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Learning to Go, by Friday Donnelly – Book Review by Fred Patten


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Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

51o45qvTn8L._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_Learning to Go, by Friday Donnelly.
Capalaba, Queensland, Australia, Jaffa Books, May 2015, trade paperback $15.00 ([2] + 191 pages), Kindle $5.00.

Learning to Go was published by Jaffa Books in Australia for FurDU 2015 in Gold Coast, Queensland on May 1-3. It is also sold by AnthroAquatic in the U.S; hence the price in U.S. dollars and the Amazon Kindle edition.

Readers had better consider Learning to Go to be R- or NC-17-rated. It is about two homosexual men and a male prostitute who are only thinly-disguised as anthropomorphic animals. There is considerable explicit sex description and talk.
Rufus Timberly is a young man (tiger) as the submissive in a dominator/submissive relationship with his boyfriend, Victor (lion). He is unhappy that Victor is turning out to be the dom in more than their bedroom trysts.

“Rufus wished now that he hadn’t switched jobs. He had been offered the position by his boyfriend, who claimed the office could use some competent people. That should have been a warning sign. In a remarkably short time, Victor stopped seeing him as competent and started seeing him as just as bad as everyone else.” (p. 5)

After a dinner date during which Vincent publicly berates him and walks out, leaving Rufus stuck with the cheque, Rufus turns to a commercial online gay prostitute for sexual release.

“He decided to bite the bullet and search the internet for, ‘Dom in Holton.” Searching for one didn’t commit him to hiring them, he figured. After such an exhausting day, his better judgment was too tired to convince him he shouldn’t.

The results surprised him. Hundreds of relevant hits appeared. Some were craigslist ads, others professional websites. The websites confused him at first; all billed themselves as ‘non-sexual.’ Rufus couldn’t understand why a non-sexual dom existed, and why anyone hired them. Then he realized through a bit more searching that it was a lie, so that the sites appeared strictly legal.” (p. 8)

Rufus picks the website of Bennett Augustine, a German shepherd dom. Bennett is businesslike and very satisfactory. Afterwards, Rufus pays him extra while the two just relax and talk.

“The dom gave him a cocky grin. ‘Lots of guys fall for escorts, prostitutes, doms, etc. Girls too, though that’s not a problem for me. Some people think sex equals love, or something. Or maybe they just want to get stuff for free rather than paying. Or most frequently, I think, they don’t know how to start a real relationship and try to pay for one. You’d think it would be good for business, but it’s not. It usually ends up with bad publicity, or worse, an arrest. I have to be careful about that kind of stuff, in this business.” (p. 14)

Not surprisingly, Victor blows up when Rufus tells him of the affair, pointing out that it was after Victor walked out on him. Victor accuses Rufus of consorting with a street whore. Both are casual players of the Japanese game of go, and Rufus considers their relationship in those terms.

“They sat staring at each other for a great length of time. Rufus analyzed the situation. He needed to always stay one step ahead of Victor, figuring out his next attack, and readying a defense or counterattack, and then be ready for Victor’s response to that. It was like a game of go, only with the board and territories indistinct. Rufus played go well. But the problem lay in the fact that this wasn’t actually go, only something vaguely like it. And Victor was better at this other, indistinct game – and much smarter. Rufus believed that was the main reason Victor liked him so much; he was one of the few people who offered him a challenge in it. That, and Rufus never went for the throat. He always played defensively, and that meant every time he bested Victor, the lion could get up and try a different tactic. Rufus didn’t have that luxury. One misstep, and everything between them could be gone. While dangerous and exciting for Rufus, he got tired of it before Victor did. Rufus lost the game sometimes, but Victor always came back a day or two later.” (p. 27)

Victor eventually returns but their relationship continues to be considered in go terms by Rufus. Victor promises to see a therapist for his anger issues, but Rufus doubts that he really has.

“Rufus decided to launch right into things. ‘You didn’t go to your appointment.’

‘You were spying on me?’ Distraction, Rufus thought; ignore it. ‘You have a lot of nerve to not trust me after what you did.’ Attack. Victor was attacking another side of the board, trying to draw attention away from the important area Rufus was trying to contest and to a past failing. But it was back to a position they’d been in before, and Rufus couldn’t allow that.” (p. 46)

After several weeks, Bennett reenters the scene and immediately begins giving him conflicting advice. Rufus eventually realizes that Victor and Bennett are both doms and he is a sub. He needs to stop being influenced by whoever is the most recent to talk to him, and learn to stand up on his own.

In a major subplot, Rufus decides to become a more serious go player. He joins a club of expert go players, and eventually enters a go tournament with the advice of his player friend Mark (fox). Rufus considers that, metaphorically, he is the prize in a go game that Bennett and Victor are playing (cover by Peta Fenton).

Learning to Go is a funny-animal novel with no fantasy except the anthropomorphic-animal nature of the characters. It is a well-written story of an abusive m/m relationship, and of what the sub member in a dom/sub partnership decides to do about it. This is more of a true-life self-discovery novel than an anthropomorphic-animal fantasy. Read accordingly.

Fred Patten


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