to Tailchaser’s Song. I can’t say exactly why without some spoilers, but it will be clear to anyone who’s read both that Jenning’s dinosaurs have more in common with Tad Williams’s cats than Adams’s rabbits.The protagonist is Sunstrike, a “droemar” (raptor). Hatched during a solar eclipse, Sunstrike has the mark of a sacred conifer cone on his chest. Clearly destined for great things! From the beginning, he’s taught the legends of his people; stories of the goddess Sol and her creations, the dinosaurs and dragon kings. The central tale borrows heavily from Meso-American mythology, with Sol requiring a blood sacrifice in order to renew her strength each day. Both hunters and their prey follow ‘The Pact,’ where injured or old herbivores offer themselves to hunters in return for a quick and painless death, their shed blood enabling Sol to rise each morning.Despite some early traumas-- including skirmishes with the lowest dinosaurs, Pact-rejectors contemptuously called ‘Ornis’-- Sunstrike’s childhood (chickhood?)passes normally. That all changes when his clan’s territory is invaded by the tyrannosaur Cheharraphix and her followers. Deliberately rejecting the Pact, they kill any Pact-following hunters and enslave the herbivores. Aided by her brother Sarkanj, who has discovered the secret of controlling fire, Cheharraphix carves a bloody swath through the land, seeking to wipe out all of Sol’s followers.After his family is added to Cheharraphix’s toll, Sunstrike gradually acquires an odd assortment of friends and followers who have also suffered at her claws. This includes Leaf, a young sauropod (long-necked) dinosaur, a couple of armored anklyosaurs, and a small horned dinosaur that leads the resistance against Cheharraphix. The rest of the story is the standard Hero’s Journey, as Sunstrike learns lessons, has battles, finds friends and foes, and suffers self-doubt. But really, even if the story arc is familiar, the fun is in getting there, and exploring the world of the dinosaurs.The two nitpicks I have with the book are technical. The EBook I read was badly formatted, with no paragraph or dialogue indentations, which made it difficult to follow who was saying what. I don’t know if that issue has since been ironed out, or if it was a problem with my particular tablet (a Kindle Paperwhite.) Because I have a dinky black-and-white reader, I didn’t get the full effect of the illustrations, but what I could see looked great.The second issue was the author referring to the dinosaur’s feet and hands as ‘paws.’ To me paws = mammal foot with pads. Call them claws, talons, feet, or something completely made-up, but every time I read ‘paws’ I cringed a little. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought it was an extremely odd detail.Those quibbles aside, I really enjoyed the book, and enjoyed it again when I reread it for this review. I’ll add that it does help to have a good working knowledge of types of dinosaurs so you can better picture the characters, but it’s not a prerequisite. Mark of the Conifer is highly recommended to anyone who loves a good adventure saga, animal POV books, or dinosaurs. This book has all three locked in its paws—talons!
Categories: News

