Review by Linnea ‘LiteralGrill’ Capps
Furry Galaxy 75 Book One: Pandora’s Box is a novel of “a clean anthropomorphic space fantasy” written by Van Hill Millvele. It’s a family friendly novel designed to “introduce family members to the furry fandom.” I received an advance copy for review. The story seems to be about ancient prophecies and three people who must come together to release Pandora from a magical/technological set of boxes that are actually ancient pottery?
It’s not often I have to use a question mark in a review like that, but unfortunately that’s the case with this book. It’s incredibly hard to follow what is going on and why half of the time for various reasons. These boxes I mentioned, that are really ancient computer pottery, seem to have viruses mentioned that can mess with them but somehow also magic maybe preventing some people from using them? It’s too confusing to fully understand. The writer has a habit of suddenly throwing huge concepts at you with minimal explanations. In the first few chapters the idea of being able to come back to life after dying exists, tons of races, what seems to be an important government and religious system, magic, science, robot people, smart AIs in computers, alternate universes, and time travel are all things mentioned. Oh, and I guess for some reason some people’s timelines can be locked down somehow? There’s so much information being dumped at once it’s almost impossible to keep track of it all. It doesn’t help that some of that information doesn’t even seem important either. The exact kinds of sugarless gum flavors a character likes as an example, why did that need such a specific attention? Then there’s so many characters thrown at you so quickly there’s no way to remember them all. I think at least 20+ characters were mentioned by name within the first few chapters. It’s unfortunate too as almost all of these concepts are explained in dialogue. Unfortunately the characters don’t speak to each other like regular people making it extra awkward to read what is supposed to be so important. The story in general also feels so erratic, it’s hard to focus on what is happening or even know what is important. Out of nowhere, a character is suddenly dumped as they find out the person they are dating MARRIED their friend with absolutely no warning, as an example. Another issue I found was how simplistic the writing was in general. It reminded me of the kinds of books I read to my daughter when she was five, though honestly a bit clunkier. “Toby walked slowly to the shuttle bay. He was a Lycan and looked sort of like a husky. Toby had fur but no hair, but his markings made him look as if he did. He was dressed in black pants and a blue shirt.” This is the first sentence you see in the book as an example. It’s choppy and certainly doesn’t get people excited to read forward. Which, if the book has the goal of introducing family to the furry fandom, is a very bad sign. I personally found the book exhausting to try and read. Now, the goal of the book is to introduce furry to family members while keeping clean. I would say it doesn’t succeed purely because of how exhausting it is just to read the book. Even in the attempts to explain furries have so much hand-holding it feels overkill.
“Furry fingers looked different from Human hands because they had paw pads. Some Furries had only paws, but most had fingers.”
In a world with Zootopia, The Secret of Nimh, Watership Down, Robin Hood, and even the Warriors series of novels people can understand anthropomorphized animals without needing it explained that simply. Or if it needed to be, it could be done so more subtly. Perhaps he shakes hands with a human and feels the skin under his paw pads then says how it’s interesting it always is feeling a hand so different than his own. I do not want to leave this entirely negative however, so let’s try to leave some strong constructive feedback. First, the idea in general of a clean novel designed to help transition people into reading furry writing is honestly a marvelous idea! So would potentially having a book designed for younger audiences specifically: there’s furries out there with kids too after all. Second, the general concept of interesting ancient technology could be an interesting draw. Or a prophecy of some kind. Or multiple universes. Or the differences between magic and science. Or government versus religion. There’s FAR too much going on here and here needs to be more of a focus. Also, if a character isn’t completely vital to the story they shouldn’t be in it. Pick a single lane and try to keep more focus on it while only using a couple of these other things if they are needed to tell the story.
Finally, the writing in general needs to be far more fluid. Even if this does end up focused to be for young readers, there’s plenty of examples out there that show they don’t need such strong hand holding. Catwings is a phenomenal example, while also keeping quite furry in nature.
So to be blunt, I could not bring myself to finish the entire story. It simply was too confusing, written too choppily, and was not engaging enough for me to do so. Life is too short to read through books you are not enjoying. However, this was an advance copy. So perhaps some work could be done to try and clean it up so it can be something better before release. If it comes out without major changes, I hate to say I cannot recommend purchasing or reading this book.