#2087

Top 10 Fiction Books with Feline Main Characters

If you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of a cat person. Next to queer literature, cat literature is probably the genre I read most. When it comes to cat fiction I’ve read a good number of the non-children’s books out there and so I know the genre has some real hidden gems. Therefore, I want to share my top ten cat books so other cat lovers out there can check them out!

10. Warriors – Erin Hunter

If the immensely popular cat series Warriors had existed when I was a kid it would have been my number one obsession. Even as an adult the books hold a certain charm despite being marketed to readers less than half my age. The first set of six books center around Rusty, a pet kitten who finds himself thrown into the world of the “clans” – tribes of feral cats who live in unsteady alliance in the forest beyond his home. Our protagonist desperately wants to leave his comfy “housepet” life and become a warrior, cats who defend their clans and are therefore respected and admired. But is there more to this majestic, adventurous life than meets our young hero’s eye? You’ll have to find out for yourself!

These books can feel a little formulaic after a while, but characterization and action keep them interesting and the first six, which compose the first main plot line, are quite worth your reading time. Despite being aimed at young readers, though, these books have some gruesome and painful moments. The life of a feral cat isn’t easy, and the books thankfully don’t sugarcoat this issue too much. They’re a good balance of whimsy, reality, and that special something that all animal books seem to share.

The first book in the series is Warriors: Into the Wild.

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9. Ghatti’s Tale – Gayle Greeno

Remember in the late 80s and early 90s when fantasy novels went through that popular phase of having human characters bonded with magical animals? And it was amazing because who doesn’t want to communicate telepathically with their animal BFF? Well, this craze produced the Ghatti series, which involves the bonding of humans stranded on the planet Methuen with alien creatures which look like very large housecats. These creatures, called ghatti, can read human minds in order to sense emotions, deception, etc. Bonded pairs therefore have become an integral part of society called Seekers, traveling from town to town to solve disputes and crimes. This first trilogy follows the human Doyce and her ghatta Khar’pern, who are being targeted by an unknown force hostile to the Seekers. Detailed world-building and loveable characters round out an interesting and well-executed sci-fi/fantasy concept in this series, one that fans of similar books like The Heralds of Valdemar with come to love as well.

The first book in the original trilogy is Finders-Seekers.

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8. The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford

Here’s a little factoid about me: Homeward Bound always makes me cry. Always. I can probably make myself cry just thinking about it, honestly. I can’t even watch the scene when Sassy goes over the waterfall, even though I know she’ll be okay. So I was a little nervous about reading The Incredible Journey, the book on which the movie is based. I’m pretty sure the book made me cry too, but it was so worth the read. The animals don’t talk like our trio in the movie, but the book still captures their personalities, determination, and the magnitude of their adventure. The Incredible Journey is a must-read for anyone who likes the movie, and is a powerful (if fictional) testament to the devotion of our beloved pets.

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7. Catfantastic – ed. Andre Norton

In the 80s and 90s anthologies called “[insert noun]+fantastic” seemed to be very popular in the sci-fi/fantasy community. Of these series, Catfantastic was obviously the best because it was about cats. The collection of five anthologies features sci-fi/fantasy stories from a variety of well-known authors who approach the feline subject in a myriad of ways. Unlike other anthologies, many of the stories in the Catfantastic books build on earlier stories, giving readers a chance to revisit favorite characters and settings. Like all good anthologies, the stories in these books run the gamut from humor to horror, hard sci-fi to high fantasy, and everything in between. They’re hidden jewels you’re likely to find in your local used book store; if not, you can get them off Amazon for real cheap. Totally worth the cost of shipping, I promise!

The first book in the series is Catfantastic: Nine Lives and Fifteen Tales.

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6. Yeshua’s Cats – C.L. Francisco

You’re wary of that title, aren’t you? You’re wondering why I, proud pagan and (newbie) witch, am reading Christian fiction. Well, obviously because it has cats in it and you can’t be too picky about your cat fiction. I’m so, so glad I have this series a chance though. The first book in the Yeshua’s Cats series is told from the point of view of a cat named Mari who is healed by Yeshua after a vicious dog attack. She then travels with him for many years, including the year of his crucifixion. Through her we see the (obviously fictional) origins of a lot of his teachings, and the Yeshua painted by C. L. Francisco is one of immense patience, love, and understanding. The book is beautiful, touching, and at times heart-wrenching, as are all of its sequels/prequels. There are currently five books in the series, some focusing on other cats whose lives have been touched in some way by Yeshua, and I’ve loved each one.