In Flux, ed. Rechan

Mon 9 Sep 2019 - 19:59
What constitutes one’s self is never static: one’s mind is always changing a little at a time; the body is continually in flux. Hence the title of Rechan’s short anthology of transformation stories. Transformation fiction bears a particular relevance to the furry fandom as it has provided an introduction to the fandom for many writers and artists. In Flux showcases four different varieties of transformation: sex change (but not gender identity), species shift, non-sapient animal transformation, and finally a combination of the above. Most of these stories also feature depictions of domestic abuse and/or rape, so you have been warned. “Aesop’s Universe: Savages in Space” by Bill Kieffer is set on a generation ship where the passengers live in mono-species recreations of low-tech cultures while the multi-species crew keeps things running behind the scenes. As the lioness passenger Thandiwe is hunting on the savanna deck with her crewman boyfriend Bobby, a hull breach almost kills her, but Bobby gets her to the medical bay in time. During the regeneration process Thandiwe is discovered to have Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, and because the crew apparently values a genetically diverse colonist population over individual rights and because people with AIS are sterile, they clone a fully functional set of male reproductive organs for her and she emerges from the regeneration tank with a massive case of gender dysphoria. I will give Kieffer some props for Thandiwe continuing to use female pronouns in her own internal narrative, unlike most forced sex reassignment recipients in fiction. The way Thandiwe’s family rejects her bears similarities to the way many LGBT+ people find themselves ostracized, even if their reasons differ. The passengers have no context for anything but heterosexuality and cis-genderism thanks to the hormones the crew administers; instead they reject her because they think she’s one of the undead. Honestly, the premise of this story made my skin crawl, but it’s a fair portrayal of an intersex character. Franklin Leo’s “Wild Dog” doesn’t explicitly refer to the animal-people as “were-” anything, but the transformation process is clearly inspired by werewolf myths. When someone gets bitten by an animal-person, they start slowly transforming into the biter’s species, even if they were previously transformed. Riley, who’s built his life and identity around being one of the few African wild dogs to the extent of changing his name when he transformed, finds that identity crumbling after his Dalmatian girlfriend nips him during a blowjob. Part of his identity crisis seems to stem from lingering feelings for his old girlfriend who first turned him into a wild dog, and then left him for a lion. We see a very brief flashback of Riley turning another ex-girlfriend against her will, as if to imply that he deserves what is now happening to him. But it just doesn’t land: the Dalmatian simply comes across as a bitch, and not just in terms of species. I felt this was a weak story with contradicting messages. “Good Boy” by Friday Donnelly initially appears to be a short and simple “revenge TF” story where the human main character is transformed into a non-anthropomorphic German Shepherd after cheating on his boyfriend. But then the character’s mind starts slipping away as he becomes a dog in mind as well as body. Memories vanishing, thoughts turning from anger at the boyfriend and the guy he cheated with to something more along the lines of “I love Master.” It’s short, but communicates the horror well. I didn’t know what to expect going in to Tarl Hoch’s “Never Lick a PCV Vixen”, but it wasn’t a lesbian tanuki getting possessed by a demon that was sealed in an action figure and transformed into a hulking male wolf. The story also explains a little bit on the difference between questionable consent and non-con when Kaiya is discussing why her girlfriend got mad at her with her gay fox friend, and shows it later while the demon is using her transformed body to rail him. Kaiya prefers things gentle, ironically, while her bunny girlfriend likes tentacle rape hentai but doesn’t outright say what she wants in bed: you can practically feel Kaiya’s frustration. This was one of the longer stories, but I also found it one of the more enjoyable if only because it didn’t try to be as serious as the others. SPOILER ALERT: This story is also the only one in the anthology where the transformation is reversed, if temporarily. END SPOILER Something I noticed about the anthology—though I don’t know if it was intentional—was that every transformation in the book was involuntary. Involuntary transformation in particular has been around since the beginning of the genre, but modern TF fiction has brought in an additional element of consideration for the victim in such situations. Your body warping around you, having what little control you had over your form taken away, losing an aspect of, if not your entire, identity. It’s a level of violation far beyond anything possible in real life. After reading In Flux, I find it not that surprising that certain hosting websites (Patreon for one) that have banned portrayals of rape are also banning forced TF fiction.
Categories: News

Nexus Nine, by Mary E. Lowd

Mon 9 Sep 2019 - 17:27
Welcome to Nexus Nine, a wormhole near the planet Avia which forms the central pillar of the Avioran religion, and which just might hold answers to the mysterious origins of an ancient consciousness passed down from one individual to another….Nexus Nine is Mary E. Lowd’s new science fiction tale, a sibling (or close cousin) to her Tri-Galactic Trek stories, and a delightful romp through both the familiar and the deeply original. Lowd’s ability to pay tribute through allusion to a much-loved universe and still tell a deeply unique and powerful story is dialed up to eleven in Nexus Nine. The story follows the arrival and integration of Lieutenant Mazel Rheum, a calico cat in possession of a neural chip which carries lifetimes worth of memories from its previous hosts. Mazel is adjusting to the onslaught of other identities now living in her brain and also attempting to unravel the mystery of her Rheum chip’s origin. The Nexus Nine wormhole quite possibly holds her answers, but to unlock it, she must venture deep into the mythos that the Aviorans have built around the phenomenon which they call The Sky Nest. If any of this sounds interesting, you are definitely the target audience for this novel. Lowd tells Mazel’s story expertly and with a loving hand. The writing is sharp, the story gripping, and the characters beautifully familiar and simultaneously new. A page-turner and a delight, and by far my favorite work by this author so far. Nexus Nine stands alone, despite the allusion, and will be loved by space opera and furry scifi fans of all ages.
Categories: News

