Review: 'Taboo', edited by Rechan
Taboo 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.
"Tour of Duty" by Huskeyteer
Army company CO Major Barbara Flecker the lynx is saddled with Private John Holz the genet, an inveterate minor rule-breaker. Her duty to discipline him puts her into contact with him, where she soon realizes that he is deliberately breaking minor rules to put her into a one-on-one relationship with him. One of the major army rules is against an officer’s sexual fraternization with the lower ranks …
"The Rising of the Moon Over the Atlantic" by NightEyes DaySpring
This story is set aboard an Atlantic passenger steamship at the end of the 19th century. Liam, a soot-covered Irish red fox stoker, and Charlie Bartholomew Patters, a fabulously rich and aristocratic dapper English wolf, are not only at opposite ends of the social spectrum, they are young homosexual lovers at a time that “the love that dare not speak its name” has to be hidden – two taboos rather than one. When the naïve Charlie wants to lift Liam out of his low-class hell, is Liam’s love for Charlie pure enough to do what is necessary to keep Charlie from destroying his reputation and position?
"Aid and Comfort" by StormKitty
Leo is a human pilot in a war on the colony planet of Kendarra 4, fighting against the alien Vidrans who also want the world. They have:
... long pointed muzzles, triangular ears, and bushy tails they flicked and wagged behind them.In short, they resembled Earth foxes who walked upright and came in a wider variety of fur colors and patterns. (pgs. 65-66)
Leo’s aircraft is forced down into a dangerous alien jungle, where he meets Thessra, a good-looking Vidran female soldier also on her own trying to get back to her base. Everyone knows that giving “aid and comfort” to an enemy is a military taboo …
"Exit Stage Left" by Robert Baird
Jens Schaefer the wolf is a high-class businessman whose specialty is making elite clients’ “dreams come true” – for the right price. Most of his anthro clients’ dreams are sexual and kinky. Jens’ regular girlfriend is the sexy Magdalena the jaguar. Then Naomi, a gorgeous but shy trophy wife, also a wolf, whose husband ignores her, hires Jens to create a fantasy for her about just meeting someone well-educated who admires her for her mind. Jens breaks the taboo about a successful creative artist getting involved with his client. In a thoughtful coda, Jens must decide whom he really loves: Naomi or Magdalena?
"Odd Man Out" by Whyte Yoté
Ketch is a young male red fox in an anthro homosexual world who must hide that he really prefers females – it’s taboo. He fakes coming on with the gay male animal clientele at the coffee shop where he is a barrista, and is reasonably satisfied with Darrel, his undemanding wolf boyfriend - until he makes up his mind to find a girl who shares his forbidden tastes. Whyte Yoté creates an intriguing world in which everyone flirts with his or her own sex all of the time, and parents have children by artificial insemination out of the social pressure to continue their species – except for the rare heterosexual perverts.
"The Joys of Parenting" by Roland Jovaik
This story features Sasha, a young wolf who is very pregnant and single. (Although this is a fantasy set in an anthro world, she sounds suspiciously similar to Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish author of Pippi Longstocking and other children’s novels and screenplays. When she was 19, Lindgren had a child. When asked about it, she said that she wanted to know what having and raising a child was like; she didn’t feel any need for a husband (then); and it was nobody’s [censored] business who the father was.) Sasha’s best friend is Devon, a flamingly gay male otter. He is witty and fun to be with, and his sexual orientation is irrelevant to her. But Roseanne, a lesbian red fox, assumes that Sasha is also lez or at least bi, and she just won’t take no for an answer to her sex proposals that break most taboos …
"Promises" by Yannarra Cheena
Mort, a gay young otter flees into a taboo forest to escape the hateful marriage that his rich mother is forcing him into. Mort is confronted by Spekvin, a seven-inch, winged, nude and very male fae, who offers to let Mort stay in the forest for a price that involves lots and lots of gay sex. Mort assumes that their size difference will protect him from anything too exhausting, but the fae are magic …
"The Dog Star Miracle" by Kandrel
This is the second s-f story in Taboo. Brother Alek is a young and minor acolyte of the Illuminated Brotherhood of Sirius, a rigid theocracy inhabiting a space station/artificial planet circling “our three suns” (p. 189) of the Dog Star system. The inhabitants of this world appear to be bioengineered from canids. Each furry manlike Brother has a female intelligent four-legged doglike or wolflike “familiar” to whom he is telepathically linked. The Brothers are emphatically expected to have nothing to do with the Sisters, who have their own male familiars. Sexual release is expected between a Brother/Sister and his/her canine mate. The story is about the breaking of this taboo between humanoid Brother Alek and Sister Elin, and their wolflike familiars Kairi and Rogan, with everyone having fun together telepathically as well as sexually.
