Submitted by Fred Patten
Sixes Wild: Echoes, by Tempe O’Kun. Illlustrated.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, June 2016, trade paperback $15.95 (155 pages).
This is a mature content book. Please ensure that you are of legal age to purchase this material in your state or region.
This short novel is a sequel to O’Kun’s Sixes Wild: Manifest Destiny, an anthropomorphic-animal Western published by Sofawolf Press in June 2011. That won the 2012 Cóyotl Award in the Best Mature Novel category, and was a nominee for the Western Writers of America’s Spur Award in the Best Short Novel category. (For the record, there has also been a promotional 8-page Sixes Wild: The Bluff comic book, illustrated by Sidian.)
Echoes begins where Manifest Destiny ended. The setting is White Rock, Arizona Territory, a stereotypical dusty early 20th-century Western town (they have newfangled electric lights) except that the townsfolk are all anthro animals – sort of. (I still haven’t figured out how a big-winged fruit bat sheriff who flies and hangs by his feet upside town in his sheriff’s office can ride a horse.) The main characters are Jordan Blake, the fruit bat sheriff, and Six Shooter, a rugged hare bounty hunter. What nobody knows (well, they pretty much do by now) is that Six is really a crossdressing female, and she and the sheriff are secret lovers. Very graphic lovers; this is a mature content book.
Manifest Destiny ends with Six going after Tanner Hayes, the arrogant lion mine-owner revealed to be a villain who goes on the run. Echoes begins with Six coming back to town empty-pawed.
“‘Thought you had a lion to run down.’
‘Hayes has gone to ground. Haven’t got mah gun back either.”” (p. 7)
Meanwhile, she’s heard a new rumor that interests her.
“She rests her paws on those revolvers, one a silver heirloom, the other a blue steel substitute. ‘A spot of treasure hunting.’
I look up from my bookkeeping to take account of Six. One never can tell how serious she takes her tomfoolery.
‘Ah’ve been hearin’ rumors.’ She brushes the dust from her fluffy tail. ‘Folk tell of a cliff-house with all manner of lost riches.’
With a sigh, I lean back in my chair, steeple my wings, and put away the pen with one foot. ‘I wouldn’t put much stock in saloon scuttlebutt.’
‘Nor would ah, but ah heard it from an old ‘yote traveling with the circus.’
My wing fingers interlace. I wish I knew her better, and not just because I’d like to know if she’s poking fun at me. ‘If he knew where all this treasure was, why was he traveling with a circus?’
‘He said it was cursed.’ Her dexterous paws dance theatrically. ‘Everybody who went lookin’ met a grisly end.’” (p. 8)
The rumored cliff-house, if true, means an abandoned, hidden ‘yote (native) settlement. It would explain why it had not been found long ago. Six returns for Blake because he’s her boy friend, and because he’s a bat who can fly up to explore the steep cliffs of canyons.
Their dialogue is full of risqué double-entendres.
“‘I saw a tumbledown entrance to a cliff dwelling. No stairs to speak of and it’s tucked away in a gully.’ My wings fold up with a flourish. ‘I can see why a non-flighted treasure hunter would miss it.’
‘Getting’ fonder a’ those wings all the time.’ Silken paws run up their membranes, against the grain of the fine hairs thee.
I shiver, then stretch my wings for another flight. ‘Give me a launch, would you?’
‘Surely will, lawbat.’ She crouches to let me hop on her shoulders. Once she has me at a disadvantage, her ears spring up against the front of my trousers. ‘You know ah’ll get ya up anytime.’” (pgs. 10-11)
They find an ancient cliff dwelling considerably richer than any humans know about:
“Exquisite murals run the walls, carvings of desert tortoises in fantastical scenarios. Some are emerging from the Earth, others are taking the shape of mountains. ‘This is truly fascinating. This tribe must have revered them for their ability to survive in the desert.’” (p. 12)
But the deeper into the dwelling they go, the more Indiana Jones-type deathtraps emerge:
“My first inkling that something’s amiss comes when those murals begin to change. Gone are the depictions of placid desert-dwelling tortoises; ominous looking snappers take their place, jagged maws gaping menacingly.
I spy a glimmer of metal in one of the lower alcoves. In the dim light, I see the faint outline of a tortoise statuette, about knee-high. With such dry air, it too appears untouched by time.
Her boot clomps down on a rounded bulge on the floor. The tile emits a soft click. The grind of stone reverberates from the wall.” (p. 13)
Manifest Destiny contains 26 short chapters, each narrated by a different character, mainly Six and Blake switching back and forth. I said in my review that it is “mildly annoying until the reader figures out who is talking.” Echoes is the same, although there are only 13 chapters and an epilogue.
Six hears faint echoes or whispers warning her of potential trouble, mostly from the guns she inherited from her father, but not always:
“The instant I touch the watch, whispers tease just at the edge of my hearing. Just like when I first examined it, I’m struck by an odd compulsion to tell the younger ferret to straighten his whiskers and brush his hat. The watch is about average, as echoes run. But even a quiet echo’s enough to make something a treasured heirloom. The unearthly whisper between the ticks urge me toward the scruffy ferret. They silence only when I drop it in his paws.” (p. 39)
Then she learns that others also hear the echoes, and they know more about them than she does. They only come from objects made from silvery ore from a local mine. Six and Blake cross the Arizona-California border to a ghost town where there is a trading store stocking such items:
“Holstering, I scoff at such theatrics. ‘Speakin’ of ghost towns, how do ya stay in business?’ My eyes dance over the wares and windows. ‘Not exactly bustling around here.’
‘Oh, I manage.’ The wolverine hauls another drag on her cigar. ‘Local elk tribes come down from their high desert plazas to stock up. You’d be surprised how happy they are to get their hooves on modern salt lick and antler ornaments. Want nothing to do with echoes, of course: ghost fear. Good weavers, though.’ She hooks a thumb claw at a row of fine cotton sheets, which are about the first thing I’d buy without a worry in the place.” (p. 56)
To give away a spoiler, little is resolved. The mystery of the echoes is cleared up, and Six’s real name is learned. Mostly, Sixes Wild: Echoes is about Six’s and Blake’s off-and-on romance, whenever Six visits White Rock from her roaming bounty- and treasure-hunting and, Blake fears, petty thievery. He wishes she’d settle down in White Rock with him, while she has mixed feelings about giving up her freedom. She does want to learn more about his people and back-East society:
“We hop a train to Texas, which the lawbat tells me is the nearest place we can catch a true flying fox opera. The clattering passenger car’s near to empty. The sheriff occupies himself reading a paperback somebody left on a seat. Some manner of weasel romance, he says, full of twists and furious action. Reminds him of a whole mess of stories I’ve never heard of.” (p. 73)
Six’s description of fruit bat Italian opera is not to be missed. Neither is her NSFW erotic pillow talk for adults. This is a mature-content book.
Sixes Wild: Echoes (cover by ShinigamiGirl) delivers Western action, often kinky explicit erotica, and an anthro-animal society:
“I walk my patrol, rather than flying, just to enjoy the night. […] With the streets awash in moonbeams, I scarcely need to echolocate. My occasional tongue-click keeps me from blundering into a tie-post. It does nothing to warn me about the ne’er-do-well watching me from the alley.” (p. 60)
There are six full-page illustrations by different artists, mostly of the erotic scenes. Sixes Wild: Echoes, an excellent furry novel, ends with a cliffhanger with at least one more book to come.