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Hoenix, by Ted R. Blasingame – book review by Fred Patten.




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

Fred writes: three or four reviews of furry books that I wrote in 2003 or 2004 have vanished from the Internet.  I wrote them for the first version of Watts Martin’s Claw & Quill site, which he has apparently taken down. Here they are back online.

product_thumbnail.phpHoenix, by Ted R. Blasingame.
Morrisville, NC, Dennier Publishing/Lulu, August 2004, trade paperback $12.49 (343 pages).

For about a quarter-century from 1925 to 1950, millions of Americans thrilled to rip-roaring adventure fiction in pulp magazines and movie serials. Best Western, Popular Detective, Doc Savage, Jungle Stories, G-8 and His Battle Aces — there were dozens of them. The colorful locales might change, but most featured steely-jawed adventurers who slugged, slashed or shot their way through innumerable dangers. I loved these when I was a kid.

Ted Blasingame’s galactic adventures would fit in nicely with the works of Edmond Hamilton, Jack Williamson, and L. Ron Hubbard that supposedly were among George Lucas’ inspiration for Star Wars. Blasingame has been writing his adventures of an interstellar freighter spaceship in a galaxy of anthropomorphized animals, on his http://horizon.dennier.com/ website since 1996. Recently he has started publishing them in trade paperback format through the Lulu.com print-on-demand web-publisher. Hoenix is a stand-alone novel in his Blue Horizon universe.

A wolf regains consciousness at the bottom of a deep well next to the skeleton of another canine. He has been savagely beaten and left for dead. He has almost complete amnesia. Next to him and the skeleton are a suitcase containing clothes with a sales receipt to Aramis Thorne, some rations, and a crate of rotting bags of ancient gold coins — millions of credits’ worth. The well is in a deserted primitive city, uninhabited for centuries but with signs of having been recently looted. After hiding most of the gold, the wolf discovers that he subconsciously has enough survival skills to live through an arduous desert trek, and to face down a band of thieving fennec nomads who abruptly back off when he uses the Thorne name. “Nobody crosses Captain Thorne…” “Heard you were dead… It’s all over Castelrosso…”

Is he really Thorne? Since the wolf clearly has dangerous enemies whoever he is, he decides to take advantage of the Thorne name. He learns in the spaceport city of Castelrosso on the planet Brandt that Thorne is (or was) the captain of a space freighter rumored to engage in piracy. He recently disappeared after leaving with a partner on a quest for the fabled lost treasure city of Hoenix. The partner, Randon, came back alone and has temporarily left Brandt. If the wolf is not Thorne, he looks enough like him to pass as him. He is accosted by rough-looking space sailors who ask if he is hiring a new crew since they would be proud to blast off with the famous Captain Thorne. Actively posing as Thorne, he uses the small amount of gold he was able to bring with him to buy a spaceship (old and of dubious spaceworthiness) which he names the Hoenix, and start building a new crew: Goro Harada (pilot – coyote), Errol Colfax (chief engineer – Labrador), Tyler Ringo (cook – beagle), Jason Talos (first officer – wolf), Karla Crandall (gunner – husky), and others. In fact, it is considered noteworthy that the crew of the Hoenix are all canids since the galactic society is otherwise very multispecies. Among the supporting characters are a badger antiquarian and a kangaroo restaurant manager.

Anyhow, “Thorne” now has a ship and crew and is ready to face Randon and his feline crew on his return. But how loyal will the Hoenix‘s crew be when they realize that he has hired them for a private purpose rather than for the piracy that made the real Captain Thorne’s crew rich?

Hoenix is old-fashioned space opera with little ingroup references to classic pirate movies. There are mutinies, space battles, betrayals, searches for lost treasures, and the like. Blasingame’s writing is smooth and formulaic for the most part, except for when there is a development so dramatic that it feels like a deliberate effort to surprise the reader. (It usually works, too.) There are background references to other characters and events in the Blue Horizon universe.

Blasingame does a generally admirable job of putting superficial anthropomorphic characteristics onto what is really a human story:

“He shrugged out of the torn shirt and put the new one around his broad shoulders. The material was light and airy and would allow his fur to breathe properly without feeling stuffy. […] What looked like a pair of tan riding breeches was next, and as before, the garment fit him fairly closely. There was just enough play in the material that he could not be sure if it had been made for him or someone just a little larger, but the tail flap was at the right height for his anatomy.” (pg. 10)

If you like space opera in the classic style and don’t mind that there is no reason or explanation for the characters to be anthropomorphized animals, Hoenix is worth a read.

Note: This is the cover by Elizabeth Jackson of the 10th Anniversary Revised Edition. The cover of the 2004 edition is not online any more.

Fred Patten

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