Michael Payne’s latest book is a bit unusual. It’s broken into four uneven parts, each of which contains several short or very short stories, each of which is preceded by quote from some work from that world. These smaller stories are not titled, and the table of contents does not refer to them, but just gives a couple passages from each part, along with the page it appears on.

So it’s not really conceived and structured as a short story collection, even though it technically is one. The volume is a publication of a bunch of stories that has been available in in bits and pieces for decades, and has gone from being about the anthropomorphic town of Ottersgate to centering on Rat.

As a unified set of stories, it’s all told from Rat’s point of view, except for the first story, which details his mysterious rescue as a small child from some large fire by one of the Curials (gods). The later parts of the book answer the mystery raised here, and also goes some into the nature of the Curials, but largely the book is a ‘fish out of water’ story, with the orphaned Rat growing up among squirrels and mice, and not quite fitting in (somewhat literally; the animals here have human intelligence, but the same forms we know, and somehow have buildings, and clothes, and tea—it doesn’t bear thinking about too hard—so Rat is larger than many of the people he deals with), and faces persecution from many deeply prejudiced people.

There’s also a bit of travelogue to the book. Rat spends some years on the road at one point, and you get glimpses of plenty of other towns and societies. And just what is shown of Ottersgate itself is enough to make you realize the iceberg hiding beneath the surface of this book is massive indeed. Payne has an expansive world worked out, and we’re getting bare glimpses of it.

Its structure means Rat’s Reputation does not have the tightest writing you’ll see, but each story works on its own, and while building the whole. I recommend it, and if you wonder just where some of the secondary characters disappear to near the end, I also recommend Payne’s earlier book, The Blood Jaguar. Both are good furry fantasy novels.