Dissident Signals, ed. NightEyes DaySpring and Slip-Wolf

Fri 26 Jul 2019 - 14:05
Dissident Signals is a compilation of post-apocalyptic furry fiction published by FurPlanet and edited by NightEyes DaySpring and Slip-Wolf. The individual stories are (very) loosely linked by short paragraphs, written by Slip-Wolf, that relate all the stories as broadcasts intended for any survivors of the ruined world to use to understand what went wrong and how to rebuild. It's an idea which would've been more effective had all the stories been set in the same universe but which does serve as a nice bookending device.There is a lot of variety in the stories themselves: while most go with a science fiction premise, others include aspects of magic or worlds that barely differ from our own. There are stories where humans and furries coexist (to a certain extent), worlds which are completely furred, and even one story where all the characters are human and the furry aspect comes in a very unique way. Despite all the variety in settings, ideas and originality, nearly all of them are excellently written, though most are quite bleak.There are a few stories which really stood out to me and which I would like to highlight for various reasons. I will present them in the order in which they appear in the compilation.Losing Yourself by George SquaresThis is a fascinating story that is completely furry but without any actual furries. I will let you discover what that means. Apart from one of the most original takes on the idea, it also offered a very good critique of politics, how we see (or don't see) others and the importance of what metrics we use in society.A Road of Dust and Honey by Searska GreyRavenThis is unique in the compilation in that it includes a touch of magic in the world. While I wouldn't say it offers too much in the way of political commentary, it is a very cute and touching story which I really enjoyed reading.The Preacherman by Stephen M. CoghlanAs the title implies, this story is heavy on the religious content; particularly a mix of religion and justice as our main character is in jail and waiting for his judgement. If you are interested in theology and the idea that we are all flawed then there will be plenty here for you. I was more interested in the way that justice was served in the world both in terms of selecting a neutral jury and how god's will was manifested in the spin of a revolver's chamber.Photographs by TelevassiPhotographs is a story about the power of symbols, of iconic leaders, of mistakes, compromises and love. I think perhaps this story resonates with me because I have seen some of what it describes in my own home country. Our main character is kept apart from the one he loves because of their differences, helped lead part of the struggle against the government, was the subject of an iconic photograph and eventually compromised with his opponents. Did he make the right decision? Did some of his followers feel betrayed? Did he sell out? These are the questions that "Photographs" explores.Not All Dogs by Mary E. LowdMuch like In a Dog's World, her previous novel which I reviewed, this is set in a world after humans have vanished and cats and dogs have become anthropomorphic but which feels contemporaneous. The main character here is a dog; married to a cat and father of a litter of kittens. He sees dogs as good, but when a dog cop pulls a gun on his kittens, he begins to see the world a bit more clearly. This is an obvious metaphor for the police violence in the US that falls disproportionately on black citizens and, because of the strong connection to the present, is, despite the relatively mild content compared to some stories, probably the hardest to actually read.Aside from these five stories which I consider to be the best in the collection, there are a further eleven stories which should not be dismissed. They are almost all of excellent quality and examine many pressing issues such as the rise of AI, environmental degradation and how we should treat those who think differently from the rest of society. These ideas all matter and, unless we want to live a dystopian future, we should give them some thought. I would highly recommend Dissident Signals as a starting point.
Categories: News

Akela, by Ben Goodridge

Tue 23 Jul 2019 - 12:08
Akela is a novel set at the intersection of societies, but the world Goodridge has created feels much, much larger than even this. The Animorphs—even more so than the Aborigines and First Peoples—have developed an intimate relationship with the land we’ve colonised and claimed as our own. They have seen civilizations come and go, and their songs will forever remind them of the transient nature of life.The California Consortium follows the narrative that Animorphs should be domesticated for the survival of modern man. This is alarmingly reminiscent of the Aboriginal Integration policies applied in Australia, not too long ago. This and other issues provoke thought without resorting to excessive violence or sentimentality. Intentions are blurred, and one cannot help but wonder. Akela feels relevant to our world—even without the presence of Animorphs.An overarching theme is the resilience of native peoples to find their own way of survival and integration—at their own pace and on their own terms—to the toxic world we have created around them.The only criticism of this piece is that readers who want to dive right into the action might find the pace in the first half of the book a bit slow. There is a lot of necessary world-building and character exploration. It is, however, done in an interesting manner so it is never boring, and the investment is worth it in the end.Whereas “The White Crusade” left me wanting, Goodridge is right back on form with this offering. Akela is an amazing book and comes highly recommended. The world is larger than life, the characters are relatable and the issues it raises are topical without being preachy. It is a world that begs further exploration. *****
Categories: News

