Books that smell of wet fur

Additions to the 2020 Book List.

The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper (2020) by AJ Fitzwater

COVER1This is a brand-new book by a New Zealand author about a dapper, lesbian, capybara pirate. Instead of being one continuous story, it is made up of seven short stories that are loosely connected. It sounded like it should be fairly exciting, and it did have its moments, but I came away with far more mixed feelings about it.

I was rather disappointed that it shies away from what you would expect from a traditional pirate story. Although, perhaps expecting something traditional from it was a mistake. Instead of swashbuckling adventure, it’s a far more calm, exploration of a magical world. While it does conjure up some very nice mental imagery in places, it all felt a bit empty. It was like a literary equivalent of the video game The First Tree. It has the same calm, dreamy feel – which is nice enough – but it always feels like something is missing.

Looking back, there’s an aspect which makes it contrast with the next book I read. There was a lot of emphasis in it on Cinrak being a polyamarous lesbian and the many other LGBT characters, a contrast to most media, but it actually had little relevance to most of the stories. In contrast, a large part of Black Angel’s story is motivated by the main character’s conflicted sexuality (or, more accurately, asexuality) but without it being pushed so hard.

Black Angel (2016) by Kyell Gold

COVER2This is the third and final book in the Dangerous Spirits trilogy. While they are slightly related and share characters, it’s not really necessary to read them in order to follow each individual story. This isn’t the first Kyell Gold book mentioned here, I also reviewed The Time He Desires last year, but, although I read the earlier books, this is the first of this trilogy that I am reviewing here.

The story in Black Angel is focussed on an otter girl, Meg, who is unsure of many things including what she will do in the future and her own sexuality. She isn’t one to believe in the supernatural and is sceptical of her roommates’ (the protagonists of the previous books) accounts of spirits getting involved in their lives. She begins to have her doubts as she finds herself compelled to draw a comic with voodoo spirits set in the past and has vivid dreams of a techno-theocratic future where the subject of her dreams, dreams of her. Is she being visited by spirits or is it all hallucinations brought on by the combined stress of her best friends moving away, trying to understand her sexuality and coming off the anti-depressants she’s been on since a suicide attempt in high school?

At first, I found parts of the narrative frustrating, as it jumps between the three separate story lines, but, when they all start to come together in the climax, it just became hard to decide which one I wanted the story to focus on more. As with all of Kyell Gold’s work that I’ve read, Black Angel is extremely well-written. The characters all have their unique personalities and he puts effort into researching his subject matter. (There is a small explanation at the end of the book about the difference between Vodou and Voodoo.) I would definitely recommend it for anyone with an interest in furry fantasy or alternative sexualities.

2020 Book List

This is the fourth year I’m doing this (2019, 2018, 2017) and I’m hoping to read two books per month. It’s a challenge but certainly not impossible; I just need to make the time and do it. I think making these lists has already helped me keep reading.

10/03/2020 Added No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference and Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide.

29/05/2020 Added The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper and Black Angel.

4/07/2020 Added The Unexpected Truth about Animals and Areopagitica.

15/08/2020 Added Ecotopia and The Hippopotamus.

38/12/2020 Added Darwin’s Ghosts, Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde And Other Stories and Furries Among Us 2.

Permanent Record (2019) by Edward Snowden

This was a Christmas gift and something I’d been eager to read. Edward Snowden was the one who leaked the existence of PRISM and that the democratic societies in the world were willing to trample on the rights of their citizens just as much as the dictatorships and autocracies they ostensibly opposed. Since then we’ve heard time and time again how both nation states and large corporations have disregarded the rights and interests of people for their own benefit.

The book itself is fascinating, both as an autobiography of one of the heroes of our generation and also to get a glimpse into the secretive world of government espionage. It’s interesting to see how Snowden grew up and what events influenced him. I do wonder how much of it really transpired that way and how much has changed in the process of looking back with new insights. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. It’s entertaining, informative, inspiring and worth reading for everyone.

