Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

Children of Scarabaeus
Sara Creasy

I think that thanks to a couple of influential bloggers, this series is on more people’s radars, and that makes me happy. I really enjoyed Song of Scarabaeus when I read it in September last year (https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg), and when I heard that it’s sequel, Children of Scarabaeus was available on NetGalley, I requested it ASAP.
 
**** mild spoilers for Song of Scarabaeus ****
 
The Premise: In this continuation of the story that follows Edie Sha’nim and her bodyguard Finn, Edie has freed herself from her kidnappers and her goal is to use what she’s recently learned to help Fringe worlds with their reliance on Crib technology to keep their environments viable. Unfortunately, her freedom is short-lived, as the Crib government catches up with Edie and her friends, and reclaims her as their property. Edie has to cooperate or Finn suffers, so she reluctantly goes back to work as a biocyph for Liv Natesa’s pet project on a new terraformed world named Prisca. During the project she makes some startling discoveries about what the Crib is up to, including the use of children as their new breed of cypertecks. In the meantime she’s also asked to return to the place where it all began for her: the planet Scarabaeus.
 
Read the first chapter of Children of Scarabaeus here (pdf)
 
My Thoughts: I was anticipating this read so much that it leaped over all others in my TBR and landed on the top of my queue, and then I read it all in one day. I’m happy to say it felt very readable and I had no inclination to put it down once I started. This book had much of the same sort of twists and turns as the first, with escapes and captures, spaceship crashes, deadly planetary disasters and wild animals. Not to mention the manipulations of Natesa, who wants Edie on her project, which promises terraforming at a much faster pace than ever before and of Colonel Theron who wants Edie to work for him on Scarabaeus. Like the first book, Children of Scarabaeus has a lot going on. In fact, it surprises me how much happens in it within a relatively short number of pages (my eARC is numbered at 322 pages).
 
Edie and Finn begin the story with the same relationship they had when Song of Scarabaeus ended, which was a place where they trust each other completely, but things are still new and Edie isn’t quite sure where she stands. It doesn’t help matters that the chip in Finn’s head (the one that could kill him if he’s too far from Edie) causes emotional feedback that makes romantic entanglements complicated, or that Finn is a hard man for Edie to read. Edie wants Finn by her side, but she also wants him to be free, and not have to be by her side, especially when her skills make her a resource everyone wants. I wasn’t sure how things were going to go for them with their general lack of communication, but this book moves them forward a lot more than the first did, and the romance was not as understated as the first installment.
 
The descriptions of the biocyph and cyperteck technology as Edie sees it continues to be fascinating. I really love how it’s described visually instead of trying to explain the technical details behind it. When the cyperteck children are introduced, I liked how they related to the code differently from even Edie and other ‘tecks. Instead of understanding things visually, they go by sound and by feeling. The code is something living that needs fixing so it can be “well”, and the children instinctively work as a team to patch the code up. They have no idea what the code does, all they are interested in is the feel of the code itself.
 
Children of Scarabaeus does a very good job in tying up all the loose plot strings left over from Song of Scarabaeus. There were a few times where I thought the story was going to go one way (and this probably would have lengthened the plot), but Edie and Finn instead are steered towards their destinies. The way things are satisfyingly tied up leads me to believe that this series is now complete, which is in a way disappointing. This is a case where I would be really happy for more books and more adventures with Edie and Finn. I don’t really think that Children of Scarabaeus rushes to a conclusion, but it upon me before I wanted it to be. I wanted to spend more time, leisurely exploring the galaxy and watching the relationship develop between Edie and Finn. I could have used a book or two between book 1 and the conclusion here, and I think that would have also sidestepped the feeling that the plot twists and deaths in the story were a means to get to the appropriate ending within the pages allowed. I hope that the next series Sara Creasy writes next gets to be longer. And this is from a girl who balks at long series, so do not take my words lightly.
 
Overall: I really loved Song of Scarabaeus, and this is a worthy sequel that has the same action and awesome world building as it’s predecessor. It comes pretty close to pleasing me in the same way the first book does, but it has one handicap – it has to complete the story in one book, which means the romance and the complex plot are tied up before I was ready. I think the author did a good job at making these things satisfying (particularly the ending), but I would have been fine if I had to wait one more book (or two) for it. Thumbs up for this series – get both books.
 
Children of Scarabaeus comes out on March 29th.
 
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
 
Other reviews:
It’s early yet..
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Favorite Reads of 2010 and plans for 2011

First, the stats:

  • 2006 – 103 books
  • 2007 – 99 books
  • 2008 – 77 books
  • 2009 – 79 books
  • 2010 – 82 books

As you can see, I still haven’t made my yearly goal to read 100 books, but the number is climbing upwards! The problem is that reviewing books (2006 and 2007 I didn’t review as I do now), cuts into reading time. Oh well, I won’t stop reviewing!