I Was a Gay Teenage Zombie, by Alison Cybe

Thu 18 Jul 2019 - 14:20
Sold here - Tagline: Talk about a hickey.Back Tagline: Boooyyyssss[Editor's note: Since this is not one of our usual Furry Book Reviewers, we left this unedited. We still wanted to showcase this review (by a furry) of a book (by a furry author) all the same.]This review is a take on the talented and humorous work of http://www.bloggerbeware.comBrief Synopsis: Jay, a fifteen-year-old boy who lives in a town a drive away from Victoria station. Which from what I can gather looking at a map I can only determine is East of London and is probably as specific as saying West of Sydney which could be something like Lidcombe or Richmond. Anyway, Jay has a bad case of Corey Harts only known song I wear my Sunglasses at Night and Daryl Hall & Oates, Maneater. He’s the Z-word, a zombie.He got bit down under the pier in Florida getting mad pash-rash from this hottie that sounded like he could have appeared in Gone Home, except well Dragonforce hadn’t formed until 1999, so maybe not. Unless he was a time travelling gay zombie, but I don’t think he is.It’s been a few months since the ‘incident’ and Jay’s finding some normalcy in his new body and routing. Lots of makeup to bring the life back to his pale dead skin and stashes and stashes of meat to quench his HUNGER FOR FLESH! *electric guitar strings* Which is played petty cute and fun. Though in a neat foreshadowing event he eats a live rat which is in comparison, harrowing.The story is told through his writings in his diary that recently received from his Dad over Christmas as an outlet for his unmentionable secrets, both the gay and the z-word. This is kind of cool as it plays into his family’s financial situation.I won’t spoil the rest, but we go through the school year. Jay gets a boyfriend, the quiet, sexy hottie who wears a leather jacket, plays basketball in skins and who only recently came to school and now has the lead role at the upcoming school play. Sadly, he doesn’t turn out to be a werewolf, sorry. He might still smell like one if that’s any condolence.We also have some cool and deep perspective on the relationships of those around Jay, his parents and their struggles in a low, single income with the Father out of a job. His friend CC, their philosophy teachers infidelity divorce and depression, and Mr. and Mrs. Price, theirs was a quiet shock and extremely well done.But the Twist is:Wales. We go there, and it has one of those beaches you stand on stare out to sea lamenting your dead husband, except its Jay half dead-undead wondering how he got to Wales.Apparently, it is proper English humour to speak disparagingly or contempt of it. Also, can I point out the NHS hospital staff not catching on to Jay being dead, or undead. He has no heartbeat, let alone his eyes and skin. How deep does this go? The Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:Jay and CC. In a really good way, like they’ll still be friends even after Uni and when Archer breaks it off because a detachable penis is not his idea of an open relationship, or it could be weed. Like a certain black fox and otter gay furry power couple that are certainly NOT TOGETHER, YOU CAN’T STOP ME I WON’T GO QUIETLY. FIGHT ME YOU FIENDS!Questionable Parenting:Jay’s Mom, for not bringing up the conversation, again of the cooler full of raw meat she had found under her son’s bed. Like I understand an even tenser conversation interrupted it but come on. Meat is expensive, my mum would at the very least think it’s been nicked!Questionable Teaching:The coach for not noticing Jay snapped off an arm or let alone was cradling it. Yeah shower that dislocated elbow away!Mid 10’s cultural references:Jay plays an exciting round of Call-of-Duty. Ghosts came out in 2013, so presumptuously, Jay must have been playing last years COD, Black Ops 2.Alison Cybe shows they are down with the kids:Jay knows all about the Alt-Right manipulative Facebook campaigns and rightly calls out his mothers sharing of Britain’s First propaganda.Memorable Cliff-hanger Chapter Ending:Chapter April/May. “I’m going to ask Archer if I can bite them him.”Opens with Jay watching Archer play basketball and decides against it and that it would ruin his basketball career.Great Prose Alert: “It turns out that what I thought were plates and dishes hitting against the wall during their arguments weren’t plates or dishes at all! It was her.”Conclusion:I read I was a Gay Teen Teenage Zombie in a single sitting (aside from stopping to go to work) which in my opinion is the best praise you can say about a book. It’s great, there’s a lot of things to love and the uniqueness in it’s exposing of uncomfortable topics, like domestic abuse, bad parenting, relationships and straight up racism in a way that doesn’t spotlight or focus sharply, but says ‘hey this is a part of growing up these days and shapes us and we need to acknowledge it and stand up to it too.’Go buy I was a Gay Teenage Zombie -
Categories: News

