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Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: Song of Scarabaeus

Song of ScarabaeusTitle: Song of Scarabaeus
Author: Sara Creasy
Page Count: 368 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: science fiction, romance, first in a series
Copy for review was purchased by me

50 words or less: Edie Sha'nim is blessed with the ability to bring life out of the biocyph technology monopolized by the Crib, and her need for neurotoxin from her home planet makes her completely dependent on the Crib for her survival. Until she's "freed" by pirates and finds her fate bound up with that of Finn, a sprung convict who's now her bodyguard. Let the games begin...

Those following the DABWAHA race to the top have encountered this title, and it seems like most of the buzz has been how pleasantly surprised people are to read and enjoy it- apparently tacking the label "science fiction romance" onto a title gives some people a funny feeling in their tummies. I read this one over Christmas break and found it to be engrossing and detailed, with enough romance to sweeten the pot, enough science to keep your brain churning, and enough thoughtful observations about the impact people have on their environment to leave you with something to ponder until the next book in the series comes out (Tuesday, to be exact.)

Science fiction, like romance, is one of those genres that gets painted with a really broad brush. A hybrid of those two genres calls to mind all the typical stereotypes of both genres- page after page of incredibly technical jargon that bores the reader to tears but serves as documentation of how much Research was done to write the book, or, to put it bluntly, page after page of Boinking in Space.

Song of Scarabaeus is neither of these things- at its core it's a story of power; who wants it, who needs it, who has it and how they got it, and what lengths people will go to to get it. Edie is able to create new life forms on planets previously deemed "junk;" these planets may already be home to other life forms but they aren't deemed sophisticated enough to be worth saving. Scarabaeus was the first planet on which Edie ever used her abilities, and it forever changed her; Scarabaeus challenged her ideas of what was right and just- as a refugee herself, how can she justify forcing life of any kind off of its own planet to make room for human beings? Likewise, Edie's idealism speaks to Finn and reminds him of what he's lost, first as a freedom fighter and then as a prisoner serving a life sentence as a serf. Edie reminds Finn of what he was willing to fight and die for, and they each are there to support the other in times of crisis. I particularly appreciated that even though Edie wielded tremendous power over Finn because of the connection that was forced upon them (Finn's brain will explode if Edie dies or if she moves too far away from him) that she's loathe to abuse that trust, and if anything wants to earn Finn's trust even more than she would have otherwise. It lent realism to the romance that develops and made me believe in them as allies.

Fair warning: you need to pay attention to the details when you're reading the story. The romance that evolves (slowly and deliciously, I might add) between Edie and Finn is only one facet of a really engaging story, but without attention to detail regarding the science fiction part of the book, part of the experience is lost.

I was really impressed by the technology component of the story- I'm one of those folks who likes science fiction but finds that a little bit goes a long way- give me oodles of details about the setting and politics and the culture of the people in the book, but start describing the insides of a space ship and my eyes cross. I found the ideas supporting the biotek in this book to be realistic and, in my opinion, plausible- the author infuses plenty of her outside knowledge without ever overpowering the plot or characters.

The sequel to this story, Children of Scarabaeus, is due to release on Tuesday, and is currently available via NetGalley. I'm beyond excited to check it out, as Song of Scarabaeus has set the bar high for future offerings, both in this series and from this author in general. I definitely recommend checking it out.

Overall Grade: A
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