"Dates" by Tony Greyfox
Kieran the serval is a gay therapist with a secret second job as a male prostitute specializing in servicing gay male horses. His regular lover, Adam, an actor hunk elk (Kieran likes big cocks), does not know about Kieran’s second job. When Adam finds out, his first reaction is to leave Kieran. But the sex has been good, so Adam soon comes back and they work it out ...
"Binding the Heart" by Rechan
Jun the red panda is an obsessed fan of the actress Amy, also a red panda. When she and her husband are killed in an accident, Jun ignores the taboo against raising the dead and tries to use black magic to bring her back to life and transfer her love from her husband to him. Something goes wrong, of course …
"Complete" by H. A. Kirsch
Leo is a young and rich red fox who was horribly injured as a kit. He has spent his life and money slowly rebuilding his body with prosthetics, one at a time since each involves a serious operation. Finally he is ready for the final prosthetic – his penis. It is the first penis that he has had as an adult, and both Dr. Soren the jackal and Kenny, a gay hospital orderly dog, show him what to do with it besides urinate.
"Lessons" by Ianus J. Wolf
Justin the husky is a high school student in danger of not graduating because of poor grades. His big secret isn’t that he’s gay, but that Mrs. Greely, the sexy pantheress teacher giving him special tutoring, isn’t teaching him schoolwork. Teacher and students – taboo …
"Scent of Heaven" by Tarl "Voice" Hoch
Bryer Clark is an adolescent whitetail buck (his first antlers are just coming in) into whose neighborhood the Haisten family of stoats has just moved – right across the street. They have a teenage daughter, Maddie-Lynn, into whose second-floor bedroom window Bryer can look. The voyeuristic Bryer assumes that Maddie-Lynn can unknowingly teach him about the opposite sex. But when he is asked to babysit Maddie-Lynn’s younger sisters, he learns that she is aware of his peeking into her bedroom, and is ready to help them both discover more than theoretical sex.
All 14 stories are competently written. That said, you can’t get much literary depth in an average of two dozen pages. These are all bite-sized vignettes, designed to be read two or three at a time over several days. They are mostly shallow eroticism, but there are a few pleasantly imaginative surprises.
I usually complain about furry fiction that is “only funny animal” instead of “really furry”. In most of these stories, it would have to be funny animal, wouldn’t it? If the assorted panthers, wolves, foxes, lynxes, pandas, etc., weren’t all animal-headed humans, this would be an anthology of bestiality tales. But a couple do emphasize the animal nature of their characters. Canid couples have pillow talk while they are relaxing, locked together by the male’s knot.
Some stories are wall-to-wall sex, while others limit the explicit sex to a brief scene. The stories that I enjoyed most were the two s-f stories, “Aid and Comfort” by StormKitty and “The Dog Star Miracle” by Kandrel, where the sex scenes are very short, jarring, and really unnecessary. They read like sex was shoehorned into the story just to get it into this book. But both are good s-f. Both authors should edit out their NC-17 scenes and submit the rest to Analog or one of the other pro s-f magazines. “Aid and Comfort” could easily be the first of a series.
The most imaginative story is probably “Odd Man Out” by Whyte Yoté. The anthropomorphism is just window-dressing. This is really a totally blatantly homosexual society, where all the males and females casually, lewdly posture to their own gender. Actual procreation is regarded as a distasteful but necessary social duty, achieved through artificial insemination. How well would such a society really work? Whyte Yoté is at least consistently plausible.
The story in which the sex is least convincing is – well, decide for yourselves.