Dogs of War, vol. 2, ed. Fred Patten

Thu 18 Jul 2019 - 13:43
War has followed society since its formation, either a function of civilization or an unfortunate side-effect. The Dogs of War anthologies explore the effect of war on anthropomorphic populations and cover a diverse variety of theaters both historical and original. The Aftermath is volume two in the collection, and like its predecessor, it delivers a lovely cross section of sweeping war stories and very personal war experiences. "Dog, Extended" (Cairyn) opens the collection, a lovely, brilliantly written, and heartbreaking piece about sacrifice and duty. The protagonist is a dog who has been given a level of uplifting via technology, and this is easily my favorite story of the lot. It’s just beautiful. "Remembrance" (Alice "Huskyteer" Dryden): Another beautifully written piece about anthros in the trenches of WWI. The alt history is well portrayed, and the story is touching and engaging. The animal soldiers’ experiences as outcasts among their own men are both harsh and beautiful. "Scars" (Televassi): Epic fantasy fans will love this one. It’s very well written, if a little slow for my tastes. The omniscient point of view pulled me out here and there as did the jumping of the timeline, but it was a well told story that follows a young fawn on his rise to power. A sweeping fantasy saga feel, which is hard to do in a short story."The Surface Tension" (Dwale): Another very well written story, though not as anthro-centric as some. I felt like the cloning and the exosuits were more central to the story than the animal element, but they were still incredibly cool. This one had interesting concepts and a sweet, sexy ending that was ambiguous in a way that I loved and very much suited the story. "My Brother’s Shadow" (M.R. Anglin): Felt like it was less about war than some of the other stories. It focused on the family dynamic of the main character who does eventually get into the action, hunting for terrorists and preventing a rebellion. It was a little slow to get going but turned out to be a very sweet story that surprised me in the end. "Close to Us" (MikasiWolf) is a story about friends from two different cultures who get caught in the middle of their people’s conflict. The point of view was a bit squishy as we were not always fully embedded in any one character, and the story is definitely a little exposition heavy, being told in places instead of shown. The overall sentiment is really beautiful but fell flat for me because of the distance the reader is kept from the characters by not having a solid point of view. "Lime Tiger" (Slip-Wolf): This one was not just well written; it was gorgeous. I couldn’t stop reading from page one. The protagonist is an ex-soldier who has a history full of secrets you’ll never see coming. "Lime Tiger" really showcases how hard it is to integrate back into ordinary life after the atrocities of war, and it alone is worth picking up this anthology. "Umbra’s Legion: The Destruction of Ismara" (Geoff Galt): This one is part of a pair of stories each told from different sides of the same conflict. I loved the idea of showcasing both sides but felt that the second story was the stronger of the two. In "Umbra’s Legion," there are places where multiple characters' dialogues are mixed up all in one paragraph which makes the story confusing. It is, however, action packed and full of really cool tech with a great ending."Umbra’s Legion: Charon’s Obol" (Adam Baker): In this installment, the Canids are the good guys, and our previous ape heroes become the villain. The two stories paired together make a cool contrast, and despite some tense issues, I liked the second one a great deal. It switches occasionally from past to present tense but is a much tighter story and has a fabulous ending and more impact."The Call" (Lord Ikari): This one has an excellent opening and is well-written. I never could tell for certain what species the protag was, as he isn’t really described. Though he leads a group of “mostly mice,” there are also humans and other species about. In places the story relies a little too much on telling instead of showing the action. And there is very little description of characters or their enemies, who is what species, etc. It really got the feeling of war across at the beginning but lapsed into “telling” and summing up the action toward the end. "Every Horse Will Do His Duty" (Thurston Howl): This is a tight and well-written short about a horse soldier in a naval battle, surrounded by human officers and soldiers who are biased against him. The details of naval warfare are super cool and feel very accurate. It’s a well-executed and fully engaging piece. "Matched Up" (K. Hubschmid): A story about a soldier at odds with their own species. I felt like "Matched Up" suffered a little from lack of description both of the characters and the setting. It felt like a lot of the action was floating and made it hard to visualize, in particular the opening scene. I was confused a lot about the world and setting as things were not clearly defined, but the prose itself is well written and action packed. It seemed as if the author was being intentionally ambiguous, but it didn’t quite work for me. "The Son of Goulon Stumptail" (NightEyes Dayspring): This one had some great characters. The writing was a little clunky in places, but the story was very engaging. It has a fantasy epic feel and a good message, but the end felt somewhat anti-climactic. I liked the wolves versus deer angle and the not-so-clear-cut good and bad sides a great deal. "Nobel" (Thomas "Faux" Steele): The story has a good voice and a great gritty sci-fi feel. There is an immediacy to the action that makes it an exciting, beautiful read. Another one with a protagonist that has a veiled past and a few fun surprises in store for them. "Trial by Error" (Jaden Drackus): This one follows a river otter stationed in the pacific theater. His “Sea Bees battalion” is tasked with building a runway for some fancy and mysterious new planes. It’s a fun, well-executed story with strong characters, but in the end, it felt a lot like a few chapters from a bigger novel rather than a stand-alone story. A fun romp, and if there is more novel, I’d be ready to keep reading. "The Night the Stars Fell" (KC Alpinus): This one has an opening that is sort of horrific, and it’s definitely not for the squeamish. The tale has a colorful and authentic feeling and showcases a culture that feels alive and visceral. It is also brutal, well-written and nicely told. I enjoyed the alt history use of a region that is not explored very often. "Tears of the Sea" (MikasiWolf): This is a creation myth and as such felt a little omniscient and distant. The tense use at the beginning was awkward, but it smoothed out quickly. The tale has a nice mythic quality but, as a story in its own right, was not super engaging. It felt more like an explanation for building a world that other stories might take place in. "The Pack" (Argyron): Levi Leopard is learning how to be a part of a team. The author never really explains what the goal is or who the two sides are, and at times it seems like the heroes have more time to act than the bad guys, as they do six actions and the bad guys just barely have time to turn around and get killed. Or they sneak into a room full of the enemy and are not seen. So, I had some believability issues and there were also a few minor grammatical errors. The ending didn’t really feel like an ending. It was more like the story just stopped in media res. I think it might be destined to be a solid chapter in a larger work, but it did a good job of exploring the main character and his development. "Going Home" (Miles Reaver): This is a story about a fox tank soldier whose vehicle has broken down. When they can’t fix it, the tank team takes off on foot through enemy territory. The prose is a little clunky, but there’s good tension and lots of conflict. I felt like the protagonist didn’t really seem like a soldier, but that might have been because he was usually confined to a tank. The characters made some decisions that I found odd, like forgetting to use their weapons, not looking for tracks or even trying to track their man who runs off and shouting when they were trying to hide from the enemy. It never really clarifies where Grig goes when he runs off, or why the fox is always tripping over his own tail. The writing itself had some tense issues and kept switching to Past Perfect tense in odd places. The story’s ending was solid, but I’m not sure it made a lot of sense or followed naturally based on the action before it. Dogs of War: Aftermath is a solid collection of diverse war stories and a worthwhile read. The highlights for me were: "Lime Tiger," "The Night the Stars Fell,"" Remembrance," and "Dog, Extended," but all the pieces are worthy of inclusion and fit well together to make a cohesive and powerful anthology.
Categories: News