Before you ask, the books really aren’t that preachy. As a follower of Bast, I was highly sensitive to anything in the books that felt judgmental of pagan religions and was overall pretty satisfied with how other religions are handled in the books. The “mother goddess” believed in by the cats of this world is explained as simply a different face of the Christian god, instead of something fake or demonic. This is still Christian fiction, of course, so it’s not entirely free of Christian themes, but I think non-Christian cat lovers will still enjoy these books and appreciate this particular cat-loving depiction of Jesus.

The first book in the series is The Gospel According to Yeshua’s Cat.

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5. Tomorrow’s Sphinx – Clare Bell

Tomorrow’s Sphinx is a rare book, even when used, but so worth tracking down. I probably checked it out from the library a hundred times as a kid; some scenes from it are forever branded in my mind. The book is set on a far future earth and follows Kichebo, a black cheetah whose unnatural coloring causes her to become alienated from her family. When she discovers an abandoned human toddler and chooses to care for the creature, she’s thrown into a strange psychic link between herself and another black cheetah – one living during the reign of Tutankhamen. Kichebo must understand how and why this bond exists while protecting her new cub not only from other predators, but from the strange creatures in the sky.

Tomorrow’s Sphinx sounds super weird when you try to explain the plot, but it comes together masterfully in a strange, beautiful tale of the bonds possible between human and animal. If you get the opportunity, give this book a chance; you won’t regret it.

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4. The Named – Clare Bell

Clare Bell is on this list twice for a good reason: her books capture the essential wildness of big cats while establishing feline characters and societies as believable as our own. She is probably most known for her Named series, books set on an unspecified planet during a prehistoric age in which the top species are not humans but large, highly intelligent cats who call themselves the Named. The series follows Ratha, a young adult who is banished from her clan when she accidentally discovers how to tend and wield fire – what she calls her “creature”. Her journey will take her to very dark places, both physically and emotionally, but she will come to lead the Named into a new era. For a book about prehistoric cats, this series manages to touch on a variety of different issues such as xenophobia, PTSD, abuse, betrayal and forgiveness, mental illness, and what it means to be part of something bigger than yourself. These books are absolutely a must-read for any cat lover – but I’m warning you now, you’re gonna cry.

The first book in The Named series is Ratha’s Creature.

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3. Varjak Paw – S.F. Said

You know how you sometimes read a children’s book as an adult and think “this is way more disturbing than it should be”? That’s Varjak Paw. The book is aimed at third through seventh graders, but the content is creepy enough (including the illustrations!) to not only satisfy an adult reader, but to help it stand out among its competition. Varjak Paw tells the story of young Varjak, a kitten who lives with his family in an idealic house away from the rest of the world. However, when a threatening gentleman takes over the care of the cats, Varjak escapes the house to find help and winds up in the middle of a mystery bigger than anything he could imagine. He must use the newfound powers given to him by his ancestor and the assistance of an unlikely group of friends to save his family and all the cats who have been disappearing without a trace.

Varjak Paw is book one of the duology; be sure to check out its sequel, The Outlaw Varjak Paw, which is a direct continuation of the events in the first book. Varjak is an unforgettable protagonist who will have you cheering for him from page one.

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2. Tailchaser’s Song – Tad Williams

If you’re a cat lover, you knew this book would be on the list. And it deserves to be; it’s a beautiful, heartfelt story that masterfully weaves fantasy, horror, and adventure into a tale worthy of Tolkien or C.S Lewis. Fritti Tailchaser, our courageous young hero, goes on a quest to find his friend after she disappears. Much like Varjak, Tailchaser uncovers a mystery much bigger than any could have expected – one that will have him facing off with the gods themselves to save his very species.

Like many of the other books on this list, Tailchaser’s Song is partly so engaging because it builds us an entire world for our feline protagonists. The book includes vocabulary, religion, and social etiquette unique to the cats of this world that feel completely real. Despite being thrown into an entirely different society from the first page, the reader lands on their feet (pun intended) and becomes entirely immersed in the fantasy world Tad Williams is building.

I utterly love this book, but it does come with a warning: it has some seriously dark themes and several disturbing scenes. It’s a hard read sometimes, but one that will leave you in that perfect post-book daze.