Out of those 82 books, these were my favorites (click on the book to see my review):

Blew me out of the water – Two books this year just had the perfect mix that made me feel like I was in utter love from start to finish. Unless I don’t feel consumed to a semi-obsession, a book won’t get on this list.

 

These books I loved and came close perfect (and wow, I had 9 of these this year. Up from 5 last year)

(Note: The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice is the repackaged mass market version of Pemberley by the Sea and Cordelia’s Honor is actually 2-books-in-one – I linked to the first book)

Goals for 2011:

1) Keep working on the TBR but don’t worry so much about how many books I buy. Last year I held back on buying books when I wanted to because I was concerned about the size of my TBR (it was 190, now it’s over 250). I’ve decided not to do that – if the TBR grows, it grows. Instead I think I’ll focus on trying to read more often than I have been (this year I often had rows of days where I read nothing. I’d like to read even a few pages a day as long as I read something)

2) Try to read 100 books – this is a long standing goal, just for a number to aim for. I don’t think it will ever not be a goal!

3) Be better about reading challenges – I sign up for online book clubs and challenges and I pretty much NEVER complete them. I suck at it. I’m going to try to read books for book clubs and challenges early this time. And oh man, I’d love to complete the Everything Austen challenge for once. Both times I joined, I got 4 out of 6 Austen related books/movies read and watched, then ran out of time. In 2011.. oh, I will get 6 out of 6. I WILLLLL!!

4) Stay easy going in this blogging thing. I think that will all the book blogs out there, it’s easy to put pressure on yourself and lose perspective. I want to make sure to remember that I do this because it makes me happy.

Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

I originally reviewed Song of Scarabaeus over at Jawas Read, Too! for her Book Uno feature a couple of months ago. The format of this review is a bit different from my usual reviews since it actually has a numerical rating.


Song of Scarabaeus
Sara Creasy

This book first appeared on my radar when Linnea Sinclair recommended it on her yahoo group: ” Far-far future Earth SF with terraforming, high-tech, rebellions, pirates, a nice romantic subplot. I’d classify it as RSF and if you like Aguirre’s GRIMSPACE, you’ll love this”. Yep, sounded right up my alley. Good reviews started coming in and I’d been feeling the pull of this book for a while.When Erika threw down the gauntlet for Book Uno she gave me the challenge of finding a book with a female protagonist because she read and reviewed Jay Lake’s Green, which had a female protagonist, for the last Book Uno review.  I think this book not only has a female protagonist (and a lovely one at that), but look at the cover! It’s GREEN. That’s right, I am a genius at Book Uno.

The Premise: Edie Sha’nim is a biocyph who can interface with machines mentally. Her training is primarily for terraforming worlds for human habitation, but she’s unhappy in her current situation, which is akin to being in an indentured position under the Crib Empire. Her next assignment is one she is not thrilled by (although it will be a coup for her ambitious sponsor), so she drags her feet by taking a lowly temporary assignment as op-teck in maintenance. Unfortunately, that’s when Edie is kidnapped by a group of pirates who steal terraforming seeds for Fringe worlds that can’t afford the Crib’s high prices for maintaining the Fringe worlds’ environments. Edie is shackled via a wet-teck leash to Finn, an escaped convict with a dark personality and a past as a Fringe freedom fighter.

Read an excerpt of Song of Scarabaeus here

My Thoughts: From the beginning, the book immerses the reader in Edie’s universe. Unknown terminology is casually tossed into the narrative and a little brainpower is needed at first, but it gets easier as the book goes along. It helps that the story is full of action from the get go with Edie’s kidnapping, and it continues to stay compelling once Edie is captured. First, she’s shackled with Finn, an escaped con with a chip in his head that’s been modified so that if he is too far away from Edie, his head explodes. This makes Finn Edie’s involuntary bodyguard, and awkward relationship which is complicated by Edie having the power to send a crippling jolt to his system via his chip.

Finn and Edie are brought onto the Hoi Polloi, whose crew consists of Haller, the executive officer, Cat Lancer, the navpilot, Zeke, the op-teck, and Captain Rackham, a cook, and two engineers. Although the mercenaries say they have altruistic goals to help Fringe planets, money is obviously part of it. Not to mention that the crew has already broken laws and wrecked havoc to capture Edie. I think that the secondary characters were very subtly set up. At first there are quick impressions of each of them from Edie’s point of view, and then as the book continues, their actions give us more clues as to who they are. It’s very realistic and done nicely. The two I noticed most were Cat and Zeke, who try to be friendly, but they’ve also shown some qualities which put their trustworthiness into question. Trying to figure out how to escape when the allies are slim is a very precarious situation for Edie and Finn, who don’t even know if they can trust one another.

I liked that Finn and Edie are strangers and treat each other as such. This is not one of those books where sparks fly and there’s lust at first sight. I know the cover looks quite romantic, and I’m going to talk about both characters because they’re the protagonists, but let me assure you that the romance is pretty understated.

