[Originally posted September 17, 2006]
So… summer is over and it’s time to get busy again. I’d like to give a very strong recommendation to Breaking the Ice: Stories from New Tibet, the anthology edited by Tim Susman and published by Sofawolf Press. This group of six stories are all set in the same world, a remote mining colony known as New Tibet. The climate is subarctic, the economy is barren, and the world is run by corporate interests and organized crime. So why would anyone go there, you may well ask. The corporate managers attracted the original colonist population with promises of great wealth, creating a sort of gold rush environment. Travel to New Tibet was subsidized for the emigrant, quickly bulking up the population. Of course, the cost of a ticket off the world to anywhere else is grossly inflated, making it almost impossible for most to ever leave again. In this Siberian setting of dim and clouded light, where snow falls nearly every day and water is liquid only for a few weeks of the year, the victims of the New Tibet con artists must find a way to live their lives, working for the companies themselves or else for the two main organized crime groups, the Vishons (ursine moneylenders and usurers) and the Shivers (canine and feline drug dealers.)
The masterful opening short, “Dead End,” by none other than Samuel Conway (known to many furry fans as Uncle Kage) sets the stage as a bartending vulture explains New Tibet society to a new arrival. Tim Susman’s “A Prison of Clouds” is a story of the love between two male foxes, one of whom is willing literally to sell his own soul in order to gain freedom for the other. “Nightswimming” by David Andrew Cowan is a tale of interracial love between a fox, daughter of a government official, and an otter who lives free of the colonial chains.
David Richards’ contribution, “Array of Hope,” is a heart wrenching tale of friendship, love, and loss between two foxes and an honest bear who is not one of the Vishons. “Touch of Gray” by Jeff Eddy shows us a ray of hope that grows out of a moment of bleakness, revealing that there are forces of mercy operating clandestinely, even on a desolate and isolated world.
The climax, and masterpiece in my opinion, is the novella length story “Skin Deep” by 2, in which Jaund, a depraved wolf assassin and member of the Shivers, is caught between his criminal past and his love for a beautiful and innocent arctic fox girl who unwittingly falls afoul of the Shivers plots. All the stories are tragic and painful, but beautifully wrought and, I think, very true to life. The symbolism of New Tibet, with its bitter barren environment, is really not so far from our own world, which can be hostile, unforgiving, and utterly without mercy. I strongly recommend this anthology to all furry readers. It contains nothing erotic and little cheer, but is filled nonetheless with romance, tragedy, and, in an odd and unexpected way, hope.
Breaking the Ice: Stories from New Tibet
Edited by Tim Susman
Sofawolf Press, 2001, $13.95