League of Geeks' flagship game shows a great deal of promise as it goes out to early access. Armello is a video game which bases itself in board game principals where four heroes, a wolf, rat, rabbit and bear, compete for their clans to secure the throne.
The goal is to gain more prestige points than your opponents by the time the king dies of his illness, or to smite him yourself. The game has three methods of doing this, and takes familiar elements and mixes them in ways that work extremely well. The fact that the characters are anthropomorphic is icing on the cake of a solid game.
But enough about next year - here’s ten movies from 2014 I liked.
When I finally saw the plot synopsis and the box art for Alpha and Omega: The Legend of the Saw Tooth Cave, I was actually pretty upset. I feared that they just no longer care for the original characters of the very first movie.
The box art only featured the wolf puppies and I kept thinking negative things like: "Are they heading in a direction that I don't want them to go?"
I was scared about this movie. I just didn't bother posting a preview here, probably because of that. But you know what? My fears weren't completely true. They actually shown Kate and Humphrey and they had real roles. However, the focus was still often on the pups. There was also a white wolf called Daria often along with the pup Runt. These two were the main focus.
Some amount of spoiler is to be expected!
One must wonder whether it's time Dragoneer stepped down as head of Fur Affinity, as he continues to make poor leadership decisions. Earlier this year, he stirred controversy by announcing Zaush, who'd been accused of rape, as development lead for Project Phoenix. This time he has made sure there are no lingering doubts over the suitability of his appointments by choosing a fur with a history of maladministration.
StarryKitten was recently announced as the new head of the FA tech team, tasked in part with “bringing more transparency” to FA. Some noticed that StarryKitten had only joined FA about a week before the announcement was made. As it transpires, StarryKitten was an alternate account created by the infamous Zidonuke, the real head of the FA tech team.
With the concept of irony easily going right over Dragoneer's head, it was further revealed that the tech lead with a puppet account has been a secret member of staff since 2013:
The cover bears the line, The Fire Bearers: Book One, letting you know it ends on a cliffhanger. It is, in fact, the first volume of a trilogy.
In the prehistoric past, when men shared the world with anthropomorphized animal-gods, there were two very different brothers in a tribe. Clay, the older brother, respects and worships the old gods who control all men’s lives, while irreverent Laughing Dog mocks the unseen gods, and swears that he controls his own destiny. The brothers love each other, in their own ways, but their differences lead both to disaster.
Doto crouched in the forest, his clawed fingers pressing down beneath the grasses and bed of fallen leaves to touch the earth below. He went out, out, into the soil, into the trunks of the trees, the branches and leaves, the grasses and ferns. He felt the air swaying branches, the sunlight on the leaves. He felt the rodents skittering across the forest floor. […] He leapt from branch to branch and winged over the canopy. He spread himself out, farther and farther. Through the keen eyes of the birds and the considering gaze of a monkey clinging to a branch above, he could see himself, crouched on the ground far below, so still that he was nearly undetectable. […] All the surrounding life lived through him. But all was not right. There was an uneasiness in the forest, somewhere around the edges. Could great Atekye have risen herself up in the south of the forest, swelling her swamps to flood the forest floor once again? (p. 1)
These are books 2 and 3 of M.C.A. Hogarth’s Her Instruments space opera trilogy. Earthrise, book 1, was reviewed in Flayrah in June 2013.
The fact that Maggie Hogarth commissioned professional s-f cover artist Julie Dillon to paint the covers of this trilogy instead of doing their covers herself, as she usually does for her books, shows that Hogarth considers them especially good (or at least especially salable). And you know how good her fiction usually is.
Rose Point, by M. C. A. Hogarth, Tampa, FL, Studio MCAH, October 2013, trade paperback $16.99 (349 [+1] pages), Kindle $5.99.
Laisrathera, by M. C. A. Hogarth, Tampa, FL, Studio MCAH, May 2014, trade paperback $16.99 (402 pages), Kindle $5.99.
These are the first two collections of the wacky fantasy Slightly Damned full-page, full-color internet weekly comic strip by Sarah “Chu” Wilson. She has won the Ursa Major Award for both the Best Anthropomorphic Other Literary Work (these book collections) and for the Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story, for both 2012 and 2013. If you haven’t read “Slightly Damned” yet, these are a lot more fun than reading through the strip’s online archives a page at a time.
