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Flight Of The Star Phoenix Paperback – November 7, 2012
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About the Author
Bernard Doove was born in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia in 1957. Growing up, he was a voracious reader, with a particular liking for science fiction & fantasy. He later discovered anthropomorphic (furry) fandom, and combined the two to create the chakat species set in an alternative future. He has been involved in many aspects of the furry fandom, and is also part of the organizing committee for the Australian based furry conventions.
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Set in his Chakat Universe future-history, this is the story of the tramp freighter Phoenix. Martin Yote, her captain, is tasked with paying his uber-rich father back the start-up costs of his company within five years or else being forced to liquidate and take a subordinate position in his dad's company. Martin could have chosen any kind of business, but he picked shipping -- to his father's disgust as he said 'it's a mug's game'.
Martin assembles a crew of several different species who were between berths, often due to unfortunate circumstances. And the crew quickly becomes a family, complete with cubs, kits and whatever.
Will the Phoenix make a profit in time? Will the captain get the girl (for certain values of girl)? I won't say. But I will recommend you buy this and find out.
[edited to add...]
This book won the 2013 Ursa Major Award for best novel. I guess I wasn't the only reader who enjoyed it.
I compare the setting to Trek because it's pretty much that. (Down to references to "PADDs" and teleporters and "Gene Wars".) I see that as a weakness in the setting. It doesn't take any risks by departing from a half-century-old formula, except with biotech having paid off just enough for these anthropomorphic species to exist. It is at least familiar to most SF readers, and the fact that the heros' ship is civilian helps make this story not just a knockoff.
One thing to be aware of is that there's significant attention paid to the unusual romance/sex habits of the various characters or their whole species. There's one race that has harems, several types of herm, two explicitly gay characters (ie. attention is called to this), a slave relationship that grows into actual love, and some plain old messed-up relationships. The story isn't meant as erotica, so don't get that impression, but if the concept of a mildly psychic hermaphroditic cat-centaur bothers you, start running now.
There's a bit of awkwardness due to at least one chapter having been written by another author who loves italics, but the book's episodic nature mostly holds together well. There are several nice illustrations throughout. (The fancy wrap-around cover doesn't even show the whole crew!) If you like the setting, the author has a whole collection of stories in it, some with characters who overlap with this cast.
Overall, I give this one a thumbs-up if you're interested in space adventure that's more character focused than (say) military or epic in scope.