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Review: 'The King of the Cats', by P. T. Cooper

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)
The King of the CatsONE winter's evening the sexton's wife was sitting by the fireside with her big black cat, Old Tom, on the other side, both half asleep and waiting for the master to come home. They waited and they waited, but still he didn't come, till at last he came rushing in, calling out, 'Who's Tommy Tildrum?' in such a wild way that both his wife and his cat stared at him to know what was the matter.
'Why, what's the matter?' said his wife, 'and why do you want to know who Tommy Tildrum is?'
'Oh, I've had such an adventure. I was digging away at old Mr Fordyce's grave when I suppose I must have dropped asleep, and only woke up by hearing a cat's Miaou.'
'Miaou!' said Old Tom in answer.
'Yes, just like that! So I looked over the edge of the grave, and what do you think I saw?'
'Now, how can I tell?' said the sexton's wife.
'Why, nine black cats all like our friend Tom here, all with a white spot on their chestesses. And what do you think they were carrying? Why, a small coffin covered with a black velvet pall, and on the pall was a small coronet all of gold, and at every third step they took they cried all together, Miaou -- '
'Miaou!' said Old Tom again.
'Yes, just like that!' said the sexton; 'and as they came nearer and nearer to me I could see them more distinctly; because their eyes shone out with a sort of green light. Well, they all came towards me, eight of them carrying the coffin, and the biggest cat of all walking in front for all the world like -- but look at our Tom, how he's looking at me. You'd think he knew all I was saying.'

Review: 'Jolly Rover' for PC and Mac

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Jolly RoverThere aren't too many anthropomorphic computer adventure games out there, so I thought I'd review Jolly Rover, a swashbuckling scenario by an Australian company called Brawsome (aka Andrew Goulding). This game is aimed at the casual market, so it's pretty easy-going, taking about 5-8 hours. It's available for less than $9 for PC, Mac, and on Steam. (Watch the trailer.)

The story is populated by anthropomorphic dogs, and the protagonist is Gaius James Rover, a dachshund who dreams of eventually starting his own circus. Hoping to earn money towards this project, he invests his life savings in a cargo delivery of rum - which goes horribly wrong, thanks to a corrupt governor and a band of mercenary pirates. His only hope of financial salvation lies in joining the pirates and locating a long-lost treasure before they do.

Review: ‘Hank the Cowdog and the Case of the Dinosaur Birds’, by John R. Erickson

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Hank the Cowdog and the Case of the Dinosaur BirdsHank the Cowdog and the Case of the Dinosaur Birds is number 54 in John R. Erickson’s long running series of short novels for children featuring the misadventures of Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security.

The books are published by Erickson’s own Maverick Books, based out of his hometown of Perryton, Texas. The books are not unknown outside the area; but in the surrounding region, very few children grow up without encountering Hank and his humorous stories. The realistic depiction of life on a Texas cattle ranch as seen through the eyes of a vainglorious but not particularly bright ranch dog has also garnered many adult fans in the region.

The books feature illustrations by Gerald R. Holmes. However, this review is based on the audiobook version of the story, featuring Erickson’s reading. Erickson is a talented voice actor; the story is presented more like a radio play than a straight recitation, with Erickson playing all parts: human and animal, male and female, each distinctive and memorable. Quite a few fans, and this reviewer, feel that you haven’t experienced Hank the Cowdog until you have heard one of the audiobooks.

“Hank the Cowdog and the Case of the Dinosaur Birds”, by John R. Erickson. Illustrated by Gerald R. Holmes. Maverick Books Inc., 2009, paperback $4.99, CD audio book $17.99, paperback/CD combo pack $19.99, online audio $9.95.

Review: 'The Goldenlea', by Rose LaCroix

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

The GoldenleaFaol Carric[k] was born to rule, inheriting the dukedom upon the passing of his father. Immediately tested by the conspiracy of the usurper Virgil Dol, Faol will need to prove his worth as a leader, a fighter, and a strategist if he is to survive—much less regain his place as the rightful ruler of the Goldenlea. (publisher’s blurb)

Faol Carrick is a wolf, Duke Ignis was a wolf, Balthasar Viverra is a genet; and we are off and running in a Medievalish anthropomorphic adventure of treachery and redemption among the nobility.

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

FurPlanet Productions, January 2013, trade paperback $19.95 (335 pages; on Amazon).
Illustrated by Kobi LaCroix.

Review: 'An Army of Frogs: A Kulipari Novel', by Trevor Pryce

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

An Army of FrogsThis is one of those officially-Young Adult books (recommended age: 10 to 18) that adults should enjoy equally. Advance reviews are comparing it favorably with Jacques’ Redwall books and “Hunter’s” Warriors books about the talking cat clans.

