Review by Sofox

I can't review The Long Slumber by P.C. Hatter because it's not a book in its own right: it is a full plot retelling of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel The Big Sleep.

I'm not hugely into that era of detective novels, but by chance I'd read The Big Sleep a while back. In reading The Long Slumber, the similarities hit right from the first page. After a few pages I looked back at the title on the cover and finally made the connection. As I continued I confirmed this wasn't merely a similar setup, but followed the plot of the original work step by step, scene by scene. LA detective goes into a rich guy's mansion who has two chaotic daughters (cheetahs in this version). He takes on a blackmail case and soon finds a bookshop that's a front for a porno library. He gets in deeper, guns get pointed at him, he points guns at other people, people die, questions arise about some of the deaths, and a missing person case hangs over everything. The only core differences between the two books is that the characters names are different and in this version everyone is given an animal species. With a much lower word count and being physically fairly thin, The Long Slumber feels like an abridged retelling.

Now, since The Long Slumber has "Poached Parody" right on the cover, I have to tackle the question of whether this is a parody or not. Unless you consider the simple act of swapping out human characters for animals to be a parody, or that the main character's new name sounds kinda like "Anorak," then I'm going to have to answer the question, "No". A parody has to do something with the source material that sets it apart, let you know the authors view of the original work, and usually mock it in some absurd way. Ultimately The Long Slumber doesn't really do any of this and more follows in the same footsteps rather take a different path for a new perspective.

There's no new angle, no new tone, no changes to the plot, no replacing the main character with one who's the polar opposite (like when The Producers (1967) had Hitler played by a hippie). Everything is the same from the pace, sequence of events, characters, plot revelations and general atmosphere its trying to evoke. Even a lose plot thread from the original book (that gave the makers of the 1946 film a bit of a hiccup) is ported over, showing that everything is copied over uncritically. There's no sense that the author really processed the source material, just changed names and added species. The rest is rewriting it in a way that would have a college professor screaming at their student if they'd turned it in as their own work.

And that's why it's not a parody. It doesn't change anything so that it can mock it or make fun of the source material. It's like watching an hour long TV movie that adapts the work in a more condensed form. Even the Wishbone TV series, with its gimmick of retelling a piece of classic literature with one of the roles played by a dog, analysed the material well enough to create a modern day story to compare the classic work to and try to share their enthusiasm about the original work with the audience.

With parody you need to make at least one fundamental change that leads to finding new ways to view the material. Vegemorphs was Animorphs except they turned into vegetables rather than animals, making things even more absurd. MegasXLR decided an epic mecha robot cartoon would be more fun if the robot's head was replaced with a muscle car driven by two slacker teens from New Jersey, making its fantastical premise contrast comically with a mundane urban setting (one episode has them have to fight robots just so they can return a rented VHS tape before incurring late fees). Pyst had the island of Myst depicted as a trashed tourist resort, imagining that the millions of people who had virtually visited the island by playing Myst had instead physically visited a real location and collectively left their mark. The Big Lebowski was inspired by Chandler's works also, but starred laid back slacker who got pushed around by other people's plans, rather than a stern detective who proactively moved things forward. The fact he wasn't even trying to make things happen made all the surreal stuff even more absurd with a running gag about him trying to find a way to lock his door so crazy people with strange agendas would stop coming through it and messing him around.

It's not enough to take a story and change the characters to animal people to make it a parody, especially if there isn't any knock on effect that fundamentally changes how you view the piece. Also, because the author sticks so close to the source material it's a lot harder to figure out how the author feels about the original work, whether they love it, hate it or just want to have fun with it. Figuring out how the author feels about something is one of the key reasons you read a book to begin with, to hear their voice, feel what they feel. This is incredibly hard to do with The Long Slumber because because anything you feel or read is more likely to come from Chandler than the author.

I can't review this book as a parody because it simply isn't one. I can't review this book on its own terms because it isn't a book on its own terms. So in order review this book, I have to start by reviewing The Big Sleep.

I wasn't the biggest fan of the The Big Sleep. The Long Slumber being much shorter is actually a plus in my view. Both star a detective who moves around, covers ground that includes the wealthy and the seedy, does questionable things, and gets involved with guns a lot while managing to stay on top of things both in terms of fights and the legal/political complications. Sometimes his moral compass is solid, other times it's questionable. We're not always kept updated with what he's thinking, and there's barely any insight into his emotion.

That was actually my biggest issue with the book. The main character feels more like a plot device than a character. He does stuff and we're not always sure why. To be fair, his decisive nature keeps things interesting, as does his tendency to dive into precarious situations without backup, but the emotional repercussions he would have from most of what he's involved with are either unexplored or just not there. I'm not sure if this is because this generation of men were far more emotionally repressed or he was just an underdeveloped character. There's also some shifts in the plot and his motivation which threw me off a bit, possibly an artefact from when The Big Sleep was actually two separate short stories.

