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Review: 'Rose Point' and 'Laisrathera', by M. C. A. Hogarth

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (3 votes)

Rose PointThese are books 2 and 3 of M.C.A. Hogarth’s Her Instruments space opera trilogy. Earthrise, book 1, was reviewed in Flayrah in June 2013.

The fact that Maggie Hogarth commissioned professional s-f cover artist Julie Dillon to paint the covers of this trilogy instead of doing their covers herself, as she usually does for her books, shows that Hogarth considers them especially good (or at least especially salable). And you know how good her fiction usually is.

Rose Point, by M. C. A. Hogarth, Tampa, FL, Studio MCAH, October 2013, trade paperback $16.99 (349 [+1] pages), Kindle $5.99.
Laisrathera, by M. C. A. Hogarth, Tampa, FL, Studio MCAH, May 2014, trade paperback $16.99 (402 pages), Kindle $5.99.

Review: 'Slightly Damned', by Sarah 'Chu' Wilson

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (3 votes)

Slightly Damned Book OneThese are the first two collections of the wacky fantasy Slightly Damned full-page, full-color internet weekly comic strip by Sarah “Chu” Wilson. She has won the Ursa Major Award for both the Best Anthropomorphic Other Literary Work (these book collections) and for the Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story, for both 2012 and 2013. If you haven’t read “Slightly Damned” yet, these are a lot more fun than reading through the strip’s online archives a page at a time.

The back-cover blurb, which establishes the mood as well as the plot, says:

Rhea has a big problem: SHE’S DEAD. Too burdened with sin for Heaven or Purgatory, yet not quite bad enough for Hell, Rhea is sentenced by the grim reaper to the obscure Ring of the Slightly Damned. There she finds that death is only the beginning of her worries as she contends with dysfunctional Demons and their perplexing pets, a socially awkward Angel with a cute ‘n cuddly curse, a goofy god, and even… herself. The afterlife just ain’t what it used to be!

Slightly Damned, Book One, by Sarah “Chu” Wilson, Phoenix, AZ, Slightly Damned Comics/Orlando, FL, Ka-Blam Digital Printing, June 2012, trade paperback $39.95 (unpaged [276 pages]), digital download $4.99.
Slightly Damned, Book Two, by Sarah “Chu” Wilson, Phoenix, AZ, Slightly Damned Comics/Orlando, FL, Ka-Blam Digital Printing, May 2013, trade paperback $39.95 (unpaged [318 pages]), digital download $4.99.

Review: 'Mousemobile' by Prudence Breitrose

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 (2 votes)

MousemobileI would like to thank Mister Twister for calling this title to my attention by reviewing the first book in this series, Mousenet. This is its sequel.

Mousenet and Mousemobile are recommended for readers 8 to 12, grades 3 to 7. They are clearly juvenile fiction, but are well-written and imaginative enough that “all ages” might be a better recommendation. Megan Miller, the protagonist, who was 10 years old in Mousenet, is 11 years old here. The series is not just spinning its wheels; this is a true sequel.

In Mousenet, Megan and three others – her slightly older step-cousin Joey Fisher and two adults, Megan’s inventor uncle Fred Barnes who made the mouse-sized Thumbtop miniature computer, and Joey’s father Jake who invented the solar blobs that are its power supply – become the only humans who learn that all mice are intelligent, and want the Thumbtop for all mice around the world so they can communicate instantly via a Mouse Internet. They obviously need more than a single miniature computer curiosity if this is to happen, so Mousenet is about the two children and the mice – particularly Trey, the Talking Mouse, and the officious but smart head of the Mouse Nation, the Chief Executive Mouse (a.k.a. Topmouse, known as the Big Cheese behind his back) – persuading Fred and Jake to mass-produce the Thumbtop. The mice come up with the fiction that enables the two adults to get away with this, by creating a “cute” small company, Planet Mouse, to purportedly make miniature computers as novelty keychain fobs, in Megan’s and Uncle Fred’s home city of Cleveland, Ohio.

Illustrated by Stephanie Yue, NYC, Disney•Hyperion Books, October 2013, hardcover $16.99 (282 pages), paperback $7.99, Kindle $9.99.

Review: 'L'Extravagante Croisière de Lady Rozenbilt', by Pierre Gabus and Romuald Reutimann

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

This is a review of the original French edition. My thanks to Lex Nakashima for getting and loaning it to me.

L'Extravagante Croisière de Lady RozenbiltThe young Alfred Bigoodee is only an assistant when he embarks on the seaplane of Lady Rozenbilt, the fabulously rich woman with tastes as fantastic as they are dangerous. This voyage will forever change his life.