With the stealth of a warrior, Darrel hopped along a wide branch, tracking the two scouts below. A waterfall roared in the distance, and a tasty-looking fig wasp flitted past.
Darrel ignored a pang of hunger, resisting the urge to shoot his tongue at the wasp for a quick snack.
Dinner could wait until he’d dealt with the enemy. (p. 1)

An Army of Frogs gets off to a rousing start. The back-cover blurb is a good summary:

Darrel, a young frog, dreams of joining the Kulipari, an elite squad of poisonous frog warriors sworn to defend the Amphibilands. Unfortunately, Darrel’s dream is impossible, because he isn’t a poisonous frog and no one’s seen the Kulipari since the last scorpion war, long ago. Anyway, now the frogs’ homeland is protected by the turtle king’s magic. So it no longer needs defending – or does it?

Enter the spider queen, a powerful dreamcaster capable of destroying the turtle king’s protective spell. She and her ally Lord Marmoo, leader of a vicious army of scorpions, are bent on conquering the frogs’ lush homeland. The frogs have never been more vulnerable. Can Daryl save the day and become the warrior of his dreams?

“An Army of Frogs: A Kulipari Novel”, by Trevor Pryce with Joel Naftali. Illustrated by Sanford Greene. NYC, Abrams/Amulet Books, May 2013, hardcover $15.95 ([6+] 272 [+6] pages).

Review: 'La Saga d'Atlas & Axis', volumes 1 & 2, by Pau

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

My thanks to Lex Nakashima for ordering these albums from France and loaning them to me.
La Saga d'Atlas & Axis, vol. 1
There was an announcement for these two albums on Flayrah in February. Then I did not know any more about them than I could find out online, on Ankama’s own website and on Amazon.fr. They looked good. Now that I have seen them, I can say that they look excellent; worth buying for the art even if you cannot read the French text.

“La Saga d’Atlas & Axis”, tome 1, by Pau.
Roubaix, France, Ankama Éditions, Aug. 2011, hardcover €14.90 (74 [+ 6] pages; on Amazon).

“La Saga d’Atlas & Axis”, tome 2, by Pau.
Roubaix, France, Ankama Éditions, Feb. 2013, hardcover €14.90 (74 [+ 6] pages; on Amazon).

Review: 'Alien Spidy' (PC)

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Alien SpideyMost game reviewers are looking into games like BioShock Infinite, but I’m not even going to try and stretch the question as to whether Big Daddy is anthropomorphic, cause I’m sure I’d get drilled. Maybe StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm? Well, zerglings get kinda close, but xenomorphy… are there any aliens out there that have more animalistic qualities?

Ah, here we go, a game about an alien spidy named… well, Alien Spidy. Who'd have guessed? Let's see if the game is out of this world, or just a space case.

Furry Movie Award Watch: March 2013

Your rating: None Average: 2 (1 vote)

After last month’s setback wherein I failed to predict the Academy would prefer a not very good movie over a movie that Skrillex contributed to the soundtrack (obvious in hindsight), I feel a little better this month when the Ursa Major nominees matched my predicted list perfectly for the second year in a row. A little better, because, seriously, what else were we going to nominate?

Review: 'Hot Dish' [vol. 1, edited by Alopex]

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (4 votes)
Cover to 'Hot Dish, vol. 1', by Kamui

‘Hotdish’ is another term for casserole – a collection of seemingly disparate ingredients held together by a hot, gooey sauce. It creates a hearty portion of food for those on a relatively modest budget.

Hot Dish is a collection of stories about the romantic and erotic relationships between characters of disparate species and sexual orientations. It is a hearty portion of quality fiction which was too long to fit into our yearly adult anthology, Heat.

Hot, gooey sauce not included. (back cover blurb)

Hot Dish is an anthology intended for an adult audience only and contains some explicit sexual scenes of various sexual orientations. It is not for sale to persons under the age of 18. (publisher’s advisory)

Hot Dish, which includes a number “1” on the spine so more volumes are planned, consists of nine romantic Furry novelettes, about forty pages each, by pseudonymous authors.

(Really, I respect Furry pseudonyms, but when an entire book is filled with stories by Huskyteer, Lady Chastity Chatterley, Dark End, and the like, it makes it look like everyone concerned has something to hide.)

Sofawolf Press, March 2013, trade paperback $17.95 (xii + 374 pages). Illustrated by Keovi.

Review: 'Demon of Undoing', by Andrea I. Alton

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Demon of Undoing

Demon of Undoing opens in the midst of battle, immediately establishing the Imkairans as a planetful of uncontrollably ferocious felinoids divided into constantly warring small feudal clans:

The warrior twisted his head, snarling at his commander over his shoulder, ears flat and eyes slitted with fury. In the brown furred hand the sword shifted toward Fenobar’s unprotected stomach, but then the glazed eyes focused on Fenobar’s white crest and sanity fought a return in the light green eyes. Sullenly the palecrest lowered his sword, shamed that he had so far forgotten himself. (p. 1)

Prince “wrong-handed” Fenobar is the protagonist, the Commander of the Temple Guard of the Kingdom of the Fen tribe of the Monghanirri clan. That sounds impressive, but the Temple Guard is a troop of old and maimed warriors, too experienced in battle to be ignored but too infirm to be frontline soldiers any longer.

