Today for “Readers Write.,” I’m welcoming guest reviewer Allison from the fun Geek Banter blog, who’s sharing a review of Song of Scarabaeus, the first book in Sara Creasy’s sci fi series that was nominated for the 2010 Philip K. Dick Award as well as the Aurealis Award for best science fiction novel. I love good sci-fi, and this one sounds terrific.
There’s a giveaway at the end, so read on.
Edie Sha'nim is forced to terraform worlds for the Crib empire using her skills as a cypherteck, so when she is kidnapped by mercenaries she's not sure it is to her disadvantage. Until they connect the tech in her brain to her new bodyguard, Finn, that is. She can "jolt" him whenever she wants, a power she does not desire, and if he strays to far from her side his head will explode. On top of that, the captain on the mercenary ship wants to control her every move, and they are headed for a planet with a history Edie wants to forget. The planet's name is Scarabaeus, and it holds secrets that even she is unprepared for.
Review by Allison of Geek Banter:
A SCENE I'D READ TWICE:
Edie and Finn have to leave the renegade ship, the Hoi Polloi, for a short time to avoid Crib detection. The renegades send them onto a small skiff so they can go out into a jump node while the Crib boards the Hoi to search. There is a small time window for Edie and Finn to leave the ship before the Crib detects them, and Finn jams the door to the skiff. He knows Edie wants more than anything to escape the Crib, and he is testing her to see if she will jolt him to get what she wants, because she promised him she never would. This was a great scene because the tension was tangible and emotions were high.
I DIDN'T QUITE BUY:
One of the tecks on board the Hoi, Zeke, is supposed to be likeable (I think). Edie and everyone else but Finn seems to like him. I don't really understand why, though. He treats Finn like a slave who doesn't have rights, selfishly deals in illegal goods and doesn't understand why Edie cares about other people. The only thing he seems to have going for him is a cheerful smile, which just doesn't cut it for me. Creasy did a much better job making Cat, the pilot, likeable, even though Cat does morally questionable things.
Creasy's world building is fantastic. The universe depends on the Crib to terraform worlds using biocyph technology, and cyphertecks like Edie can manipulate biocyph through the "wet-teck" in their heads. The Crib require Fringe worlds to pay for keys every few years to keep the BRATs (biocyph retroviral automated terraformer) going, and if they do not then the worlds will regress and turn to "mash." The Fringe worlds can barely afford to pay for these keys, much less for other things they need to survive, and this is the situation Edie and Finn are thrown face-first in during the story.
Sometimes, stubborn female leads make me want to toss the book down at their stupidity and inner thoughts, but I enjoyed reading from Edie's perspective. She is a caring person, emotional at times but perfectly within reason for being so, thrown into circumstances she cannot control. She is obviously special as no one can manipulate biocyph like she can, but she is never arrogant about it, which I like.
Finn, now, he is the character who really kept me turning the pages. He was a "serf," or slave, of the Crib before the renegades set him free to be Edie's bodyguard, condemned for life for reasons we don't know at the beginning of the story. He is hardened and wounded by suffering, but not crippled from it. His harsh perspective on life complements Edie's innocence, and their interactions and slowly developing relationship are what make this story shine.
Linnea Sinclair's blurb on the cover of the book does a good job of summarizing it: "Gripping characterization, non-stop action, fascinating biological speculation, and a dash of romance. Don't miss it!" I've re-read this one several times and gotten my hands on the sequel as well. If you like sci-fi with a bit of romance and fascinating world building, give this one a try.
Allison is a sci-fi and fantasy writer, reader, gamer, and all around geek. You can find her writing, reviews, and thoughts on geek culture at her blog Geek Banter (http://alsgeekbanter.blogspot.ca/).
Thanks, Allison! I am a sucker for good worldbuilding and this sounds great. I wonder if there are any more Scarabaeus books planned beyond the two…anyone know?
If you’d like to win a copy of Song of Scarabaeus (or the second book in the series, Children of Scarabaeus), read on…
For Readers Write Giveaways: commenters on each review get an entry into a weekly Readers Write pool. At the end of the week, good old random.org will pick one to win his or her choice of the books in the Readers Write pool (or the first book in a series if a later series book is reviewed). Or one of the titles from the Book Horde (tab at the top of the page).