The Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Association, which administers the annual Ursa Major Awards, has updated the 2013 Anthropomorphic Reading List to include the titles recommended by furry fans through November 17. This list is often used by fans to nominate in the next year's Awards.
There are two months left to add your favorites of the year to the List. All fans are invited to recommend worthwhile anthropomorphic works in eleven categories (motion pictures, dramatic short films or broadcasts, novels, short fiction, other literary works, graphic stories, comic strips, magazines, published illustrations, websites, and games) first published during 2013, if they are not already on the list.
Send in your recommendations. Read the List to see what other fans have recommended. Have you seen all nine published illustrations, for example? What have you been missing?
Otters in Space: The Search for Cat Havana by Mary E. Lowd is a short novel that received a 2010 Ursa Major Award nomination. It's a work of light science-fiction that I think might appeal to young adult readers. It's available from FurPlanet and Amazon, and in electronic format - see the author's website for details and links. I read the FurPlanet 2012 edition, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-61450-043-8.
See also: Fred Patten's earlier summary and review. (Contains spoilers.)
Mary Lowd's name really first stood out to me in the 2012 Ursa Recommended Anthropomorphics List, which included six of her short stories. It's not unusual to see authors with multiple recommendations on the list, although when they all appear at the same time, it feels like overkill. Anyway, of those six, I definitely enjoyed St. Kalwain and the Lady Uta, appearing in ROAR volume 4, so I was curious what she would do in a longer format.
Sometimes you just want to read a sweet, fluffy fantasy in which the goodies are good, the baddies are bad, and nothing truly scary happens. Welcome to the idyllic Heart Forest, ruled by Gaia and protected by animal elementals – the Animentals – from the dark forces which want nothing more than to destroy it.
RedSilver follows vixen Red Sunset as she is snatched from certain death to take up her role as Animental. She meets the other animal guardians - Braenaigh the badger, Chancer the cacomistle and she-wolf Silver, their leader, who becomes Red's closest friend - and awaits the awakening of her powers to find out what kind of Animental she herself will be. Shy at first, she blossoms under the guidance of her new peers, her personal growth matched by corresponding increases in her newfound physical abilities.
Meanwhile, the invisible barrier which shields the forest from harm is shrinking every day under the attacks of a horde of shadow demons. Red and the other Animentals must discover their plans and their hideout, then destroy them.
You cannot always judge whether a novel will be good or bad by its first line, but I’ve found that a story with a good first line rarely turns out to be bad. The first line of Striking the Root is, “Rowan hung upside-down from a branch and drew emerald knots in the air, hoping to please the Lord.” Yep, that’s a grabber. And Striking the Root just keeps getting better.
In an apparent dungeons-&-dragonish magical world, young Rowan Janiceson is an “awakened” gray squirrel in a joint civilization of humans and squirrelfolk. The world was originally inhabited by just humans; but several centuries ago, the human wizard Lord Veles, Great Lord of the Forest, planted the seed that grew into the massive Great Oak and awakened the first squirrels in size and intelligence. Since then, Veles has mostly withdrawn to let the squirrelfolk run their own civilization under their own Council in what has become the squirrel nation of Great Oak. Many squirrels have left Great Oak to settle among the human city-states.
Rowan is one of the squirrelfolk who worship Veles as the god of the squirrelfolk, and he is unhappy that more and more squirrels are drifting away from the True Faith, calling Veles by the disrespectful name of “Greenie” and considering him as just a human wizard, not a god. When the Council of Great Oak intends to send a representative into human lands on a trade mission, Veles arranges for Rowan to become that messenger. Rowan is both scared to venture from the squirrel nation into the human world, and proud to be the ambassador of the squirrel’s True Faith.
For those looking for more of an intellectual take on some of these anthropomorphic concepts, check out this new book: Carl Barks’ Donald Duck: Your Average American, by Peter Schilling, Jr. From Amazon: “From 1942 to his retirement in 1966, Carl Barks drew Donald Duck comic books (the seventh greatest comic of the twentieth century according to The Comics Journal) for Walt Disney. He took what should have been a bland franchise and turned it into a classic of comics. Drawing on his own experiences (most notably a brief stint as a chicken farmer), Barks went to create a character who was remarkable . . . for not being remarkable. In his pursuit of a good job, his boredom with suburban life, his temper, his squabbles with neighbors, and his resolve in the face of his many failures, Barks’s Donald Duck was truly your average American.”
Does anyone besides me care about this bureaucratic trivia? This is a good read, in a handy trade paperback edition for those who don’t want to read it on their computer. Get it in one format or the other.
But this is a direct sequel to Lowd’s Ursa-Major-nominated Otters in Space: The Search for Cat Havana. If there is any flaw with Otters in Space II, it is that you need to have read the first book to really understand it. Or at least read the review of it, in Flayrah on February 6, 2012.