A complete story about the man who will become Captain Bigoodee, one of the most striking characters of the series District 14, the prize-winning series of the International Comics Festival of Angoulême. (French blurb; my translation)

The French publisher’s American subsidiary in Hollywood has published the English translation, The Fantastic Voyage of Lady Rozenbilt, almost simultaneously with the original edition, but has declined to send me a review copy; so this review is of the French edition alone.

This 124-page hardcover album starts out as a prequel, so to speak, of Pierre Gabus and Romuald Reutimann's District 14, Season 1, which I described in my review as:

a Ridley Scott Blade Runner megalopolis (Reutimann’s art convincingly portrays a huge but crumbling early 20th-century city) with Humphrey Bogart as the cynical private eye; and the inhabitants, each of whom has a dark secret, divided roughly into one-third humans, one-third anthropomorphic animals, and one-third outer-space immigrants in their flying saucers.

The humans are the upper classes of society, but that doesn’t mean that the humanoid animals are not at least as active when it comes to really running things.

One of this world’s supporting characters is the mysterious cat-man Captain Bigoodee; American- or English-accented in the French edition or French-accented in the American edition. This is the story of his youth, and of how he loses his innocence.

Paris, Les Humanoïdes Associdés, October 2013, hardcover €15.99 (124 pages).

Review: 'Ethan the Meteor Hunter' for PC

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (3 votes)

Ethan the Meteor HunterEthan the Meteor Hunter is an action puzzle game developed by Seaven Studios. The blurb for the game on Steam's store page is as follows:

Freeze time and manipulate the world with endless possibilities: build the solution YOU want where nothing is scripted and levels can be solved in multiple ways. When Super Meat Boy meets Braid, you may die repeatedly and enjoy it!

I'm certainly one for setting high bars and lofty goals for one's self, but the question is now installed. Did this game succeed in taking the best of Super Meat Boy and Braid and blending them together, or did it fall short? Let's dive right into it.

Review: 'Watchers' by Dean Koontz

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (4 votes)

WatchersDean Koontz first came to the public’s attention in the early 1970s. He was originally considered a science-fiction author (his 1975 far-future Nightmare Journey contains talking evolved descendents of animals), but he soon established a reputation as one of the leading authors of horror/suspense fiction with s-f, fantasy, or supernatural elements.

Watchers, his most popular novel, straddles the border between science-fiction and “realistic” suspense fiction involving genetic engineering. In a detailed analysis in Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers (1996), Joan G. Kotker argues that it is a successful combination of science-fiction, suspense, a technothriller, a love story, a police procedural, gangster fiction and:

… overriding all of this, an inspiring dog story whose suspense is based on a series of threats to a very special dog.

NYC, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, February 1987, hardcover $17.95 (352 pages).

Three comic book reviews: Pull List #23 ('GotG', 'MLP:FiM' and 'TMNT')

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Guardians of the Galaxy #7We’ve got three issues from what are becoming the core books of this Pull List series of articles.

The oldest title in the series is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which has been around since the first Pull List and 14 issues have appeared in 14 other pull lists, counting this one. Eight spin-off issues, including the original Micro-Series, the Villains Micro-Series and The Secret History of the Foot Clan have also appeared in seven Pull Lists, bringing the total TMNT number to 23 issues in 22 Pull Lists.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic began at the beginning with #1 in Pull List #6. Since then, 10 other issues have appeared in nine other Pull Lists, with seven issues of its Micro-Series featuring in seven Pull Lists, bring the franchise’s total up to 18 issues in 17 Pull Lists.

The new kids on the block are the Guardians of the Galaxy, with seven issues in seven Pull Lists and no spin-offs, so they’re also the easiest to keep track of.

It's about time for a 'Mr. Peabody and Sherman' review

Your rating: None Average: 4 (5 votes)

mrpeabodyandsherman.jpgI had a friend in high school whose name began with an “S”. This friend, as it may not surprise readers to find out, was more than a bit geeky and nerdy. His name was not Sherman, but my dad once admitted to often forgetting his real name and replacing it in his mind with Sherman. He was reminded of the character from the old The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show segment “Mr. Peabody’s Improbable History”.

I never really cared much for that old show, and I don’t know if dad was actually a fan of it, or just found it unavoidable during his own childhood and adolescence. I doubt he’d admit to being a fan even if he was. That’s just the way my dad is. He is not, thank you very much, likely to be described as geeky or nerdy; so, his apparent remembrance of this show, and a strange fondness for the Vger twist from the first Star Trek movie are the only hints that there might be that side to his personality, so I was mildly excited about this movie for that reason, as well as the fact that Robert Minkoff, one of the co-directors of The Lion King, was helming it.

But, at the end of the day, this movie was just okay. I don’t regret seeing it, but I don’t have any especial need to see it again. It’s just an okay movie; nothing more, nothing less.

