So every so often I got caught up in the story, and then I was reminded that the guy firing off the cannon is actually a badger, and the whole edifice collapsed and had to be rebuilt from scratch. And I had other problems as well, beside the suspension-of-disbelief thing. Every character had to be introduced, and there are a lot of characters, so it took a very long time for the plot to get going. And there is, not surprisingly for a Puppy choice, an extraordinary amount of carnage — but the fact that the characters are animals, and unrealistic animals at that, turns all the killing into a Saturday-morning cartoon. I did wonder if the author, Daniel Polansky, was making a comment about the unrealistic nature of violence in fiction, but then I realized that I was probably over-thinking this and that he just wanted to write about furry animals wreaking mayhem.
The tone is drily ironic, and occasionally rises to genuine humor: “An empty prison is generally a sign of a well-run state, of a happy populace with no need to engage in crime. In this particular instance it was a sign of the opposite, of a nation that had declared anything worse than shoplifting a capital offense and was quick to execute that policy, and, for that matter, its citizens.” I’d like to see what Polansky is capable of when he’s not killing off small animals. But if you’re looking for a story about murderous furries, this one is definitely for you.
Note: I started reviewing Puppy stories last year because I was curious about their claims: were the Hugos ignoring true storytelling, and were the Puppy nominees examples what of good fiction should look like? The answers turned out to be No and No. This year the answers are more complicated, because the Puppies included choices that other people had liked as well. But it was never my intention to review the more popular stories, just to keep an eye on what the Puppies were doing. So I’m not going to review the rest of the novellas, all of which seem to have supporters outside the Puppies, and I’m only going to review The Aeronaut’s Windlass for the novels.