Recent Reading Wrap-up: Mutinies, Black Dogs, and Dreams on a Distant Ice Planet

Image of books covered in the review.I’ve been letting some of the books to be reviewed pile up, so this is the first of two “armload reviews,” this one focusing on indie and small press books.

Camouflage by Kyell Gold is something I hadn’t really hit before, a full-bore furry alternative history, set in 1508 Europe. White tiger Danilo finds himself transported to the 16th century, where the church celebrates him for his white fur while he must hide his homosexuality or face possible death for it. Like Gold’s other works, the reader is there inside the protagonist’s head in a way that sweeps them along with the story. Gold’s a talented storyteller who plays effectively with the theme of hiding one’s identity in order to survive, which plays out against a convincing, well-imagined historical landscape. (FurPlanet Productions, 2017)

Kismet by Watts Martin is set in a space called The River, described as “a hidgepodge of arcologies and platforms in a band around Ceres full of dreamers, utopians, corporatists — and transformed humans, from those with simple biomods to the exotic alien xenos and the totemic, remade with animal aspects.” A solid space thriller set in an intriguing environment, Kismet is a fun read. (FurPlanet Productions, 2017)

The Goodall Mutiny, by Gretchen Rix, takes a couple of chapters to find its legs and starts with a focus on horned rhinoceros beetles that leads the reader to think the beetles will prove a bigger plot point than they do (admittedly the idiosyncrasy of that detail may be delightful enough to counterbalance it), but emerges as a decent mystery read set aboard a failing space vessel. When Lieutenant Joan Chikage of the U.S.S. Goodall is attacked by her petty officer, she finds herself caught up in a mysterious and murderous mutiny that pits the remaining crew against each other. (Rix Café Texican, 2016)

Incense Rising by N.J. Shrock is a near future SF thriller focusing on two protagonists, Névé and Incense, Americans caught up in a world where corporate consumerism and politics have merged. The book uses a patchwork of narratives of the two protagonists interspersed with other documents, which sometimes makes things feel uneven but also provides a background of the world that can entertain and enlighten, as with the ongoing corporate meeting sessions with an everchanging project interspersed throughout the book. (Indigo River Publishing, February, 2018)

Common and Precious by Tim Susman and its accompanying anthologies, edited by Susman, Breaking the Ice and Shadows in Snow are linked by their setting, New Tibet, a fierce and hostile planet inhabited by varying furry races. Melinda, the heroine of Common and Precious, is an upper-class citizen whose life collides with a group of outlaws and in doing so, teaches her what life on New Tibet centers on: economic hardship. This is furry fiction about class issues, and it’s a fascinating project, worth seeing from the multiple angles that these books provide. (Sofawolf Press: Common and Precious, 2007; Breaking the Ice: Stories from New Tibet, 2001; Shadows in Snow: Stories from New Tibet, Volume 2, 2004)

Black Dogs Part One: The House of Diamond and Black Dogs Part Two: The Mountain of Iron by Ursula Vernon. I’ve mentioned Vernon’s talent in a past review, and these books, which are very early Vernon, will delight her readers even though they’re more than a little meandering. Lyra, an innocent and bookish young merchant, finds herself on an epic quest that will involve dog-soldiers, sorcerers, elven hunters, and all sorts of journeys. I’ve stuck these aside to pass to a teen reader who enjoys fantasy – they’re a romp and she’ll enjoy them. (Sofawolf Press, 2006)

About Cat Rambo

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches atop a hill in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the first two books of the Tabat Quartet, Beasts of Tabat and Hearts of Tabat. She is an Endeavour, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominee. Among her nonfiction works are a travel guide to Baltimore, a cookbook, highly opinionated essays, and the book Creating an Online Presence for Writers. She once won a hula contest judged by Neil Gaiman. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see here.