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Why Coyotes Howl

by Watts Martin

($15.95, 214 pages, Sofawolf Press, December 2004. ISBN 0-9712670-7-3.)

Review by Elizabeth Barrette

This collection brings together nine of the author's short stories from various magazines, plus five new ones and an afterword. The older stories have been cover scanrevised and updated for this publication. Together they provide an excellent sample of Watts Martin's popular writing, most of it featuring anthropomorphic characters.

"Why Coyotes Howl" is an enigmatic tale of shapeshifters, woven with lore from Hopi and other southwestern cultures. The quiet love story "Dreams Are for Vixens" reminds us that we can never really know what's going on inside someone else's head -- unless we ask. "Still Life, With Espresso" is downright surreal, a piece of urban fantasy reminiscent of Charles de Lint. "The Fence" takes a disturbing look at the nature of sentience, and the relationship between game warden and wildlife. The mystery "Seeing Things" does a fascinating job of setting up wrong impressions. "Beast" retells a familiar fairy tale in a whole new way, giving it an exotic cyberpunk angle. "The Moon in Water" is a story of awakening.

By turns hilarious and ominous, "The Fox Maiden" illustrates the futility of war by showing how a unicorn would react to it. And yes, the story also contains foxes. More or less. "Vertical Blanking" runs on two levels simultaneously, the characters' everyday lives and the roles they play in an online game; an intriguing palimpsest of reality. "Only With Thine Eyes" careens through an extremely intense and suspenseful first contact, in which a minor character winds up taking on a major role in human-alien relations. A girl on a vision quest returns with more than just a vision in "Daughter of Shadows." "Without Evidence" is a long, involved mystery about a missing prince that gets more unsettling the farther it goes. "Going to the Dogs" offers some amazing insights into applied evolution. Finally, "Travelling Music" weaves a love story between two parallel worlds, one populated by humans, the other by felines.

Watts Martin writes with a precise and relentless voice. His fiction spans fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, romance, and more. If you get tired of reading the same thing for long, this is the collection for you. It also holds great appeal for fans of anthropomorphic or other speculative fiction. Most highly recommended.

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