The Rabbit Dies First, ed. Ryan Campbell

Thu 18 Jul 2019 - 13:24
Cold eyes, lost in dreadBunny for the story’s sakeNow lies cold and dead.This poem by Mog K. Moogle sets the tone for Ryan Campbell’s anthology The Rabbit Dies First. Now, I’ve read many furry anthologies, themed by genre, species, and even the sins of the characters, but this is a new one. As the title suggests, in most stories of this anthology a rabbit dies, sometimes at the beginning of the story, other times at the end, in a few cases the bunny actually lives through several tense moments, but I’ll try not to spoil those ones for you.The first story in this anthology is Tym Greene’s “Under My Skin,” in which a 1920s gangster seduces a bunny banker in preparation for a robbery. It briefly touches upon the logistics required of gay relationships in that era: whisper networks, neighbors who don’t ask questions, keeping up appearances. But frankly, I found the ending rather predictable. Tragic, but predictable.“The Trial of Wandering Star” by David Green takes us into a fantastic world based loosely on East Asian myth where species occupy a strict caste system with herbivores, or “leafbourne,” on the bottom, predators above them, and mythical beings like qilings or kitsune on the top. Some lower-caste animals are capable of magic, but they’re highly regulated by the state, and unlicensed mages are very harshly punished, as the red panda Wandering Star discovers after she’s caught using magic. Fortunately, an organization advocating second chances for unregistered mages sends a rabbit warrior named He-Who-Tramples-Stars (Lo-Yao for short) to supervise her on a mission to recover a noble’s stolen jewelry as penance, and to act as her mentor. It presents an intriguing world that’s easy enough to grasp for newcomers, at least the parts relevant to the story, and gives a lot of room for further exploration. I’ll be watching for further works in this setting.Franklin Leo’s “End of (On)Line” initially leaves the reader as confused as the protagonist, a robot whose memories have been tampered with. This robot, Kyle, is told that he somehow killed his user, a rabbit named Milo who was planning to upload his brain and replace him, but he doesn’t remember that name, or even whether he used to be organic himself. The initial confusion can be difficult to work through; though if you can get through that initial opacity, the story falls into place.“Out the Other Side” by Jellybean starts with the rabbit, Quinn, meeting the Grim Reaper. He’s dead, sort of, but something is preventing him from passing on, and Death sets him to find out what it is. Oh, and Quinn’s girlfriend, an armadillo named Sam, was also supposed to die but didn’t, so that’s his first lead. Now, it’s not particularly surprising that Quinn doesn't remember how he died—that’s a standard ghostly trope—but it’s odd that Sam doesn’t, you would expect her to know if she’s still alive. I didn’t particularly like this one. It’s hard to tell who I’m supposed to feel sympathy for, and I couldn’t discern what Quinn ended up choosing.Mary E. Lowd’s “Black Out in Space” is self-explanatory: the power goes out on a space station. The main character is a claustrophobic buffalo-like alien who shares an apartment with a family of uplifted rabbits and finds herself in a pitch-black room with fifteen bouncing baby bunnies. The contrast between the adults worried that they’re all going to die and the carefree kids who don’t know how serious a blackout is on a space station really ratchets up the tension.“The Detective, The Wife, The Husband, and His Lovers” by Maya Levine covers the investigation of a lapine literature professor’s death by apparent suicide. Only, one of the detectives investigating was a student of his and knows he had a habit of screwing bunny does in his classes, including one of her friends, and has suspicions. I appreciated the nod to furriness in how the professor lived in an underground warren and slept in a depression in the dirt floor, but I thought the story could go further into the dynamics of an multi-species society. Sexism comes up frequently as the detective is distrusted as an “emotional female” (it’s set in the 80s), but nobody seems to care that the rabbit professor was married to a fox save that they couldn’t have biological kids and that seemingly motivated his adulteries. That seemed a little out of place.Ocean Tigrox’s “Swallowed by the Sea” starts with a crew of superstitious sailors accusing a rabbit doe of bringing a storm down on them by “whistling” of all things. Before they force her to walk the plank, she implies the captain has some other reason for throwing her overboard and curses them. Afterwards strange things happen to the captain; whether he’s haunted or hallucinating is left nicely ambiguous. I found “The Unlucky” by Sera Kaine rather opaque: it took me two reads to make any sense of it. Largely because there were three different point-of-view