Review: 'Other Trails Taken', by Bernard Doove
CreateSpace, May 2011
Trade paperback $25.95 (499 pgs.)
Doove lives in Melbourne and has been one of Australia’s leading Furry fans since 1993. His “Chakat’s Den” website, the home of his (and others’) chakat fan fiction, has been up since 1995. A large number of his short stories were on the website before he began collecting and self-publishing them in book form.
Other Trails Taken is subtitled A Chakat Family Journal, Book II. In fact, it is a direct followup to Forest Tales: a Chakat Family Journal, published in May 2010. It does NOT stand on its own. You have to read Forest Tales, including the stories collected in Transformations (review) in 2005 (new ed. 2008), to understand it.
According to Doove’s Foreword in Other Trails Taken, the stories in Forest Tales come first, then Transformations, then the stories in More Terrible Than Chains, and finally these in Other Trails Taken. Fortunately, readers can get all these for free on the “Chakat’s Den” site, without spending a fortune.
Unlike the previous books, Other Trails Taken has considerable original material. The website has the Forest Tales from #29 through #35 (written in 2008); this book goes up to #41, plus three independent stories set much later in the Chakat Universe. (It also includes Doove’s Life’s Dream as “Tales of the Foxtaur Clans” #6-#14, which won the 2007 Ursa Major Award for Best Anthropomorphic Novel.1)
Doove’s chakat stories, some featuring plots and characters suggested by his readers, are very popular with some fans, but are controversial with others. The chakats are spacegoing centauroid felinoids, mostly leopard- and cougar-based, in a 24th century Stellar Federation similar to the Star Trek universe. There are also humans and a variety of bioengineered humanoid Furry peoples, both bipedal and/or centauroid, including foxes, wolves, rabbits, and skunks.
What makes chakats controversial is that they are also hermaphrodites (with their own bisexual pronouns of shi, hir, etc.) They, and Doove’s other characters, are great enthusiasts of free and open sex. The stories emphasize nudity and extreme interspecies male/male, male/female, and female/female graphic sex, well-illustrated by a plethora of artists. This book does not have a “For Mature Readers Only” restriction, but readers had better apply their own.
Other Trails Taken opens in one of the main back-to-nature foxtaur communities on Earth, which is apparently under attack from the wolftaurs — but not really, as Malena, Purteshka, Goldendale, Goldfur, Garrek, and the other central characters realize. And if you don’t know who these are and what the background is, you haven’t read Forest Tales and Transformations yet.
Aside from lots of loving but graphic sex, the emphasis of these stories is on the interpersonal relationships of the characters; the social customs of courting, mating, and family raising in rural societies of casual nudity and sex, plus the urban Double H Club – “Hermaphrodite Haven”.
But lest the reader think that these Forest Tales are all hillbilly Furry stuff, there is also space exploration, teleportation and similar Star Fleet and Star Corps activities; including meeting new alien species without human sexual hang-ups and new sexual biology. (What happens to a telepath who comes to a planet whose inhabitants are all obsessed with sex?)
These fifteen stories contain numerous illustrations by over two dozen Furry artists, notably Kacey Miyagami, Kyomana, Roy D. Pounds II, XianJaguar, and Kim Kirkdorfer. Unfortunately, this book could only print them in black-&-white, instead of the full color of Doove’s website.
The book ends satisfactorily, but without a real climax or conclusion; Doove is still writing new Forest Tales. The blatant erotic content makes it not for everybody, but if you don’t mind a lot of sex in futuristic s-f stories with a large, exotic Furry cast, then don’t miss Other Trails Taken.
1 The author of the reviewed work is a member of the Ursa Major Award organization ALAA; both nominations and final awards are decided by popular vote.