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(4 out of 5 stars) by Alex Clinton

Breaking the Ice is a very emotional collection of stories, full of wonderful writing and, even though there are only six pictures, great art.

Once you pick up this book and start one of the stores, you most likely won't be able to put it down until you've finished. You always want to know what happens next.

My only real complaint is the intense amount of depression and sadness that comes from the events in the book. One story in paticular "Array of Hope" I found was so sad that I almost started crying. This book is not for the overly emotional.

So, basically, if you can deal with the various depressing moments, then this book should definitly be part of your collection.

26 February, 2007

(5 out of 5 stars) by Elizabeth Barrette

“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” According to legend, that’s the inscription over the gates of Hell, which is a hot place. The colony world of New Tibet is a cold place, but it’s the kind of place you’d get if Hell ever froze over, so the inscription would be every bit as suitable over the shuttleport doors. What we have here is essentially a milieu anthology... a group of stories about a setting so strong that it becomes almost a character in its own right, driving every plot that it enfolds, changing every person it touches. It began as an idea in Tim Susman’s mind, and caught on so well that other writers asked if they could come try their hand in this, the skating rink of damned souls. They came because sometimes, bleak is beautiful. Step into their world, and they’ll show you how.

The book starts with a foreword which details some of the story behind the stories and how Susman developed the setting of New Tibet; this is a fascinating read, so don’t skip it. Next comes a prologue, written as “newsclips” about New Tibet’s discovery. The first story, Samuel C. Conway’s “Dead End,” is told from the perspective of a scavenger, one of the few people who actually enjoys life on New Tibet. It would make H.P. Lovecraft wish he hadn’t eaten breakfast before reading it. “A Prison of Clouds” by Susman himself is the story that introduced the setting, and which truly sets the tone for the rest of the anthology. It’s a love story about a pair of foxes who take an uncomfortable route to learning what makes the difference between paradise and perdition. Reading it is like watching a traffic accident in slow motion -- you can’t bear to watch, can’t look away. “Nightswimming” by David Andrew Cowan is a love story that crosses the racial divide, in this case a fox and an otter; but it’s also about the breakdown of family ties. This one has a bleak inevitability that really brings home the rules of the world, and the mystical touches are intriguing too. It seems that almost everyone on New Tibet wants one thing, the same thing. As David Richards shows in “Array of Hope,” sometimes even when you get what you want, it doesn’t make you happy. This is another interracial love story, fox and bear this time. Jeff Eddy’s “Touch of Gray” takes a particularly ruthless look at the struggle between good and evil, and how it ultimately comes down to little decisions made inside your own heart. Despite that, this is actually the most hopeful story in the anthology, very satisfying to read. One of the few not based on romance, this story stands out from the crowd. “Skin Deep” by “2” is high tragedy. This story captures the awesome power of inertia in a person’s life, and that way that even deep internal changes for the better aren’t always enough to overcome the weight of past misdeeds. Yet another interracial love story, this one features a fox and a wolf. Have a box of tissues handy when you read it. Finally, the epilogue offers up another set of “newsclips” about New Tibet in current times from the perspective of the rest of the galaxy... which still has no clue what the place is really like.

A number of things originally attracted me to this anthology. First, I liked the idea of a bleak and challenging location, because it’s not a common motif -- and because I’ve tried it myself with my dark fantasy world. Second, I liked the fact that it puts anthropomorphic characters into dramatic rather than pornographic situations. Yes, many of the stories are love stories, but they’re all quite serious. Third, shared-world anthologies intrigue me; I’m always interested in seeing what other people will do with a given author’s idea. I’m impressed with the results here: New Tibet has a very distinctive and characteristic feel to it, which remains remarkably consistent throughout the entire book. By the way, the galley I’m working from doesn’t have the interior art, but each story will have its own illustration in the final version of the book; Odis Holcomb’s cover art is both subtle and evocative, so I expect good things of the interior.

Breaking the Ice is what I call dark science fiction, the SF equivalent of dark fantasy. It holds considerable appeal for science fiction fans, especially those of you who enjoy sociological aspects. Furry fans... well, if you like the cheesecake kind of furry fiction, this probably won’t satisfy your sweet tooth. But if you’ve always wished that authors would give anthropomorphic characters something interesting to do, you’ll love it. For those of you who like any stories that really put the protagonist(s) on a rack, this is the anthology you’ve been waiting for, whether you want to be reminded that your own life could be worse or whether you just enjoy watching them squirm. Bonus points for the thoughtful treatment of same-sex and/or interracial relationships, which adds appeal for folks interested in those motifs. Most highly recommended.

--Elizabeth Barrette, October 2001

29 October, 2001

(4 out of 5 stars) by K.M. Hirosaki

The shared universe is like a literary playground, and it's one that can be very tricky to pull off. Successfully handling one takes a skill on multiple fronts, as by nature the process has to involve multiple people. It's a lot of work, and a lot of effort, but when done well, the effect can be great indeed.