Fenobar, by his royal birth and his savage spirit, cannot be ignored either, but his crippled left arm, twisted from birth, prevents him from becoming a real warrior. He has been shunted off into a ceremonial command that nobody takes seriously. For a savage Imkairan, subject to an instinctual battle lust, this is especially humiliating.

Riverdale, NY, Baen Books, June 1988, 308 pages, 0-671-65413-6, $3.50.

Review: 'I Was A Rat!'

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

I Was A RatCurrently touring the United Kingdom is I Was A Rat!, a stage play based on the book by British author Philip Pullman.

Pullman's 1999 book opens with elderly couple Bob and Joan answering a knock at their door, and finding a boy in a tattered page's uniform. When asked who he is, the boy can only tell them, "I was a rat". Having no children of their own, Bob and Joan take the boy in and name him Roger. They soon find he has distinctly ratty behaviour - he cannot eat with a spoon and, on his first night, chews his bed linen to shreds.

Bob and Joan attempt to find Roger's parents, but find the authorities disinterested and unhelpful. After Roger runs away during an examination by the Philosopher Royal, he gets exploited as a sideshow freak, used as an assistant to house-breaking, and eventually takes refuge in the sewers. With the local newspaper The Scourge feeding the hysteria, he is eventually caught and, as "the monster of the sewers", put on trial for his life.

I recently attended a performance at the Liverpool Playhouse. The stage play follows the book fairly faithfully; it was extremely well done, and I had so much fun watching it that I returned to catch it a second time before the production moved on to their next venue.

Review: 'Beasts of Burden'

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Beasts of BurdenIt starts light-heartedly enough. Take your basic haunted house story, only do it with dogs investigating a haunted doghouse. And slowly, gradually, the stories get darker.

Burden Hill would appear to be your everyday, quiet suburb, except... things... are starting to happen, and while the local humans haven't noticed anything yet, the local dogs certainly have.

Beasts of Burden is basically a series of comic books about canine paranormal investigation. (Plus a couple of cats.) The writing by Evan Dorkin manages to be fun and ominous at the same time, and he gives the dogs distinct personalities in a way that feels very believable. The artwork by Jill Thompson is rendered in excellent watercolors, and generates just the right atmosphere.

Review: 'Summerhill', by Kevin Frane

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SummerhillSummerhill, probably a dog, is introduced at a dinner gathering as the others try to guess what he is:

‘I tell you,’ the ankylosauromorphic cyborg said in its fluid, polished, robotic voice, ‘he’s got to be some sort of wolf. Just on two legs, is all.’
Summerhill kept his ears perked and his mouth shut. He lifted his own glass of golden, bubbling something-or-other to his lips and took a sip, his eyes meeting the little girl’s for a moment of grateful acknowledgment.
‘Oh, please. Have you ever SEEN a wolf?’ asked the Crown Prince of the Akashic Realm, lines of disapproval appearing on his otherwise smooth, pale blue face. He and Summerhill had met earlier in the evening; the two shared a taste for fizzy beverages. ‘He’s far too small, and the colors are all wrong.’
The girl quietly begged pardon and broke away from the group. As she left, she offered Summerhill a tiny wave with her slender fingers, along with one final smile of sympathy and encouragement.
A being that looked like a pinkish cloud of gas with a self-contained thunderstorm rumbling all through itself chimed in. ‘No, I saw a wolf here aboard the ship just this morning.’ Blue tendrils of electricity crackled over its wispy form as it somehow created the sounds of speech. ‘He didn’t look anything like this.’ (p. 2)

Dallas, TX, Argyll Productions, January 2013, trade paperback $17.95 (285 pages).

Movie review: 'The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki'

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (6 votes)

The Wolf Children Ame and YukiThe Wolf Children Ame and Yuki (trailer 1 - 2) is a 2012 anime film directed by Mamoru Hosoda. Unlike his 2009 Summer Wars, this movie is very slow, introspective, and somewhat tragic. It might appeal to a small subset of furries, but its furry elements are underplayed and it may not have enough animal content to hook us as viewers.

Talking about this movie without spoiling it impossible because the story has no complexity. Basically, a single mom moves to the country and struggles to raise two werewolf kids; one embraces their wolf heritage, the other rejects it, and the family moves apart. That's it. (See Wikipedia for a more complete summary.)

Review: 'Go Home Dinosaurs'

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Gophers VS. Dinosaurs... erhm, excuse me, Go Home Dinosaurs is a tower defense game; yes, another one. These things seem to continually pop out of the landscape, each presenting their own spin on the game type. With the simplicity of design, tower defense is definitely a good place for a smaller or more independent company to start. Gamers also seem to enjoy tower defense games - but I’m not really one of them. I’ve played a few of them, and they all start to seem like the same game with a different coat of paint.

Go Home Dinosaurs!When this title was added to Steam [there's also a beta on Chrome], I was hesitant to buy. However, seeing as it was anthropomorphic I figured, "well if it's terrible, I’ll at least be able to make a nice scathing review on Flayrah. Or it may also be very good; then I’ll get my money’s worth and post a review as well."

The problem is that it was neither, leaving me in the precarious position of reviewing a game in that muddled area of "just okay", which is the hardest kind to write about.

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