The back-cover blurb, which establishes the mood as well as the plot, says:
Rhea has a big problem: SHE’S DEAD. Too burdened with sin for Heaven or Purgatory, yet not quite bad enough for Hell, Rhea is sentenced by the grim reaper to the obscure Ring of the Slightly Damned. There she finds that death is only the beginning of her worries as she contends with dysfunctional Demons and their perplexing pets, a socially awkward Angel with a cute ‘n cuddly curse, a goofy god, and even… herself. The afterlife just ain’t what it used to be!
Slightly Damned, Book One, by Sarah “Chu” Wilson, Phoenix, AZ, Slightly Damned Comics/Orlando, FL, Ka-Blam Digital Printing, June 2012, trade paperback $39.95 (unpaged [276 pages]), digital download $4.99.
Slightly Damned, Book Two, by Sarah “Chu” Wilson, Phoenix, AZ, Slightly Damned Comics/Orlando, FL, Ka-Blam Digital Printing, May 2013, trade paperback $39.95 (unpaged [318 pages]), digital download $4.99.
Mousenet and Mousemobile are recommended for readers 8 to 12, grades 3 to 7. They are clearly juvenile fiction, but are well-written and imaginative enough that “all ages” might be a better recommendation. Megan Miller, the protagonist, who was 10 years old in Mousenet, is 11 years old here. The series is not just spinning its wheels; this is a true sequel.
In Mousenet, Megan and three others – her slightly older step-cousin Joey Fisher and two adults, Megan’s inventor uncle Fred Barnes who made the mouse-sized Thumbtop miniature computer, and Joey’s father Jake who invented the solar blobs that are its power supply – become the only humans who learn that all mice are intelligent, and want the Thumbtop for all mice around the world so they can communicate instantly via a Mouse Internet. They obviously need more than a single miniature computer curiosity if this is to happen, so Mousenet is about the two children and the mice – particularly Trey, the Talking Mouse, and the officious but smart head of the Mouse Nation, the Chief Executive Mouse (a.k.a. Topmouse, known as the Big Cheese behind his back) – persuading Fred and Jake to mass-produce the Thumbtop. The mice come up with the fiction that enables the two adults to get away with this, by creating a “cute” small company, Planet Mouse, to purportedly make miniature computers as novelty keychain fobs, in Megan’s and Uncle Fred’s home city of Cleveland, Ohio.
Illustrated by Stephanie Yue, NYC, Disney•Hyperion Books, October 2013, hardcover $16.99 (282 pages), paperback $7.99, Kindle $9.99.
This is a review of the original French edition. My thanks to Lex Nakashima for getting and loaning it to me.
The young Alfred Bigoodee is only an assistant when he embarks on the seaplane of Lady Rozenbilt, the fabulously rich woman with tastes as fantastic as they are dangerous. This voyage will forever change his life.
A complete story about the man who will become Captain Bigoodee, one of the most striking characters of the series District 14, the prize-winning series of the International Comics Festival of Angoulême. (French blurb; my translation)
The French publisher’s American subsidiary in Hollywood has published the English translation, The Fantastic Voyage of Lady Rozenbilt, almost simultaneously with the original edition, but has declined to send me a review copy; so this review is of the French edition alone.
This 124-page hardcover album starts out as a prequel, so to speak, of Pierre Gabus and Romuald Reutimann's District 14, Season 1, which I described in my review as:
a Ridley Scott Blade Runner megalopolis (Reutimann’s art convincingly portrays a huge but crumbling early 20th-century city) with Humphrey Bogart as the cynical private eye; and the inhabitants, each of whom has a dark secret, divided roughly into one-third humans, one-third anthropomorphic animals, and one-third outer-space immigrants in their flying saucers.
The humans are the upper classes of society, but that doesn’t mean that the humanoid animals are not at least as active when it comes to really running things.
One of this world’s supporting characters is the mysterious cat-man Captain Bigoodee; American- or English-accented in the French edition or French-accented in the American edition. This is the story of his youth, and of how he loses his innocence.
Paris, Les Humanoïdes Associdés, October 2013, hardcover €15.99 (124 pages).
Freeze time and manipulate the world with endless possibilities: build the solution YOU want where nothing is scripted and levels can be solved in multiple ways. When Super Meat Boy meets Braid, you may die repeatedly and enjoy it!