characters with drastically different perspectives: a black rabbit “luck keeper” who can change to human form but has to leave his warren once another black rabbit is born, a cat warrior who ridicules the rabbit’s beliefs because he knows something about the Void that consumed their worlds, and a Hunter tracking them across the multiverse at his Mistress’ command. Had to get an overview of the pieces then read it again to put them all together, but once you understand the story, it’s actually quite clever.Watts Martin’s “An Orange by Any Other Name” evokes a bit of the classic crime noir, except set in sunny Florida, and maybe a little Southern Gothic. The adopted daughter of a senile old rabbit who owns an orange field hires a “fixer” to find out who dumped several tons of sewage on top of her dad’s land before he could sell it to a developer. I’m not sure if the primary theme is rural gentrification, vindictiveness contrasted with greed, or just plain family insanity, probably a mix of all three.“The Road to Macluske” by Nathan Ravenwood takes us into a zombie apocalypse. A lone otter on a motorcycle who only goes by “The Survivor” crosses the path of a rabbit who’s just been bitten, who implores him to take him back to his settlement so he can see his husband one last time before he turns. The zombies, or “Them,” never actually appear on screen, but we see the damage they’ve wrought on society and those left behind. It raises questions of love, revenge, and finding purpose in life. Not to spoil anything, but that last scene almost had me in tears.Lloyd Yaeger goes cyberpunk in “The Snack Rabbit.” It’s another one where the rabbit is already dead, but he’s been reanimated with cybernetic implants. After he’s freed by two more cyber zombies, including one who was his husband in life, it turns out that whoever has been resurrecting the dead usually doesn’t let them keep their memories. Since the rabbit does remember his life, that makes him extremely valuable to certain parties, and brings out no small amount of romantic tension. Sci-fi often conflates identity with memories, and likes to explore the possibility of a completely different person who looks like someone else a character has lost, and this story presents a relatively novel take on the trope.“Two Blocks Apart and the Universe in Between” by Taylor Harbin takes place in an alternate universe where at some point in the 20th century some animals were spontaneously “uplifted” and have been living with humanity, with some tensions. The main character is a human screenwriter hired to adapt the first uplift-written book to film, which is about a human teacher and a rabbit student who form a friendship before things go horribly wrong. This seems to be another one where bunnies are representing innocence, but their importance to the plot is more subdued here.“The Carrot is Mightier Than the Sword” by Nidhi Singh evokes the folklore of many ancient cultures, with a smattering of modern-day knowledge such as the existence of dinosaurs and asteroids. But without the weight of tradition behind it, this story comes across more like a bad acid trip. Maybe it could pass as a children’s tale about the costs of pride and refusing help when offered, but fire-breathing dinosaurs refusing to eat carrots comes across as kind of silly.Finally, Kyell Gold closes the anthology with the Victorian murder mystery “Death on the Tile.” A rabbit working at a hotel is poisoned, and any one of the hotel’s upper-class guests could be responsible, but what could be the motive? In my view, the mark of a good “whodunnit?” story is how difficult it is to discern the killer’s identity even with all the clues available, which this accomplishes. This is also one of the few pieces of fiction that distinguishes between rabbits and hares, and it’s employed as part of the class divide with the rabbit waitstaff and the hare businessman.As I read this anthology, I noticed a few recurring themes in the rabbits’ depictions. The rabbit as prey was most common, likely due to their real life place near the bottom of the animal food chain as food for nearly everything that eats meat. It wasn’t always literal predation: sometimes you saw financial exploitation or armed robbery, even one where a rabbit was treated as simply expendable. The portrayal of rabbits as a sign of innocence frequently crossed over with that prior theme, for the innocent victim is so much more tragic than the one who “deserved it.” A few times we saw a rabbit sacrifice themselves for the sake of others, but I’m having trouble associating that with rabbits specifically. Surprisingly, there were relatively few portrayals of rabbits as sexual beings, and they tended to serve as a means for the rabbits to be preyed upon.In conclusion, this anthology is not for the faint of heart. Not everything in it might be your cup of tea, but the advantage of an anthology is that you have multiple stories in one volume.
Categories: News