New Tibet is one such attempt that succeeds admirably. It's a setting that's so grounded, with such a solid theme, that it seems almost impossible that rich, detailed stories ever couldn't be told about it. It takes science fiction set in the far future and brings it down to a contemporary level that people can relate to, without having to suspend their disbelief in order to relate to these anthropomorphic characters, going through problems and struggles that are simultaneously larger than life and down-to-earth.

The world of New Tibet is a bleak and tragic one, but it's one that is full of such splendid pathos. Not much is happy on this distant, foreboding arctic world, but faint glimmers of hope are enough to drive even the most downtrodden individual to attempt the most daring things. The stories laid out here do a terrific job of displaying both triumphs of the spirit as well as heartbreak, and whether happy or sad, there's a certain sense of reader satisfaction that can always be gleaned from a story that does justice to real emotions.

All of the stories here in "Breaking the Ice" do a good job of remaining faithful to the New Tibet setting and theme. They manage to incorporate some different techniques, and some of them are strikingly different from the rest of the bunch, but none of them seem particularly out of place. As with any anthology, some stories have more of a lasting effect than others, and while all of them are worth reading at least once, there are one or two that inspire the urge for rereading almost as soon the reader is finished.

"Breaking the Ice" definitely warrants a place in any furry reader's collection; it's a great sampling of offerings from some truly talented writers, each bringing their own unique style to a shared idea, all adding another piece to the whole of this real, emotional world.

13 March, 2006

(5 out of 5 stars) by Lance Caro

Never before had a book move me in such a way as the "New Tibet" series. There are no words to describe the emotional impact I got after reading the stories.

4 February, 2006

(5 out of 5 stars) by Matthew Pursley

What I have to say here is generally in line with the other reviews for Breaking the Ice. This collection of short stories from the arctic continent of New Tibet contains some of the most compelling writing that I've found in ANY setting. Tim Susman says in his introduction that suffering is what makes a character or story interesting. If things get too happy, they also get rather boring. Working by that standard, the stories of New Tibet are extremely interesting. The setting is bleak, bleak, bleak, and those that live there have little or no hope of escaping the endless dreary winter of their world. The environment itself seems to erode joy and hope as inexorably as water erodes stone. Nevertheless, those that live there cling to their nuggets of hopes and dreams, which are all the more precious and beautiful for having been polished by adversity. The stories and characters do have their moments of happiness and their little victories, even when "victory" comes to mean finding ways to be happy with what one already has or living to see another day with the ones you love.

The writing, as I've come to expect from Sofawolf, is top notch. The authors work with the shared setting in such a way that it becomes richer with every tale, not a one of which is lackluster. Whether one follows the characters through danger and adventure or just through everyday adversity, their stories are deeply compelling. The characters and their struggles are easily identified with, perhaps because their struggles bear a startling resemblance to our own trials writ large. It doesn't take much imagination to ask "what if that were me?"

These stories provided me with a rich and beautifully crafted reading experience. For all their bleakness, I found myself deeply enjoying them, and I confidently recommend this collection to anybody that wants to get deeply into their reading, even if it does lead to a few tears and sniffles along the way.

14 October, 2008

(3 out of 5 stars) by Michael H. Payne

Sofawolf is one of my favorite small press outfits, not just because they've bought stories from me for their magazine Anthrolations but because I've found the other stories they print to be well worth reading. This, their first anthology, is a mix of science fiction and fantasy: the six stories all take place on the colony planet New Tibet, now fallen on hard times--that's the SF part--but while Earth, India, Africa, and Shakespeare are refered to by name, there are no human beings anywhere in evidence. All the characters are anthropomorphized animals.

Now, as an SF anthology, this works better than most I've read: the authors really come together, bringing a shared vision to this shared world. Love, honor and happiness are never what they seem here, and as dark--and occasionally over-written--as these stories are, I enjoyed them all. But the fantasy element--and this coming from a guy who writes almost exclusively talking animal stories--seemed kinda tacked on. I mean, if they're intelligent creatures from Earth and they're not human, I need some slight mention of an explanation. Other than that, though, a good first book from Sofawolf Press.
5 November, 2001

(5 out of 5 stars) by Michael Stolp-Smith

This was one of the best books I have read. It was wonderfully written. It made me feel and live along with the characters. I rarely get THAT into a book. The writers here write compellingly and they write a good story, every one of them. I just bought the next book because this one was so good, and I am awaiting it as I am typing this. I strongly recommend this book, to anyone.

14 August, 2006

(5 out of 5 stars) by Ryan MacNeil

This is honestly one of the best books I have ever read, and all I do is read. Congratulations to the author's and artist's of this book. Although the book did deeply depress me.
29 October, 2005
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