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1. The Wild Road – Gabriel King

I’ve seen this book compared to Watership Down, which is fair in the sense that they are both sweeping epics focusing on the lives of everyday animals and both are astoundingly good. The Wild Road, however, employs fantasy elements in a way which Watership Down does not, making it more comparable to Tailchaser’s Song. Also like Tailchaser’s Song, this book is dark. Not just dark for a kid’s book, I mean DARK dark. It deals with the topic of animal experimentation, after all, and the villain known only as the Alchemist is as evil as they come. However, the blend of fantasy and horror, combined with an unforgettable ragtag group of animals who must band together to stop the Alchemist, makes this book beautifully heart-wrenching in all the right ways. Like Tailchaser and Varjak Paw, little Tag must leave the safety of his home to save a world he knows nothing about – and to do so he will grow and change in so many ways.

The Wild Road is my #1 absolutely must read cat book. Definitely read its sequel, The Golden Cat, as well to see how the story plays out.

Caution: Apparently two more books came out in the series last year, much to my surprise. They have no reviews on Amazon, though, and seem to focus on human characters with pet cats, so… read at your own risk, I guess. Seems fishy to me. The first two books are AMAZING, though, and you should probably end there.

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Honorable mention: The Unadoptables –  Margaret Chiavetta

I promote this fledgling webcomic on every social media site possible because it deserves so much more attention and acclaim that it receives. The story centers on a cat cafe where all the resident cats are up for adoption. The twist, however, is that the cats are what most people would consider “unadoptable” in some way; too sick, too old, too aloof, pair bonded, etc. The story follows both the cats and the humans who run the cafe, where all are hopeful that the next visitor will take one of the kitties home. The cats are all loveable characters in their own way, of course, but the human characters shine as well (and are some great POC representation, too) and in general the comic gives you a lot of warm fuzzy feelings. It has its tenser moments, though, as you’ll see if you check out the first story arc!

Check out The Unadoptables and consider supporting them on Patreon to get a sneak peek at new pages, character designs, and other cool behind-the-scenes stuff!

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Think another cat book should be on this list? Let me know, I want to read all of the cat books that ever existed!

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#2079

Top 10 Munchie Movies, or: Better Hold Onto Your Butts

munch·ie mov·ie
mən(t)SHē mo͞ovē
noun
a subgenre of movies in which one or more characters is physically eaten by an entity in the film

Are you familiar with the phrase “munchie movie”? If not, you are forgiven; after all, I made it up as a child and I don’t believe its usage has gone much beyond my circle of friends and family despite it being a totally legitimate genre. You’ve seen plenty of munchie movies, after all, even if you didn’t know it. A munchie movie is any movie in which people are eaten (ie munched) by something – for example zombies, dinosaurs, monsters, sharks, aliens, etc. These movies usually fall into the sci-fi and horror genres, though some of the best can also be shelved under action/adventure or comedy. As the undisputed queen of munchie movies, let me introduce you to my favorite subgenre with my Top 10 Munchie Movies list. Sit back, relax, and grab some popcorn!

10 – The Mummy (1999)

1999’s The Mummy is an all-around fantastic movie and really needs no introduction. It’s ostensibly an action movie, yet what earns it a spot on this particular list are not just the folks our titular villain sucks dry to regain his human form, but those creepiest of creepy crawlers: the dreaded scarab beetles. More voracious than piranhas and a thousand times as inexplicably plentiful, these little suckers can strip a grown man in seconds flat. Not a pretty sight, as poor Benny learns at the end of the film while our heroes ride off into the sunset. The Mummy is a cult classic, if I do say so myself, and earns its spot on this list with some Egyptian-themed PG13 snack-gore.

9 – The Ruins (2008) 

The Ruins is not a film for the squeamish; however, if you aren’t too easily grossed out it’s a very interesting take on the usual munchie movie monsters. Seeking a cool “off the map” archaeological dig, a group of American tourists trespass on a forbidden ruin in the Mexican jungle (never a good idea) and subsequently discover what happened to the mysteriously missing scientists. They were eaten, is what happened to them. By carnivorous plants. Highly intelligent carnivorous plants. Those don’t sound that scary to you? Oh, just wait.What ensues is a gruesome yet entertaining struggle for survival that literally pits man against nature. A definite watch for any horror fan, and the book of the same title is even better.

8 – Pitch Black (2000)

Much like in The RuinsPitch Black’s characters must ask the question “Where did everybody go?” and then, much to their regret, discover the answer. No killer plants in this one, though; our heroes in Pitch Black are stranded on a desolate planet populated by hungry aliens who come out to hunt in the dark. On a planet with multiple suns this shouldn’t be an issue, but to make matters worse an imminent eclipse is going to send the whole planet into total darkness. Vin Diesel is fantastic as our anti-hero Riddick and Pitch Black hits all the right munchie movie notes. A word of advice, though : just avoid the other movies in the series and stick with the original.