To jump ahead to the bottom line; Lab Rat is mysterious and full of action, and you will like it if you turn off your brain.
The narrator, Zack, is a lab rat, grown artificially in a vat. The first few pages of this novel are stream-of-consciousness; his first disjointed thoughts. Two beings look into his tank; Father and Golem.
Father was complaining recently about the limitations of Golem’s tactile sensors, which makes no sense at all to me. But I could tell that he was talking about the flat-voiced speaker.
Golem is mostly black and silver in color.
He checks on me regularly for Father, but doesn’t talk to me like Father does. (page 14)
Zack knows that he is a rat:
My fur is white and does not have any glowing symbols, just a pattern of jagged stripes of a very dark blue. [See E. T. Willoughby's cover.]
I’m not sure, but I do not think Golem has a hairless tail like I do either. Golem is definitely not a rat like me. (page 15)
Treecat Wars is the third novel in the Star Kingdom series of annual Young Adult s-f novels by David Weber and Jane Lindskold, following A Beautiful Friendship (reviewed here on October 10, 2011) and Fire Season (review October 26, 2012). These are the prequels to Weber’s immensely popular Honor Harrington series of military science-fiction, set about 350 years earlier, when the planet Sphinx is just being settled by humans. In A Beautiful Friendship, Honor’s ancestor Stephanie Harrington, then an 11-year-old precocious tomboy, discovers Sphinx’s six-legged empathetic treecats, and bonds with the one she names Lionheart, but whose own name is Climbs Quickly. In Fire Season, Stephanie and Climbs Quickly are hard-pressed to keep the secret of the treecats’ intelligence during Sphinx’s dry season, when raging forest fires threaten to wipe out whole treecat clans.
As before, Treecat Wars is primarily Sphinx’s human settlers’ story, centered around now 15½-year-old Stephanie Harrington and her family and teenage friends. But there are enough scenes with Climbs Quickly and the treecats to satisfy Flayrah’s readers.
Laura Kyle is a self-professed animal lover. In the About the Author, she says,
Laura loves all animals, and has previously enjoyed the companionship of dogs, cats, ferrets, gerbils, rats, hamsters and a horse, though allergies now sadly prevent her from sharing her house with any furry friends. (page [+2])
A wildlife organization, Friends of the Wolf in Vancouver, British Columbia, has assisted in verifying that Kyle’s descriptions of wolf behavior are accurate. Kyle admits that the zoo in Kavishar is based on the old-fashioned “animals in small cages” model that is being phased out throughout the world, and urges readers to support modern “animal friendly” zoos and animal-rescue organizations, especially those that work with wolves.
Kavishar is a true-life animal adventure novel like Jack London’s White Fang and The Call of the Wild, except for the fantasy element that the animals are intelligent and can speak with one another. Think of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp with a story about a young wolf trying to get the town’s dogs to accept him as a fellow dog. Some Furry fans may be disappointed because the animals are not more anthropomorphized, but Kavishar is an excellent blend of true-life animal fiction and “if animals could talk” fantasy.
Last year, Garth Ennis (Preacher) and Rob Steen (Flanimals) ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for their illustrated book for young readers called Erf. The final book was presented to contributors. Now Dynamite Entertainment is putting out a mass-market edition of Erf later this month in hardcover. “Set at the dawn of time, ERF introduces its titular character and his three amphibious friends – Figwillop, KWAAAH, and the Booper – as they take their first nervous steps out of the ocean. Their exploration of exciting new lands beyond the shore leads to a confrontation with the mighty Colossux, a terrifying creature lurking in the prehistoric jungle. What follows is an evolutionary tale of love and loyalty for readers of all ages.” Check out the preview at Bleeding Cool.
These are Books 4 and 5 in Jobling’s Wereworld saga. Book 1, Rise of the Wolf, was reviewed here in May 2012, and Books 2 and 3, Rage of Lions and Shadow of the Hawk, were reviewed in January 2013. The final volume, War of the Werelords, will be published on October 8.
The Wereworld Young Adult series is set on the island-continent of Lyssia on a fantasy world, in which each of the kingdoms is ruled by a therian Werelord who can transform into an animal, including birds and fish. School Library Journal has called the series “Game of Thrones for the tween set”. In Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf, teen farmboy Drew Ferran learns that he is adopted and is really the werewolf son of the murdered Wolf King Wergar of Westland, Lyssia’s most powerful nation, which has been usurped by Lion King Leopold who has replaced the old wolf aristocracy with his own lion nobility.
In Rage of Lions and Shadow of the Hawk, the animal nations of Lyssia fall into civil war over whether to acknowledge Drew’s claim to the Westland throne, or whether they should acknowledge any ruling nation rather than declaring their independence; while the supporters of the Lions try to reconquer the whole island-continent. Drew gains allies, but he is betrayed several times, and loses his left hand.