Review: 'Taboo', edited by Rechan

Your rating: None Average: 4 (5 votes)

TabooTaboo is a work of anthropomorphic fiction for adult readers only. (publisher’s advisory)

It is rated NC-17.

Every society has taboos, from sacred vows which must never be broken to the limitations of sexual expression. These [fourteen stories answer] the question, "Which line would you cross?" (blurb)

This is a longer book review than usual, since it covers 14 individual short stories. If you don’t want to read a review this long, my critiques are all at the end.

Since this is a furry NC-17 anthology, you can guess that all fourteen stories feature explicit sex. Whether it fits the story or not.

"That Red Panda Girl" by Tarl "Voice" Hoch"

Raven, the almost-40 panther, is a high school teacher happily married to the beautiful nympho Holly the jaguar, who sets up some kinky sex activity for him almost every night. But that doesn’t keep him from lusting after one of his students, the red panda Leah. She’s gorgeous, she’s over 18, and she’s already unmarried-but-pregnant. Raven knows that a sexual liaison between a teacher and his student is taboo, and jeopardizing his relationship with his wife is really foolish. But Leah is also a nympho lolita, and she desperately wants him …

Illustrated by Kadath’s cover.

Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Publications, March 2014, trade paperback $19.95 (318 pages), eBook $9.95.

Review: 'The Awareness', by Gene Stone and Jon Doyle

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

The Awareness"Every now and again I sit back and wonder what it would be like if other animals could really fight back against the egregious violence to which we subject them in a wide variety of venues ranging from research laboratories and classrooms to zoos, circuses, rodeos, factory farms, and in their own homes in ours and in the wild. This thought experiment takes life in The Awareness and reflects their points of view, and it's clear they do not like what routinely and thoughtlessly happens to themselves, their families and their friends. By changing the playing field Gene Stone and Jon Doyle force us to reflect how we wantonly and selfishly abuse other animals and the price we would pay if they could truly fight back. This challenging book also asks us to reflect on the well-supported fact that we need other animals as much as they need us. It should help us rewild our hearts, expand our compassion footprint, and stop the reprehensible treatment that we mindlessly dole out." - Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado (quoted blurb)

Suspense/terror/horror stories in which all animals, or all of certain species, turn against mankind go back at least to Arthur Machen’s unreadable “The Terror” (1917). Probably the best-known is Daphne du Maurier’s “The Birds” (1952). I recently reviewed Steven Hammond's Rise of the Penguins (2012). In movies, the terror-animals have ranged from rats to all of the giant mutations like Them and Night of the Lepus.

How successful any of these are usually depends on two factors. The skill of the author (or the director) in building a mood of terror, and the plausibility of the reason given for the animals to turn against humanity. In The Awareness, both of these fail.

NYC, The Stone Press, March 2014, paperback $14.95 (ix + 221 [+3] pages), Kindle free.

Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 30th Anniversay Special'

Your rating: None Average: 2 (1 vote)

TMNT 30th Anniversary SpecialIDW has put out this comic to celebrate the fact that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have turned 30 this year, an age which is not only well beyond teenaged, but also past the point where pointing that out can be considered witty, but that’s not going to stop me.

The book contains a brief history of the ninja turtles, starting with their beginnings as a self-published comic in May of 1984, with various pieces of turtle nostalgia, including the sketch of what is now considered the “first turtle,” ads, posters and press releases for the first ever issue, as well as full page tribute art by Steve Lavigne, Michael Dooney, Ken Mitchroney, Ben Bates, T-Rex, Ross Campbell, Mark Torres, David Petersen and Daniel “Pez” Lopez, with a cover by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird with a back cover by Mateus Santolouco, not to mention a variety of alternate covers.

The book covers the history of the TMNT in the comics exclusively; it features brand new stories taking place in five comic book continuities: the early Mirage years, the Archie TMNT Adventures, the Image “third volume”, the later Mirage years and the newest IDW series, with a limited cover gallery showing the first issue of each of these eras.

May 2014, IDW Publishing, San Diego, CA, trade paperback $7.99, Kindle $1.99.

Review: 'The Bees', by Laline Paull

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

The BeesThe man stared through the trees, not listening.

"There – thought for a moment it had vanished."

An old wooden beehive stood camouflaged against the trees. The woman drew back.

"I won’t come any closer," she said. "I’m a bit funny about insects." (p. 1)

The reader knows from the beginning that the orchard hive is on an old, out-of-business farm being sold, to be demolished so its land can be added to a light-industrial complex. But the bees in the old wooden beehive don’t know it.

Bees are controlled so much by instinct that it is very difficult to realistically anthropomorphize them. But it has been done, in A Hive for the Honeybee by Soinbhe Lally (original Irish edition, February 1996; U.S. edition, March 1999), and the award-winning 1998-1999 five-issue comic book Clan Apis by Dr. Jay Hosler, a neurobiologist specializing in the study of honeybees, collected into a 158-page graphic novel in January 2000. And now there is Laline Paull’s complex dystopian The Bees.

