Review: 'Winter Games', by Kyell Gold
I hate stories that are so carefully constructed that a reviewer can hardly say anything about them without giving away spoilers. Well, Winter Games is set in Gold’s Forester Universe, although it is not connected to any of Gold’s other stories. It contains mentions of Millenport and other Forester locales. It is the fifth of FurPlanet’s “Cupcake” booklets, less than novel length.
Winter Games is a work of anthropomorphic fiction for adult readers only. (publisher's advisory)
Sierra Snowpaw, a 33-year-old snow leopard, checks into the Lonnegan Ski Resort, apparently just on a relaxed vacation although it soon becomes obvious that he is looking for someone. Sierra does not let the search distract him from having steamy gay sex with Bret, the resort’s pine marten desk clerk.
The novella alternates in short chapters between the 2012 “now” and 1997, when Sierra was a teenage student at Tartok Ecole Internationale in Europe, presumably setting up the explanation of whom Sierra is searching for and why, and why this person is avoiding him.
FurPlanet Productions, September 2012, trade paperback $9.95 (vii + 135 pages).
Illustrated by Sabretoothed Ermine.
Read Winter Games to find out what is going on. As usual, Gold brings his anthropomorphic cast to convincing life, whether he is describing the arrogant or drunken skunk and jackrabbit business executives and their bitchy wives on a business retreat at the lodge, or the red fox and goat adult teachers and the overactively-hormoned adolescent students (hedgehog, coyote, other snow leopards and red foxes) at the Ecole. Gold is a master of keeping his story interesting by focusing upon colorful background details while v-e-r-y slowly advancing the mysterious plot.
Whoever wrote the rear cover blurb did not have it easy, either.
Sierra Snowpaw is just at the Lonnegan Ski Resort looking for a good time. You can trust him. If he doesn't talk a lot about his past, well, a lot of guys have done things they'd rather forget. A lot of guys have been through things they'd rather forget, too. ??He's so nice that it isn’t that weird when he asks about some of the other guests. Not like a cop, though, or a Fed—well, okay. Maybe a little like that one guy from that movie. Maybe he's off-duty, settling a score on his own time.?? Or maybe he's the guy on the run. Come to think of it, he looks around corners like someone's after him, too. But you know, some guys are chased by nothing more than the ghosts of their past...
Yep, that says almost nothing at some length. I am tempted to cite the original blurb, written in 1907 by “Belinda Blurb”:
WE expect to sell 350 copies of this great, grand book. It has gush and go to it, it has that Certain Something which makes you want to crawl through thirty miles of dense tropical jungle and bite somebody in the neck. … THIS BOOK IS THE PROUD PURPLE PENULTIMATE!!
Although in this case, you should crawl thirty miles through thick snowdrifts and have passionate sex with your victim.
For adults only or not, this is an extremely literate mystery. Not a murder mystery, maybe, but a real page-turner to keep you guessing at what is going on. The cover (original illustration) and interior art by Beth Sabretoothed Ermine are worth complimenting, too.
About the authorFred Patten — read stories — contact (login required)
a retired former librarian from North Hollywood, California, interested in general anthropomorphics
FurPlanet appreciated Sabertoothed Ermine's work as well; they commissioned her for the next "Cupcake", Watts Martin's novella Indigo Rain, to be released next month at Further Confusion 2013. Here's the cover and one of three illustrations.
She was my choice for "Indigo Rain," although I don't think FurPlanet objected. :)
And "Winter Games" is a great story. I suspect it'd be possible to say a little more than either the back cover or Fred's review does without really entering spoiler territory. (I also don't think the back cover blurb is entirely accurate: Sierra is chasing a ghost from his past as much as the reverse, if not more so.) It's worth noting, at the least, that while there are a few explicit scenes, this is mostly a plot- and character-driven piece.
It might be worth noting that a preview of the story is available free online. You can find it on FurAffinity and on SoFurry. Of course, that's just the opening; if you want to read the rest you'll have to buy the book.
I'll be sure to check it out once it's on the Kindle.
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