Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Redeeming Factors, by James R. Lane. Illustrated by Eugene Arenhaus.
Morrisville, NC, Lulu Press, August 2016, trade paperback $19.99 (356 pages), Kindle $2.99.
This should emphasize 2nd Edition or revised edition more. Redeeming Factors was first published by Xlibris Corp. in September 2000, one of both the original self-published books and of furry fandom’s novels. Lane has revised it for this edition. The cover and interior art by Eugene Arenhaus are from the first edition.
In the very near future, the jumperdrive is invented, giving Earth not only cheap and easy space flight but interstellar flight.
“[…] most people bought their own personal starships the way they bought RV motor homes, travel trailers and small pleasure boats. […] For less than five thousand New Millennium UN dollars a person could have his very own basic spaceship, taxes and local license fees extra, space suits and common sense not included. […] The resulting first contact discoveries with distant alien worlds, alien creatures – and above all, alien sentients, with all the biological hazards and culture shocks such events must entail – were quick to follow.” (pgs. 11-12)
“The H’kaah were just one of over two dozen more-or-less sociable non-human sentient species discovered in a loose cluster of stars a mere three hundred light years from Earth.” (p. 13)
Most of the aliens, even those that look like Earth animals such as the otter-like Mn’rii and the bear-like Ruug’h, much less the more aggressive carnivores –
“Humanity wasn’t just about to give ‘smart wolves’ and their ilk free access to entire planets full of defenseless, sentinel ‘prey’.” (p. 20)
— are too independent to mix with humanity; but the rabbit-like H’kaah are docile and defer to humans as Big Brothers. And humanoid bunnies are popular with humans, both with children as nursemaids and with adults for NSFW reasons. So why shouldn’t they be brought to Earth?
(This is just a summary of a lengthy prologue that is necessary and interesting, but is quite an expository lump before the story starts.)
Jack Ross is a just-50 ex-US/UN government employee; a former US top-secret special ops agent until he inherited an automobile agency and retired to run it. His former government friends ask him to become one of the organizers of Patrons, a UN/H’kaah joint program to introduce the rabbitoids to Earth society “as personal companions to mostly middle-class families and individuals.” (p. 21) They would serve as, frankly, many third-world “resident alien” humans do in first-world countries, establishing themselves as gainfully employed, able to send money home, and introducing their nationality/species peacefully to the vast mass of humanity who aren’t interested in flying off into outer space. Jack becomes, secretly, one of the bureaucrats who sets up Patrons from the human end, and publicly he becomes the first human “customer” to hire one of the H’kaah.
“In his younger years Ross had seen photos of the world-famous Playboy Clubs before they became extinct, and he had been fascinated by [the] concept of ‘bunny girl’ waitresses, sexy young women wearing clip-on rabbit ears and powder-puff tails. Now, decades later, he was facing a roomful of the genuine article, and he found them to be undeniably feminine and sexy beyond the point of merely exotic, yet at the same time they were disturbingly alien. He noticed that he was beginning to sweat.” (p. 26)
Ross picks the honey-blonde furred S’leen. For the next few dozen pages, the story is about Ross’ introducing her to Florida society and to his home, and their getting acquainted. There are a few mentions of her rabbit-girl nature (he struggles to maintain a professional relationship despite her being “an incredibly sexy creature” with a shy personality), but it’s generally similar to what an average 50-year-old American living alone (he’s a divorcee) might go through upon hiring a young housemaid from a poorer third-world country experiencing America for the first time.
During Ross’ “explaining America”, he makes it clear that he – and Lane makes it clear that Ross is speaking for him – is politically conservative and has a large gun collection. This is pertinent when Ross takes S’leen to a firing range and teaches her to shoot. One of Lane’s more subtle touches is to refer to Jack Ross constantly as “Ross”, while everybody addresses him as “Jack”. This keeps him a more objective protagonist while making it clear that everyone who knows him considers him a good guy.
This is all pertinent because it’s obvious to the reader how this will all turn out, despite Ross’ and S’leen’s determination to keep everything on a detached, intellectual level. A healthy but sex-starved older but still active male and an equally abstemious 20-year-old bunny-girl, alone together?
An ongoing consideration is that S’leen is from a race of herbivores, while Ross is from a race of carnivores. (Okay, omnivores.) Despite the feelings that they develop for each other, S’leen can’t help cringing on an instinctual level:
“It finally sunk in that she was a long way from home, and completely at the mercy of creatures that EAT the flesh of other species.
She started trembling again.” (p. 69)
About halfway through the 356-page novel, old enemies from Ross’ past catch up with them. S’leen kills them thanks to Ross’ gun lessons, but he is left in a condition that:
“‘Don’t get your hopes up, son,’ Green [St. Augustine police Lieutenant Nolan Green, a friend] cautioned, his expression grim. ‘In all my years of military and police work I’ve never seen someone shot up that badly live more than a handful of minutes.’” (p. 151)
“Each damaged or destroyed organ, by itself, would constitute a serious problem, Green explained, but he had saved the worst for last. ‘Besides all that, and besides losing his left eye and the hearing in his left ear, there’s one more thing: Jack is almost totally paralyzed. One of the bullets punched through his belly to lodge in his spine. They’re afraid to disturb it for fear of doing even more damage, but where it is, as well as what the neurological tests show, says that his entire lower body is effectively dead. And because of his breathing difficulty and unstable heartbeat, they’re certain the bullet is affecting the nerves that govern the upper body functions as well.’ Green took a long, deep breath, then added huskily, ‘Hell, if he’s lucky he might not wake up at all,’” (pgs. 194-195)
If Ross is in such a hopeless condition, how can there be a happy ending? With his human and H’kaah friends working together, there are unexpected surprises. Read Redeeming Factors and find out.
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