Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Beast of War, by Mina S. Kitsune. Illustrated by Sal Hernandez.
Ames, IA, Light Beasts, LLC, July 2015, trade paperback $8.50 (197 pages), Kindle $4.00.
The big annoyance with Beast of War is that it is written from the viewpoint of a teen airhead of the future. Melissa Rin Brick, a college student in Atlanta, would rather attend fan conventions, dances, and parties cosplaying as “Cute Kitsune” than study. She lives far enough in the future that bullets (from the context, bullet trains) cross North America in a couple of hours from one city to another. There are AI-controlled cars. Apparently the ozone layer has been destroyed, and a Life Shell over the cities protects people from ordinary radiation.
“‘Scientists say that everyone should stay indoors during tomorrow’s solar eclipse. The current disruptions in the sun will cause serious harm to those outside. A warning is being issued: high risk of third-degree burns or stroke. They also remind you not to look directly at the sun during this event, even with the Life Shell and the Moon both blocking a majority of the harmful rays.’
Oh, blah blah. Everything that happens has to make people worry. Like you could really get burned while the Life Shell protects us from space.” (p. 6)
Mel, who has been partying at a convention while she should be in school, is met by her friend Jill:
“‘Right, but I figured you didn’t know about the warning to stay indoors today, so I was going to take you to a shelter. Class was cancelled.’
‘What, over that solar stuff? Come on. Scientists always have a bug about something, from earthquakes to global warming to a lot of snow,’
‘Yes, and thanks to global warming, the entire Midwest became an inland sea for thirty years!’” (p. 8)
This is all in Chapter 1. Mel ignores the warnings, and in Chapter 2 is apparently sent by the extra radiation from the solar eclipse into another dimension – and into a new body.
“Now I’m flat on my butt in tall grass that’s brown, not green. I’m in a valley, not on a hill. And where the hell are my clothes?
The noise is making my skull spin. Yipe! What the heck is crawling on my head? Ears? I can feel myself touching fuzzy ears. Yet I don’t just feel them with my hands. I feel them with … my ears. I have fur on my head; not hair, but fur.” (p. 12)
Mel’s fursona was Cute Kitsune; now she’s a real foxgirl. She is quickly surrounded by those things in the background on Sal Hernandez’s cover:
“Grey speckled skin; seven fingers, skinny upper bodies with circular feet. Has to be a group of sci-fi freaks. They must have got me into a sensory VR room. I’ve never been in a VR this real, though I heard the sensory ones are amazing. They speak, but I can’t understand a word of it. That can’t be a scrambler. Something is very wrong here. I can see stars; they look real. I can feel the wind on my skin and bugs on my legs.” (p. 13)
The grey people have four eyes and spears. They think she’s a natural fox and put her in a cage:
“Whoa, I move fast! Too fast to stop! Oh, my neck. I didn’t know I could run that fast. I must have looked like a total fool. Oh yeah, they are laughing. That guttural reverberation could be nothing but a laugh. I’ll just pretend I didn’t do anything unnatural, like a cat would. They look sad when thy laugh, and it really hurts my ears when they make this much noise. Why do my ears have to be so sensitive? I always thought having fox ears would be great, but it’s really lame. The tail is still great to have.” (p. 18)
At this point I’m just going to quote the back-cover blurb: “A self-absorbed college student has everything she knows turned sideways. After ignoring multiple warnings, she walks down a one-way path. Now she is alone in a land and body that are unknown to her. See the world through her eyes as she struggles with the implications of the biggest mistake of her life. Can she adapt fast enough to keep alive? Can she keep ahold of who she is, or even what it means to be human? Can she make it home before she becomes more than just a beast of war?”
Mel, and the reader, have a whole alien world to explore, and she’s become a self-centered fox. Some highlights: the world is called Haragerk. Kitsune credits a co-author, Rebecca “Lyarea” Everett. Those bulbous animals with six eyeslits on Sal Hernandez’s cover are xounds, and the seven-fingered grey men are Kumimi. Hernandez has also drawn 25 chapter-heading sketches.
Don’t expect an ending to the story. Beast of War is only Light Beasts Saga, volume 1. What will happen to fox-Mel next?