How complex the series has become is shown by Nest of Serpents beginning with a Cast of Characters that takes four pages. Wolflords, Lionlords, Catlords, Staglords, Hawklords, Ratlords, Crowlords, Jackallords, Bearlords, Foxlords, Horselords – you name the animal, and there is probably a werelord for it. (I don’t think there are any Skunklords or Raccoonlords – but those are North American animals, and these are American editions of British books.) And lots of human commoners.
“Wereworld: Nest of Serpents”, Jan. 2013, hardcover $16.99 ([xiv] + 494 +  pgs.), Kindle $9.78.
“Wereworld: Storm of Sharks”, May 2013, hardcover $16.99 ([xvi] + 454 +  pgs.), Kindle $9.78.
Both by Curtis Jobling, published by The Penguin Group/Viking, with a map by the author.
… on an alien planet. That’s the basic concept behind B + F, a full-color illustrated book for adults that’s coming in hardcover from Adhouse Books this October. “B+F, Gregory Benton’s MoCCA Award of Excellence-winning fable, explores an otherworldly forest with a woman and a dog as they encounter its denizens, both benevolent and malicious. A wordless meditation on goodwill, hostility, and isolation.” Order it at the Adhouse web site, and check out Gregory Benton’s web site while you’re at it.
RedSilver: Nature’s Evolutions is a new anthropomorphic fantasy novel written by Steve Alford. It’s available now at Lulu.com. “When Red Sunset, an ordinary vixen from Devon, is chosen by Mother Gaia to defend the Heart Forest from attack, she can hardly believe what is happening to her. As one of the legendary Animentals, she can command powers she could only ever have dreamed of. But this is a far from idyllic situation. The Heart Forest is under attack by strange creatures unlike anything she has ever seen before. And if the Animentals fail, the consequences run far further than she could ever imagine…” The book is illustrated in black & white by the artist known as Silent Ravyn, who has also uploaded a collage of illustrations to their Fur Affinity page.
It is unfair to compare Hogarth’s novel set at a university in her Paradox universe with Pixar’s recently-released Monsters University, but the superficial parallels are obvious. Instead of the no-two-are-the-same monsters, there are the seeming-dozens of different species of the Pelted, and some humans, wandering about prestigious Seersana University. Instead of a big green eyeball and a blue-lavender furry monster as main characters, there are a pale, tall humanoid Eldritch and a short, furry centauroid winged Glaseah.
The big difference is that in Monsters University, the cast all look different but are all from the same culture. In Mindtouch, the different species are from different societies. The students may know intellectually that they are in for some “different” experiences at S.U., but it is still a shock when they happen.
Orientation began, as he had half expected, with a speech by the associate dean of the College of Medicine, of which the xenopsychology school was a part. He was one of the Seersa, the foxine Pelted who’d given the world its name, a lean and grizzled elder with salt-and-pepper fur and the intensity of a medic. Jahir listened to his monologue while marveling that he was actually here … sitting in a chair in an auditorium filled with aliens. The woman in front of him had silk-furred ears that were trembling from the effort of catching every word. The ends of the rows had spaces for centauroids to recline, or the more avian aliens to perch. He was, very definitely, no longer home, and if the stress of his danger at being so crowded was giving him a headache, well … it was worth it, for the newness of it. (pgs. 28-29)
The Darkness, a.k.a. “Arraborough, Book 2”, has a two-page “The Story So Far” synopsis of Book 1, The Unimaginable Road, but it seems more confusing than enlightening. Basically, The Darkness jumps right into the story in progress. If you have not read The Unimaginable Road, you should start there. If you have, even when Book 1 was first published over a year ago, the events will swiftly come back to you.
The Darkness is a darker story, no joke intended. In Book 1, the community of Arraborough is created with high hopes for its success. Unknown forces are clearly working against it, but there is a feeling that if the animal community will continue to trust each other and work together, they will prevail against the shadowy obstacles. In Book 2, that unity is broken. Deaths occur, some possibly natural but ominous, and others definitely murder. The Arraboroughans now wonder who is the murderer in their midst; which of their close friends is secretly working to sabotage their community. And the agencies opposed to Arraborough seem stronger.
Tust and Kelly are in earnest discussion with Slither. Fespin, Hillany, and Inkwell are playing with Taj as Arlafette looks on proudly. Albin is sharing some opinion with Mander. Breth and Barelle are setting out plates and cutlery. From the kitchen, Hylan is bringing out a large garden salad. Dhenzi and Brady are whispering to themselves, glancing covertly at Spiny, who sits off by himself. Slick’s face hardens as he realizes that one of these people is a traitor and a murderer. (p. 37)