Tristan, by Sylvain St-Pierre

Sat 25 May 2019 - 12:09
I hate furry sci fi. I've reviewed it in the past (Barsk, Bleak Horizons, and Kismet to name a few), and I've managed to keep a fairly objective stance on these books. I can recognize their talent and skill without having much personal attachment. And that's fine! But this Goal Publications' title, Tristan, by Sylvain St-Pierre, blew my f***ing mind.I won't go into detail with my usual gripes about formatting and copyediting. Instead, I want to present you with a list:The Eight Reasons You Should Read Tristan:1. Even though the story is about the typical rogueish Byronic hero (think Drizzt or Han Solo, for example), the author dispenses with the tropish clumsy, goofy, and charming personality and instead infuses him with cold, hard manipulation. From the beginning when Tristan awakes from a ten-year cryosleep, having been tricked and imprisoned, we see him become heartless and ruthless so fast. He is not the noble trickster we see so often. He actually does just want to survive; he's not just saying it and then joins a damn political rebellion (yes, I'm looking at you, Han).2. The pacing is so tight on this book. We have segments where each chapter has Tristan advancing the plot super fast, and we have segments where he has to wait, and so do we. And we get so much character development here.3. The side characters are actually well-done. In the sci fi books I mentioned above, I could not tell you anything about the side characters from memory, but the side characters here will stick with you. I will always remember Miranda. I will remember Alex. Satan below, I will remember Alex.4. As an action book, it does a great job. It has equal parts violence and suspense, so those payoffs are just great. I know that goes back to pacing, but it really is so artfully done here.5. Alex. I will try not to make any spoilers here. But there is an M/M romance in the book that twisted at my heart so bad. If the author is out there reading this review, thank you for having Tristan do what he did instead of what his instinct was telling him. That said, this is not a romance book, but when it appears, it appears well and is handled quickly.6. World-building. For me, good fantasy/sci-fi worldbuilding is actually simple. I don't want a whole Redwall or Star Trek universe each time I pick up such a genre read. And that's coming from someone who read the entirety of Wheel of Time! For a novella, this was just delightful. Most of the world-building was generic and didn't require a lot of memorizing a million proper nouns. I could keep up with it and be super immersed. No, it wasn't the most unique sci fi setting I'd ever seen. But it's the most unique furry sci I've seen anyway.7. So what makes it unique? It's plot definitely. While we are dealing with a sci fi rogue, we are not dealing with corporate scandals like in most furry sci fi right now. It instead tackles questions of just surviving, family drama, and even finding meaning in the world. I will say, using the TRADITIONAL meanings, not the currently in vogue ones, this book is more of a romance than an epic (that is, we follow one character's personal journey and internal struggles, rather than being a large-scale battle of good versus evil [cf. the Solo movie is a romance; the main Star Wars episodes are all epics]; romance doesn't have anything to do with love necessarily). And for me that worked a lot better. I was so invested in the characters, and I didn't want their interpersonal struggles to be given grandiose stakes magically. I appreciated the simple stakes of surviving, completing jobs, having revenge, etc.8. Furry elements. You never once forget this is a furry protagonist. Now, for the life of me, I couldn't tell you what kind of furry the MC is. The blurred cover conveys it's an antlered mammal of some kind, but I couldn't tell you more than that. (And I just pasted the cover above in this post. I swear the printed version has lower contrast and is glossy, so it's a lot harder to tell what it is. I swear I'm not crazy!) But I never once found myself caring. It matters a lot in the book that the character is an anthro animal, but the species never really matters. In this world, he's labeled as Other from just his animal features generally, and that label matters. Thankfully, the author treated that Othering as so much more complex than something like Skyrim does. People hate him because he's Other, yes, but others fetishize him for that.If this isn't enough, then I don't know what else to tell you. Get this book. We need more sci fi like this. Best furry sci fi I have ever read.
Categories: News