Review: 'A Left-Handed Sword', by Phil Geusz
A Left-Handed Sword is a novella by Phil Geusz in which the characters used to be human beings. All of them have contracted a singular disease called the Lokiskur virus (Lokie for short), which has transformed them into animals. Lokie not only leaves its victims dehumanized and physically handicapped in their new forms, but often brain-damaged and depressed. They are also highly contagious; Lokie is an affliction that never lets go.
This book is Geusz at his cleanest and most straight-forward storytelling, however it's also quite bleak. The victims of the disease are thrown (politely) into a modern version of a leper colony, where they're assured they'll get counseling and be able to socialize with other patients.
Tom Hill is the mayor of the Lokie colony who literally keeps the one train running on time, which is mostly an automated process. In a village of people who used to be something else, Tom was once a popular writer who had to give up writing when his hands became paws. Now, as a 70-pound rabbit person, he's the classic Geusz good-guy, ready to do anything if he can make his world a better place.
But there is nothing to be done.
Into this quagmire of apathy, the train brings in Kip, a fresh Lokie victim who's been turned into a capuchin monkey, something even smaller than Tom. Kip can look on the bright side of things, and retains more than a bit of his dignity – and, impossibly, hope.
The reality of the Arkansas Lokiskur Center slaps Kip repeatedly across the face several times on his first day. Tom attempts to soften the blows, but there is little he can do because of the nature of the place. The story is about finding and keeping hope. And, above all else, showing that personal growth is a very worthy goal.
The characters are all amusing and sad in various degrees. Dignity is a struggle for many, and apathy is a constant balm and danger to most. I found it to be a short, rewarding tale with a nice merging of transformation and furry, even if all the transformation stuff is off-screen.
Links to more of Phil Geusz's stories can be found on his website.