Finn has just spent years as a convict – treated as a “serf” and less than human, controlled via his chip. Now, in an attempt to get free, he’s found himself in another form of slavery. And while Edie’s morals maker her value human life, Finn is a much, much harder person because of his experiences. As a serf, he’s seen how people treat his kind, and whether he decides that Edie is cut from the same cloth as everyone else is in question for much of the book. If he didn’t need Edie to live, he’d be a lot more dangerous to her, and of the two characters, we’re in Edie’s head, not in his. His actions are truly hard to read and unpredictable, and I liked that. He’s not a formulaic hero by any means.

Edie, on the other hand, is a sympathetic character with some unique problems because of who she is. She needs an implant of neuroxin to stay alive and as a biocyph she’s a target of violent environmentalists who want to stop planets from being terraformed. And she’s seen as a very valuable tool by others, so her life never seems to be fully her own. You could say that she’s used to being unique and dealing with the focus this brings. She’s not what I would call “kick-ass” (she’s had bodyguards to protect her) and she’s a good person even to those who may not deserve it, but she’s not spineless, and knows how to defend herself. Her talents are of course more mental, being a biocyph. Creasy is seamless in referring to Edie’s back story and her job without it feeling like an information dump. How Edie joined the Crib and her first terraforming mission are brought up is they affect her current situation or as brief flashbacks, italicized to separate them from the main storyline. Her biocyph skill is explained on the fly as Edie utilizes it.

The biocyph, and the other -cyph type technology involves people interfacing with machines via chips in their brains and very specific training. The actual interface is described very nicely in the book in an artistic interpretation which I would compare to how the movie Hackers interpreted coding visually. I don’t think you could relate it with coding today, but I still liked the imagery used in explaining it. This creativity is everywhere in the world building from the description of the space ship to the planets that it flies to. I particularly loved the menacing plant life on Scarabaeus, which is subtly suggested on the cover (it looks like there’s a tree on the cover, but that’s really a wall between two windows looking into space).

The comparison to Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace is one that I understand. Grimspace was about a heroine with a unique ability as a jumper but after a horrific accident, she is confined by her government until the hero busts her out. There are a lot of imperfect characters, lots of action and it’s a rather gritty beginning to a space adventure series. Song of Scarabaeus may not share its plot or characters, but the spirit is similar. This book has dark parts, but I didn’t think it was quite as dark, and Edie is a more likable character than Jax initially is, but the ragtag group of mercenary space pirates, high-tech ability with a price, and unpredictable problems make this a book I’d recommend for fans of Aguirre’s fantastic series.

Overall: The more I think about this book, the more I liked it. I think that the writing was very thoughtfully done. It’s got action and a dangerous universe. it’s got space pirates. It’s got well written world building and a suspenseful plot. And it’s got a believable relationship that starts off between two 3-dimensional characters that are utter strangers. I’m not really sure what more I could want in a story. Highly recommended, particularly for Ann Aguirre fans. I’m eagerly awaiting the continuation – Children of Scarabaeus, which comes out March, 2011.

For the purpose of Jawas Read, Too!‘s rating system, I’d give this one an 9.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s Books | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Tempting Persephone – positive
SciFiChick – positive
Tez Says – positive

Guest review on Jawas Read, Too! & Wordpress feed hiccups

Over at the awesome speculative fiction book blog,  Jawas Read, Too! is the (relatively) new  Book Uno feature:

The Rules

Player 1 reads a book and picks a item (type of character, setting, genre, relationship, etc…) from that book which will be the theme (or criteria) for Player 2 to use in choosing the next book in the game. Player 2 chooses a book that matches the theme chosen by Player 1 and reviews it.  Players choose themes for each other, not specific books.

I was delighted to play. My challenge was to read a book in the speculative fiction genre with a  “female protagonist”.  I reviewed:

Please head on over, see what I thought about it (hint: ♥♥♥!!)  and leave some comment love!


wordpresss feedA Note about the WordPress feed:

If you noticed weirdness this weekend where the wordpress feed was posting really old posts (dated 2009) or anything like that, I’m sorry.

I’ve been losing my mind trying to make sure that all the book cover images that were hosted on vox, which is going down at the end of this month (aka Thursday), would be hosted on janicu.wordpress.com. Of course 3 years of posts is a lot.  There was no easy way to do this automatically (I found out after 3 weeks of trial and error and emails to support). In the end the “simplest” way was to import all of vox over here, and since this wordpress has mirrored my vox blog since April 2009, there was overlap. This past weekend I manually edited about a year and 5 months of posts to fix the overlap. Weird feed hiccups was the result.

That was also why I was rather slow in replying to comments. I was just slogging through editing approximately 240 posts. But it’s done now, and I’ve come out relatively sane.  *knock on wood*. 😉

Now I just have to update my review index. And figure out what to do about the vox images on the livejournal mirror. Ahhhh!!