Front., bee illustrations from Meyers Konversations-Lexikon 1897, NYC, HarperCollinsPress/Ecco, May 2014, hardcover $25.99 (340 pages), Kindle $12.74.

Furry Movie Award Watch: November 2013

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (3 votes)

Since this is so late, I’m going to somewhat use hindsight; however, I’m going to be honest with what I thought was going to win at the time (for instance, I would have put money on My Little Pony: Equestria Girls winning the Ursa Major right until the end). However, back in November, it became clear that Frozen was going to take the two animated awards (I don’t think anyone could have predicted how unfurry the furry award would get).

For the record, it’s a boring movie, and the fact that both the Oscar and the Ursa Major have gone to movies trying to eat their cake and have it to on the “feminist” Disney princess thing is pretty much the saddest outcome ever. At least it wasn’t an upset this year at the Oscars.

Review: 'Doc Rat Vols. 11-12', by Jenner

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Doc Rat Vol. 11Doc Rat Vol. 12I reviewed volumes 8-10 here in May 2013. My review was so favorable that part of it is quoted in the back-cover blurb on volume 12. Here are volumes 11 and 12, equally enjoyable and not-to-be-missed.

These two pocket-sized books contain the Doc Rat daily Internet comic strips from #1427 to #1558 (December 13, 2011 to June 13, 2012), and #1559 to #1758 (June 14, 2012 to March 20, 2013). Volume 11 is a normal one, collecting six months of the comic strip. Volume 12 is a giant-sized one, collecting more pages to take the story to the conclusion of a long story-arc.

Dr. Craig "Jenner" Hilton has been simultaneously an active furry fan and an Australian doctor since the early 1980s. His anthropomorphic cartoons were published in the progress reports and program book of the 1985 World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne.

For about twenty years after graduating from medical college, Hilton was assigned to provide medical services for a series of small towns around western Australia, from which he sent his furry cartoons to America. During a stay as the doctor for the coal-mining town of Collie, he drew an anthropomorphic comic strip, DownUnderGround, for the local newspaper. He finally settled in permanently as a GP in a suburb of Melbourne. His character of Doc Rat began appearing in individual cartoons in medical and non-medical publications during the 1990s. On June 26, 2006 he launched Doc Rat as a Monday through Friday comic strip on the Internet. Since then Doc Rat has picked up an international following, including placing as one of the five finalists in the Best Comic Strip category for the Ursa Major Awards for 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 voted upon this year.

Doc Rat is a combination of stand-alone comedy strips, usually emphasizing medical humour of the groaner-pun variety, and urban drama in an anthropomorphic world where carnivores are allowed to hunt and eat the herbivores, although they have to do it legally. This involves a lot of red tape and filling-out of forms. Often the carnivores are too impatient to do this, and they hunt illegally, which provides much of the drama of the strip. The herbivores are working politically to make all predation of intelligent citizens illegal, which is also a plot point.

Doc Rat. Vol. 11, "I’m Fair Off Me Tucker, Doc", by Jenner, June 2013, Platinum Rat Productions, Melbourne, Vic., Australia, trade paperback AUS $16.00 or US$12.95 ([76 pgs.])
Doc Rat. Vol. 12, "It Hurts To Swallow, Doc", by Jenner, December 2013, Platinum Rat Productions, Melbourne, Vic., Australia, trade paperback AUS$18.00 or US$14.95 ([110 pgs.])

Review: It’s the Muppets again in 'Muppets Most Wanted'

Your rating: None Average: 2 (1 vote)

Muppets Most WantedThe latest Muppet movie begins at the end. Not like in media res, I mean like the first thing you see in this movie are the giant words “THE END.” We’re back at the end of the last Muppet movie, and it slowly dawns on the Muppets that the cameras are still rolling. This could mean only one thing!
Obviously, James Bobin forgot to shout cut.

No, wait, the Muppets are doing a sequel! So, the movie begins with a meta moment when the Muppets realize they’re now in a sequel, and they sing an absolutely hilarious song about this fact entitled “We’re Doing a Sequel.” So now they’re puppets, who are actors, who are playing themselves in a movie. It’s kind of like This is The End, except I don’t think James Franco is a puppet. At least I’m pretty sure he’s not.

Anyway, the best part? This movie was going to be called The Muppets Again! Because it’s about the Muppets, again! It’s so absurdly stupid it’s kind of brilliant, which is why it was changed at the last moment to Muppets Most Wanted. They went with a more descriptive, less generic title that somehow managed to be less descriptive and more generic.

Everybody got that?

Good, now explain it to me.

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