I'm certainly one for setting high bars and lofty goals for one's self, but the question is now installed. Did this game succeed in taking the best of Super Meat Boy and Braid and blending them together, or did it fall short? Let's dive right into it.
Dean Koontz first came to the public’s attention in the early 1970s. He was originally considered a science-fiction author (his 1975 far-future Nightmare Journey contains talking evolved descendents of animals), but he soon established a reputation as one of the leading authors of horror/suspense fiction with s-f, fantasy, or supernatural elements.
Watchers, his most popular novel, straddles the border between science-fiction and “realistic” suspense fiction involving genetic engineering. In a detailed analysis in Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers (1996), Joan G. Kotker argues that it is a successful combination of science-fiction, suspense, a technothriller, a love story, a police procedural, gangster fiction and:
… overriding all of this, an inspiring dog story whose suspense is based on a series of threats to a very special dog.
NYC, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, February 1987, hardcover $17.95 (352 pages).
We’ve got three issues from what are becoming the core books of this Pull List series of articles.
The oldest title in the series is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which has been around since the first Pull List and 14 issues have appeared in 14 other pull lists, counting this one. Eight spin-off issues, including the original Micro-Series, the Villains Micro-Series and The Secret History of the Foot Clan have also appeared in seven Pull Lists, bringing the total TMNT number to 23 issues in 22 Pull Lists.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic began at the beginning with #1 in Pull List #6. Since then, 10 other issues have appeared in nine other Pull Lists, with seven issues of its Micro-Series featuring in seven Pull Lists, bring the franchise’s total up to 18 issues in 17 Pull Lists.
The new kids on the block are the Guardians of the Galaxy, with seven issues in seven Pull Lists and no spin-offs, so they’re also the easiest to keep track of.
I had a friend in high school whose name began with an “S”. This friend, as it may not surprise readers to find out, was more than a bit geeky and nerdy. His name was not Sherman, but my dad once admitted to often forgetting his real name and replacing it in his mind with Sherman. He was reminded of the character from the old The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show segment “Mr. Peabody’s Improbable History”.
I never really cared much for that old show, and I don’t know if dad was actually a fan of it, or just found it unavoidable during his own childhood and adolescence. I doubt he’d admit to being a fan even if he was. That’s just the way my dad is. He is not, thank you very much, likely to be described as geeky or nerdy; so, his apparent remembrance of this show, and a strange fondness for the Vger twist from the first Star Trek movie are the only hints that there might be that side to his personality, so I was mildly excited about this movie for that reason, as well as the fact that Robert Minkoff, one of the co-directors of The Lion King, was helming it.
But, at the end of the day, this movie was just okay. I don’t regret seeing it, but I don’t have any especial need to see it again. It’s just an okay movie; nothing more, nothing less.
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.
"Every now and again I sit back and wonder what it would be like if other animals could really fight back against the egregious violence to which we subject them in a wide variety of venues ranging from research laboratories and classrooms to zoos, circuses, rodeos, factory farms, and in their own homes in ours and in the wild. This thought experiment takes life in The Awareness and reflects their points of view, and it's clear they do not like what routinely and thoughtlessly happens to themselves, their families and their friends. By changing the playing field Gene Stone and Jon Doyle force us to reflect how we wantonly and selfishly abuse other animals and the price we would pay if they could truly fight back. This challenging book also asks us to reflect on the well-supported fact that we need other animals as much as they need us. It should help us rewild our hearts, expand our compassion footprint, and stop the reprehensible treatment that we mindlessly dole out." - Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado (quoted blurb)
Suspense/terror/horror stories in which all animals, or all of certain species, turn against mankind go back at least to Arthur Machen’s unreadable “The Terror” (1917). Probably the best-known is Daphne du Maurier’s “The Birds” (1952). I recently reviewed Steven Hammond's Rise of the Penguins (2012). In movies, the terror-animals have ranged from rats to all of the giant mutations like Them and Night of the Lepus.
How successful any of these are usually depends on two factors. The skill of the author (or the director) in building a mood of terror, and the plausibility of the reason given for the animals to turn against humanity. In The Awareness, both of these fail.
NYC, The Stone Press, March 2014, paperback $14.95 (ix + 221 [+3] pages), Kindle free.