7 – Komodo (1999) 

Komodo was a late-90s straight-to-VHS release that apparently no one but myself has seen. It features a young Billy Burke (in a far better role than as Bella’s father in Twilight) and several CGI komodo dragons of surprisingly good special effects. This movie has probably never been on any Top 10 list in its life, but it deserves to be on this one for its tension, action, and killer komodo dragon scenes. For a movie that never made it into theaters, it’s worth the watch. I mean, come on, KOMODO DRAGONS.

This movie is so obscure I can’t even find a gif from it, so here’s proof of how fast they are in real life:

6 – Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Remember when we all still liked Joss Whedon? Well, despite who he is on a personal level, the man can write some cool shit – and Cabin in the Woods is arguably the coolest of his creations. Unlike most munchie movies that lay the plot out pretty early, this movie actually has a big plot twist that I can’t bear to spoil for you. Just be assured that a LOT of people get eaten by a LOT of monsters and it’s pretty darn great. Plus, the movie shines with Whedon’s characteristic dark humor and likable characters. Once you’ve watched it, let me know something: would you have made the same decision as our surviving characters?

5 – Resident Evil (2002) 

Ah, the movie that turned me gay homoromantic. It was hard to choose which zombie movie to include on this list, but Resident Evil just edged out 28 Days Later by sheer number of on-screen munches. Another classic of the horror/action genre, Resident Evil has everything you could want in a movie: zombie people, zombie dogs, something that used to be a rabbit maybe, an evil AI, more zombies, and both Milla Jovovich AND Michelle Rodriguez. Great special effects and a killer (pun intended) soundtrack are the toppings on the cake, so to speak, and overall it’s worth a watch or two, or ten, or fifty. And if it makes you question your sexuality, well, hey, we’ve all been there.

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4 – Lake Placid (1999)

Lake Placid is a vastly underrated movie with a stellar cast including Bill Pullman, Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Platt, and Betty White. This movie is more a dark comedy than an action movie, with our monster crocodile providing just the right amount of tension and the occasional blood-fest as background to the gallows humor. The special effects are great, as is the writing, and I think you’ll find yourself siding with the crocodile as Gleeson and Platt go head-to-head over its ultimate fate. Another classic that deserves far more praise than it gets.

3 – Deep Blue Sea (1999) 

I know, I know, you’re thinking, “You chose Deep Blue Sea over Jaws??” I did, but here’s why. Jaws is one of the best movies ever, hands down, and you don’t have to like munchie movies to agree; so let’s let a different shark movie have the limelight for once, okay? Deep Blue Sea may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but it has super smart sharks, an underwater lab full of edible people, and a black character who DOESN’T DIE. Plus, it has the one thing even Jaws doesn’t – a shark-themed rap by LL Cool J in the credits. Why would you want to miss that? You wouldn’t. It’s amazing. People act like this movie is trash, but if you actually watch it you’ll see that it’s entertaining, bloody, and action-packed, which is all a munchie movie needs to be to earn its name. Also, did I mention LL Cool J is in it?

2 – Tremors (1990) 

Have you ever wanted to see Kevin Bacon fight off giant subterranean carnivorous worms? You have? Well, do I have good news for you! That is exactly the plot of Tremors, a cult classic in its own right and shoe-in for number 2 on this list. When the tiny town of Perfection Valley, Nevada finds itself beset by killer worms from outer space underground, it’s up to Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward to save the day. Before this is accomplished, however, a lot of people are gonna be worm food (*snickers*). This is one munchie movie series where the sequels, albeit not quality movies by any real definition, are still humorous and bloody enough to be worth a Saturday afternoon watch. The sixth apparently is set to be released in 2018, so you better catch up quick!

1 – Jurassic Park (1993)

I will forever remember watching Jurassic Park for the first time at the tender age of five. This movie earns its number 1 spot by a combination of nostalgia, staying power, fantastic acting, and special effects that even look better than those of some movies coming out today. Jurassic Park is the perfect munchie movie; the monsters are engaging and realistic, the characters are fully formed, and the plot moves along at a steady pace while allowing for many a munching to occur. The movie also surpasses some of its fellows by getting the audience to not only care about the characters, but the monsters themselves. The T-Rex might be a killer, but it’s impossible not to see the dinosaurs, even the predators, for what they are – creatures acting as they would in the wild. Jurassic Park balances action and blood with moral consideration and natural philosophy, elevating it from basic munchie movie to cinema classic. It’s basically the best movie ever and I will not entertain arguments that say otherwise.

What are your favorite munchie movies? Let me know in the comments!