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A book that may owe its existence to a certain crude logic: If fantasy sagas are hot and books about cats are selling, why not write a fantasy saga about cats? The result here: a pseudo-Lord of the Rings, ersatz-Watership Down. Like Le Guin's ""Earthsea"" trilogy, Williams' cat saga is name-oriented. His cats (known, of course, as The People) each bear three names: a facename, a heartname, and a secret, mystical tailname. Fritti (heartname) Tailchaser (facename) is a hero on the lookout for that elusive tailname--his true one. As the saga opens, cats are disappearing, natural laws are being violated, things are falling apart: a Tolkien scenario. As in Tolkien, too, there is much muddled reverence for First Peoples and the original language--here, called the Higher Singing. Like every quest-hero, Tailchaser sets out to rectify social unrest and his own identity problems with no clear sense of his direction or his goal. (His heart's desire, the abducted ""fala"" Hush-pad, proves to be something of a red herring.) On his journey, Tailchaser teams with a kitten-friend, and they meet many other cats, including the Queen of the Cats. (There is also a King of the Squirrels. Williams, like other post-Tolkien saga writers, sees Nature as a benevolent monarchy and every chance-met comrade as a bard.) Williams' cats, though intermittenly likeable, are unfortunately thoroughly un-catlike. Altruistic, generous, and tribal, they gather in cities and hunt in groups; they even obey a ""Queen."" The tissue of borrowings from other fantasy sagas finally fails to distract the reader from the shameless falsity of the characterizations. The conclusion sets the stage for further adventures. Cat-lovers might consider filing a class-action suit.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 1985
Publisher: New American Library