by Joseph Beekman
REVIEWED BY: Ellen Fritz
Centuries have passed since humanity's fall from Earth. A war rages between the remaining species of life on an almost uninhabitable environment. A war between the underground rats and the surface alliance led by the cats. The outcome of the war and the survival of the alliance depends solely on their faith in mythical Gods and the strength and hope in their hearts. However, bringing the hauntingly endless war to an end and life to be renewed, will also mean facing an ancient foe from the birth of existence itself!
In this futuristic fantasy, the rats led by Rule, their commander, live underground in the space between the earth's surface and the fiery pits of hell below. Although the human race, together with ninety percent of all other creatures destroyed by a biologically enhanced bubonic disease - have been extinct for centuries, the fight between good and evil continues. The surface alliance, led by the cats, must exterminate the rats before they succeed in their quest for global domination. This is a tale of war on an almost uninhabitable, barren earth.
I thought the author very creative with his idea of a surface alliance consisting of spiders, scorpions inhabited by the spirits of the long dead pharaohs, the crows and blackbirds; and the snail, Adonis X who exhorts and encourages the troops from his seat on Turin the turtle’s back. Jack, the very special and brave cat born of the sun and raised by Muin the Tarantula, stole my heart from the start. Muin, in spite of her personal concern for her daughter whom she had to sacrifice to go live in hell with the evil Root, leads the Spindletin Spawn troops; and is always there to help and protect Jack. There is also a healthy dose of suspense in the story when Mute, the rat who developed the deadly strain of bubonic disease, comes up with a far worse evil plan to kill off the cat population.
I was completely enthralled from the very beginning of the story. The characters are realistic and utterly fascinating. Despite the exhilaratingly fast pace of the story, it is full of originality and humor. I thoroughly enjoyed the clever wordplay and the wickedly funny puns distributed throughout the book and I would recommend “A Tail Spun” as a must read, to all who love animals and who are looking to read an unforgettable war fantasy.
ELLEN's STAR RATING: 5/5
INTERVIEW with author JOSEPH BEEKMAN
Q: What sparked the idea for “A Tail Spun”?
A: I have to say that the spark that did it for me on this story was my cat, Jack. I have always had a love for science fiction and fantasy based ideas, stories, and genres, and had been tinkering about with the idea of a post-apocalyptic tale set in a future, mythical age of Earth, when I had acquired a stray kitten from a dear friend of mine. For some odd reason, it just felt right to have this story centred around this cat, but in a heroic, fantasy/sci-fi based setting.
And then the story just came to life! I wanted a tale with no humans present, and an earth populated by the remaining species of life. Thus, the cats became the leading forefront of the surface alliance fighting for survival from the threat of the underground rats...and an ancient evil from the birth of existence.
Q: Which of the characters in “A Tail Spun” are your favourite?
A: That would have to be Jack Mesopawtamia! He is a brave and legendary cat, with a mythical status surrounding his birth. He can be quite comical at times with some of his antics, but also a very heartwarming character, too, with a lot of love in his soul and kindness in his heart.
Q: What was the easiest part of writing “A Tail Spun”?
A: Hmmm, I’d have to say it would be the writing of the characters themselves. Many of them were based off of real animals and other creatures that my friend owned. From the spider characters Muin
and Zeta, to the sorceress cat Nemone, the tale also spins itself into the world of fantastical and mythical characters and creatures.
I really had fun writing this tale, because I could incorporate much of my love for fantasy, sci-fi, mythology, and even the environment into it! So, meshing all of this together was pretty cool!
Q: How long did it take you to write “A Tail Spun”?
A: Actually, not long at all. Roughly, six months of writing, editing, etc… It is a short story, although full of life and action, it was relatively easy to just let the story unfold from my imagination and let it flow out.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in “A Tail Spun”?
A: If I did, it would be to expand a bit more on the final onslaught/invasion that takes place towards the end of the tale. This area of the tale really is the culmination and planning of the surface alliance to take on a “do or die” approach to a centuries-long war. It would have been just more of the actual fighting, up close so to speak, but at the same time, I felt I did not want to take away from the focus of the spirit of the tale: to win at all costs for the rebirth of a new and brighter earth.
Q: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence you in any way?
A: Yes, I read them and was quite happy with them. In fact, I just received a 5 star review the other day from a very critical reviewer/author, who felt “…weirded out at first…” by it, but then basically fell in love with it! So that was exciting! But what I always look for is the feeling the reader took with him or her after reading the book. Did the message of the story speak to the reader, did it leave any kind of imprint on them, and if anything, did it inspire or provoke anything within the reader. And just reading them helps see from an objective view of what another saw in the story, or maybe what the reader felt could have or could not have been different. I think reviews are, if written from the heart and soul, and with the wider audience in mind, very beneficial to the author and a form of constructive criticism.