Aside from that, it's aged badly in a few ways. Firstly, the fact we're meant to be shocked by a covert pornography library. It honestly seems like a well run business with returning clientele and the efforts of the narrative to give it a seedy, dirty, criminal element just seem forced. The Long Slumber, being written in a more modern era, downplays the shock element without changing anything.

The other is its sexism element. I'm not here to give you a lecture of feminism, but the underlying message of "if men do bad things, they should be shot; if women do bad things, they should get away with it" is one of the things that really disgusted me about the original book. The Long Slumber, once again, downplays this without changing anything.

In terms of the positives. It does move forward at a nice clip, is fairly dramatic, nice ambience of mid 1900s LA and has nice descriptions. The main character seems to have missed his calling as an interior designer with some of his critiques of places like the rich man's mansion, and one of my favourite descriptions in the book (explaining how two different shades of white clashed) doesn't make the leap to The Long Slumber (simply described as "tundra white"). I'm neutral on the mood and atmosphere, something that's a big part of books and films of this genre. I thought it was nice but not compelling. I did enjoy reading the book and following the detective on his journey through the various sights of LA of the time. It's a fine book, but the dated elements soured me on it, especially since I had such raised expectations for such a famous book. I've read more recent crime books that have grabbed me far more (The Black Echo by Michael Connelly or Ratking by Michael Dibdin for example), but then maybe they're building on a legacy that novels such as The Big Sleep helped establish.

So what can I say about The Long Slumber that I didn't just say about The Big Sleep? With its shorter page count, descriptions don't feel as involved, mood isn't as well established, and there's more emphasis on the functional actions. It keeps the (by now) period setting though I could swear I saw some contemporary slang slip in. I've already mentioned how the modern perspective smooths out some dated elements while keeping them in there. In terms of how I enjoyed it I do have to mention that the ending and most of the plot was spoiled for me since I'd read the original. However I did have good times reading it, with me enjoying parts of the ride, though it was hard to tell if it was the author's efforts or they were just successfully channelling the original book. The fact it had been some time since I'd read The Big Sleep also made it a bit harder to distinguish.

In terms of the animal characters... honestly, a decent job. Having the characters represented by animals made them stand out more than the original work, and good species choices were across the board. One character gets a species so obscure that there's some humorous dialogue explaining what this species actually looks like (I guess that counts as an additional joke, but still not enough to make it a parody). Descriptions like a cheetah baring her claws and so on do play up the anthropomorphic element, along with two people being the same species opening up the question of whether they are related. It's cute, and a fun way to spice up the story, making the scenes fun to imagine. They're the only part of the book that feels created by the author rather than taken from Chandler.

When I first came across The Long Slumber, it was at the author's table at Anthrocon. It was stacked with many other books of under the Poached Parody label, divided into about three series. Despite being relatively thin, I still wondered how an single author could write so many books. Having read The Long Slumber, I think I have a clue.

The Long Slumber is the first in a series of six starring Lucius Anoraq. In comparison, Big Sleep was the first novel starring Philip Marlowe, who was the protagonist in six novels. If you compare the titles of both series of books, a pattern emerges: Farewell, My Lovely/Goodbye Gorgeous; The High Window/The Lofty Perch; The Lady in the Lake/The Female in the Water; The Little Sister/The Wee Sibling; The Long Goodbye/The Lengthy Farewell; Playback/Recap. It's clear one is very much derived from the other. There may never be another Lucius Anoraq because there simply isn't another full length completed Philip Marlowe novel, not by Chandler at least. That's the problem with following source material too closely, you're at its mercy.

The author has two other series too. One, with protagonist Kaiser Wrench, has 13 books in it. The titles here seem to match the 13 Mike Hammer books written by Mickey Spillane in perfect order (My Gun Is Quick/My Claws are Quick; Kiss Me, Deadly/Pet Me Fatal etc.). The author also has a series of five books by the name The Lizard Fifth. The titles of this series seem to compare to those of the five novels Dashiell Hammett wrote (eg. The Maltese Falcon/The Persian Penguin).

I do want to mention I do like the cover art for all these books, a nice furry pulpy noir style. The artist is Sara "Caribou" Miles (also the artist of Halfway Hotel) and prints of the cover art are available on her website.

I can't speak of the books without reading them, but if they're like The Long Slumber then the pattern is clear: Take existing well regarded hard boiled detective fiction and rewrite it with animal characters, likely with minimal changes in plot or characters.

So if you want a hit of streamlined noir classics with a furry twist, I guess you now know where to look. For me, though, I prefer to seek out more original furry fiction, ones that express the views of the author, their thoughts and passions, and don't just channel those of another. Writing a story is a challenge, and it's how different authors handle the challenge that you really get a sense of what they're about. Not to mention that the question of whether the furry elements are a vital element to the story is one that will be decided by the author, not something that's predetermined by the fact that it's an adaption.

Ultimately, The Long Slumber is a slightly altered shadow of a much more influential work. If that's your thing, go for it, but by my attention tends to be drawn more to the things that cast a shadow rather than the shadow itself.