Ultimately, saying that you don’t care abut privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say. Or that you don’t care about freedom of the press because you don’t like to read. Or that you don’t care about freedom of religion because you don’t believe in God. Or that you don’t care about the freedom to peaceably assemble because you’re a lazy, antisocial agoraphobe. Just because this or that freedom might not have meaning to you today doesn’t mean that it doesn’t or won’t have meaning tomorrow, to you, or to your neighbour—or to the crowds of principled dissident I was following on my phone who were protesting halfway across the planet, hoping to gain just a fraction of the freedoms that my country was busily dismantling.

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Furry fiction additions to my reading list

It has been a couple of weeks since I finished reading my most recent two books. I figured I had better add them to my 2019 Book List before I couldn’t remember enough to properly describe them.

In A Dog’s World (2015) by Mary E. Lowd

COVER1This is a pretty simple romance story. If you’ve ever seen any young romance story where the main character is just arriving at college and has her eyes on an older student, then you probably know how this is going to go. It follows the basic idea without doing anything drastic but it really works for the story because it is just so enjoyable to go along with everything.

The book itself is not quite as simple. While the main story follows a fairly predictably plot, there are enough diversions to keep everything interesting. For one, it’s a world where humans have disappeared and now cats and dogs are the main inhabitants. The dynamics between the two species allow the story to explore issues such as racism and sexism in a gentle manner.

Simple and easy to read, it’s just a light-hearted romance with hidden depths. It makes a great palate cleanser of a book and I found it quite enjoyable.

The Time He Desires (2016) by Kyell Gold

COVER2This one is interesting because it’s a furry book that I first heard about through the mainstream media. There was an article on Slate which touted it as a way to resist the hatred of the Trump era. The book, as with many of Gold’s works, deals with homosexuality but the big difference here is that the story is from the perspective of a Muslim. While the book presents a more moderate form of Islam, I did see some irony in that I started reading it just days apart from Brunei enacting a form of Sharia law that punishes homosexuality with death.

The main character, a cheetah named Aziz, is having trouble with his marriage. He has grown apart from his wife and, a few years back, disowned his son for being gay. At the same time, property developers are trying to buy his and the neighbouring shops, to expand their shopping centre and apartment complex. Added to all of this, he becomes intrigued by a honeymoon tape of a gay couple, which one of the partner’s pawned but which the other is now searching for, and starts to consider other paths his life could have taken.

It’s a short, character-driven book as we see how Aziz handles the changes in his life and how they, in turn, change him. It’s interesting to see the motivations of a character from a religion that I have not experienced and in a situation which many people have to deal with in modern time. Although Gold is not Muslim himself, he was advised by a Muslim friend on the content of the book. As he describes it, he wanted to write about those who face problems with both Islamophobia and homophobia. It is certainly a good book to read to learn a bit about the two and to broaden one’s horizons.

2019 Book List

A new year means a new set of books. As in 2017 and 2018, I am recording the books that I read; partly for my own record and partly that it might help someone else find a book that sounds interesting.

24/03/2019 Added Black Leopard Red Wolf and The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Started An Atheist Revolution.

06/05/2019 Added In A Dog’s World and The Time He Desires.

27/05/2019 Added And Yet… and The Communist Manifesto.

27/09/2019 Added Dissident Signals and A Plea For The Animals

28/12/2019 Added On Anarchism and Anarchism: A Beginner’s Guide

21 Lessons For The 21st Century (2018) by Yuval Noah Harari

Book1I got this one for Christmas. It’s a collection of essays, written by an Israeli historian, covering various topics, including truth, religion, terrorism, equality, war and education. Nearly all of the essays are interesting and raise many questions worth pondering. It’s a lot shorter on answers than questions but it certainly stimulates the mind.

One of the major topics that bothers him is what will happen when big data/AI and biotech combine. He sees the merger of the fields as likely creating an inequality that can’t easily be overcome. He fears that the wealth concentrated in the hands of a few will allow them to modify their biology to be superior while AI and robots will mean that workers are unnecessary making the masses functionally and politically irrelevant. Aside from that there are many other great essays on important topics, such as how the current rise of nationalism is fundamentally incapable of tackling issues like climate change which affect many and require a widespread, co-ordinated response. Continue reading