Q: How many books have you written? Which one did you enjoy writing the most?
A: I have written only a handful of completed short stories, including a short compilation of poems called, Shades of Fate. But only recently - in the last couple of years - published two: A Tail Spun, and Little Orphan Anvil. I really enjoyed writing both! It’s hard to pick from these two - I loved writing both of them on different passionate levels. A Tail Spun had such a completely dystopian feel when writing it, but with Little Orphan Anvil, I had a real “Dungeons and Dragons” kind of feeling hammering this one out.
“A Tail Spun” by Joseph Beekman, are available for purchase from Barnes & Noble; Amazon.com and SmashWords.
Excerpt from “A Tail Spun” by Joseph Beekman
The Black Sea Rendezvous
A heavy dreary mist blanketed the rock strewn shoreline of the Black Sea, where thousands of allied forces had assembled, awaiting the great doomsday invasion.
Jack sat upon a high ledge extending from one of the many crannies in the cliffs that overlooked the blackened waters. Muin and Nemone walked along the shoreline in the distance, just two silhouettes in the grayish light. He glimpsed a few blackbirds flying above the water on routine air patrol for signs of any unwanted activity.
Looking far to his right, Jack could make out a dark cave tucked into the cliffs that extended down below the level of the Black Sea. He could see the large form of Bardaboo prowling back and forth by the entrance, either fine tuning the layouts of the tail runners entry assault, or, as had been a more frequent obsession with him, searching for another eye.
'What a character you are Bardaboo...,' Jack mused.
'Always keeping your one eye on the look-out for a so-called bionic eye that will replace your other missing eye!...' Along with an end to the war, it was Bardaboo's neverending hope to one day come across some sort of electrical imaging lens, unearthed from humanity's former technological past, and somehow have it fused to the nerve endings within his missing octave cavity.
'We truly are a curious and crazy lot, Bardaboo...'
It was in this cave that their forces would enter, and with the grace of the Gods, and the hope and strength in their hearts, they would have a chance to change the tide once and for all, bringing about a new beginning for life.
Mesmerized by the sinister hole, he reflected on how the root of evil had been conceived. Not exactly the way the old ages of humanity had cemented their belief in evils' existence, but a variation, nonetheless, with the other earth bred life.
After the fall of humanity, the varied conception of evil had been implemented in the existing species through the Gods of old. A mere blink in the creatory space of time's birth, evil began as a fragmented shell of chaos, defective and exiled to confinement in the deepest bowels of earth, never to exist among the light of order. For it was this spoiled shell's refusal to unite with the Gods and their harmonious wellspring for life, that it was cast into darkness.
It was down in the dark nest of earth, what is called Hell, that this shard of chaos grew into a central, transforming orb of evil. Extending itself in the form of a root, it had, over countless centuries, mainlined up through an already cruel rat infested underground to the edge of the Black Sea.
Thus, the Black Sea, once an oasis of birth, was now a hauntingly dead sea, having been infected with the roots evil and the foulness of the rat.
"But tomorrow, we shall change that…," Ankou whispered into Jack's ear.
Jack reeled around, startled by the voice, and by Ankou's ever apparent ability to read thoughts. He was the shadow of death, however, and once appointed guardian for straying souls from exiting Hell.
"Sorry, Jack...I do fathom quite the scare in cats, don't I?" Ankou said, sarcastically. He stood a few inches taller than Jack, and exuded a ghostly presence, and appearance, whenever on the brink of war.
Jack nodded, the hairs on his back easing down. "I'll give you that, Ankou," he says, heartily. "Good to see you again, my friend.” Jack looks back to the cave. "Seems not long ago we made our way out of there, and you were granted leave from the Gods to help in the war."
"Yessss…," Ankou ponders. "Plus, the fact that the exit we fled out of is now a sealed scab, since the Root lashed it closed after your little escapade with Zeta's rescue. So, basically, I was cut off from being invited back in as the river's caretaker."
Jack looks back at him with a sly smile. "Hey, you became a part of all that when you helped lead us out, remember? And now the only way back is at the tail's end of the root."
"The original way you first went in with Muin was an ancient sewer, now no longer existing.... How you managed to get past those rats…," Ankou shakes his head.
Jack straightens up, a defiantly proud stature. "You're not the only one with a legendary mark of mythical lore on his skin, my friend…," he says amusingly.
"All right, we are well prepped and primed to annihilate without mercy, and Adonis has filled me in on the final phase," Ankou states heroically. " The extraction of the root. I'm quite impressed by this momentous act, Jack. Operation Damnation and Uproot."
Jack nods his head. "Sharpen your claws, Ankou...we roll at dawn. You'll have the lead for the scorpion-widows front sweep, and then I follow with the tail runners second wave."
"Be timely, my friend...we've got to hit hard and swift," Ankou grimly says, as the mist grows denser around them.