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Cooper Klebba
The Modern Fantasy
Time always marches forward, even in a world of adventure and dragons. Enter a land where the mystical and technological walk side by side, a country known as Aontech. Despite living in a fantastical world, the people who inhabit it are just like you or me. They want justice to prevail, to be recognized for their talents, or to just be loved and understood. Here are five stories of such people living the modern fantasy of Aontech. A young bard and a bodyguard encounter a dangerous gang leader, a private detective goes looking for a missing teenager, a jeweler wishing to prove that his race is more than what others say they are, an ex-criminal willing to defend a stranger, and a father wanting to spend time and relate to his adoptive daughter.
Klebba’s (I Am: A Day in the Life of a Tyrannosaurus Rex) short anthology of five science-fiction stories set in an anthropomorphic world where the good persevere to do the right thing is a welcome change from the stories of conflict and war that often pervade the genre. The world of Aontech is populated by a native crystalline life form called crystalikes, as well as intelligent reptiles, birds, bats, sea folk, and orcs who have settled there. Everyone more or less gets along. The first story, “Try a Little Kindness,” finds crocodile bodyguard Morrigan Clatch escorting magic using bard and peace negotiator Declan Derry, a scarlet kingsnake. After Morrigan violently dispatches cockroach, woodpecker, and hammerhead shark bandits, Declan encourages her to use her emotional support talents instead of punches to reduce conflict in the future.

The anthropomorphic cast, reminiscent of a Sing movie, gives the gentle tone and optimistic outlook of the stories an Aesop’s Fables flavor as they fix society’s ills. The Scaled Guild implores: “Our world is constantly changing…why can we not see our own flaws and become better?” The accompanying stories follow a beetle private investigator searching for a missing teenage bat who was taking pictures of corrupt cops; a gay orc couple who decide not to move away when bigotry enters their jewelry store; and an orange bat gun-for-hire who’s encouraged by her crystalike roommate to leave the business.

The final story celebrates compassionate parenting as a mako shark archeologist guides his adopted seagull daughter through the Natural History Museum, providing a brief but tantalizing origin story of Aontech, whose mysteries can still power future stories. This book provides a welcome message of goodwill, morality, and people risking their lives to do the right thing and seeking justice. Readers of all ages will enjoy these stories of intelligent animals who can teach us about the better angels of our nature.

Takeaway: Anthropomorphic animals in a fantasy world offer gentle lessons in morality and justice.

Comparable Titles: Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw, Jasper Fforde’s The Constant Rabbit.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A