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Beasts (1976)
Fiction Review by The Gravedigger

Beasts (1976) by John CrowleySome two hundred years from now the United States is broken up into different governing factions. Not only are people caught in political wars but beings called 'Leos', which are a genetic cross between a lion and a human. When scientist were doing genetic experiments fifty-years earlier, they tried crossing humans and other animals but the only one that was ever viable was the man/lion cross.Most of the novel is about a Leo named Painter and the human woman who falls in love with him. She as an indentured servant to a barkeep and her contract was basically sold to the lion man, who takes her deep into the woods, to a secluded cabin. Along the way she comes to feel closer and closer to him, getting far more emotional satisfaction than she ever did with the humans she encountered. Here he's to meet someone in the government who can help him and the rest of the Leos to survive. The most powerful of the government agencies want to destroy the creatures for little reason other than that 'they are not men'.But his contact never shows up and he ends up killing a government agent. Now there's a bounty on him. He eventually gets captured, taken to what was once New York City, and escapes after someone sets off a bomb in the precinct in which he's held prisoner. He encounters an unlikely friend, a genetically engineered dog with whom he can communicate with via telepathy. They meet up with the rest of a huge dog pack in an overgrown Central Park and Painter lives with them for a while until he figures out a way for all of them to escape. Once free he tells the dog that he must continue alone. He eventually hooks up with the human woman and the rest of his 'pride' within a huge nature preserve, where there's another showdown between him and the government agents. A video reporter, who lives in a nearby community, records these events-and draws sympathy for the Leos from many of his television viewers, particularly a young man who is next in line to be a major political figure. Ironically, behind all the politics is a man named Reynard, who is not a man at all. He's a fluke, a cross between a man and a fox. He ends up manipulating the Leos, the politicians and the humans, playing their emotions and needs against one another. In the end, he ends up sacrificing himself in order to save Painter and the Leos, only to return later on as a younger clone. Author Crowley manages to successfully juggle many different story-lines and characters, managing to make them all come together in the end. And, after reading, you realize that BEASTS doesn't refer to the Leos-it's a term that best describes the humans.

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