Saturday, February 5, 2011

Featuring SFR Review: Song of Scarabaeus (Book 1) by Sara Creasy

Trained since childhood in advanced biocyph seed technology by the all-powerful Crib empire, Edie's mission is to terraform alien worlds while her masters bleed the outlawed Fringe populations dry. When renegade mercenaries kidnap Edie, she's not entirely sure it's a bad thing . . . until they leash her to a bodyguard, Finn—a former freedom fighter-turned-slave, beaten down but never broken. If Edie strays from Finn's side, he dies. If she doesn't cooperate, the pirates will kill them both. But Edie's abilities far surpass anything her enemies imagine. And now, with Finn as her only ally as the merciless Crib closes in, she'll have to prove it or die on the site of her only failure . . . a world called Scarabaeus.
Song for Scarabaeus is Sara Creasy's debut novel and the first of two books that follows the exciting space adventures of cypherteck Edie and her bodyguard Finn. I love the "kick-ass Captain" as the female protagonist just as much as the next reader, but that's not Edie. No, Edie is a geek and I loved that about her. Now, don't think that because she's technologically brilliant Edie doesn't kick ass. Technologically speaking, she does.

Edie is a half-breed and she grew up as an outcast in the backwater planet Talas. At age 10 she was picked up by the Crib for what they saw as her potential abilities to work with biocyph (biological and cypher technology). By way of computer chips implanted in her brain and body parts, Edie is able to program and decipher complex computer (dry teck) and biological (wet teck) technologies.  Her abilities are rare and valued throughout the universe and she's kept under wraps and well guarded by the Crib. But rovers (space pirates) kidnap her with the aid of serfs who have been promised freedom in return. Finn is one of those serfs.

Finn's serf or slave status doesn't change when they reach the rover's ship, the Hoi-Polloi. The rovers place a boundary chip or leash on him that ties him to Edie. In other words, he can't stray away from her or the explosives implanted on his brain kill him instantly. Also if she dies... he dies, so he has no choice but to guard her with his life, as they are both forced to carry on with the rovers' mission. The mission takes them on to Scarabaeus, a planet that the Crib attempted to terraform years earlier and Edie's secret obsession.

Song of Scarabaeus is not heavy sci-fi. Instead it's an engaging, well-written story with the main focus on those sci-fi details and a touch of romance. I enjoyed Ms. Creasy's sci-fi world building including the space terms that differ a bit from others I've read, but are easy to follow. The action and pacing are excellent. The story begins with action, slows down to build on the plot and picks up to an action-packed finish. I was never distracted from the story and finished the book in two sittings. Some of my favorite scenes take place on the planet, Scarabaeus. There are creepy, eerie as well as action-packed and intense moments. There's nothing like space creepy-crawlies to light my fire when I'm reading sci-fi, lol!

The plot is quite interesting with the overall storyarc detailing how the powerful Crib empire creates a monopoly out of terraforming new planets, populating them and then enslaving Fringe worlds through their dependency on technology. Yet, there are many grey areas presented by the author through Edie's own personal conflicts about the different entities involved, the technology itself and how it's used, as well as characters introduced. Are they good or evil, or are they a bit of both depending on their agenda?

The characterization is well done, especially for a first book where some characters are highlighted more than others. Edie is well developed and a thoroughly likable character. Although not a physical threat, Edie uses her technical abilities, but better than that she also makes great use of instincts by exhibiting good insight and judgment. I love her humanity and the way she chooses to become independent and to go against the odds to achieve her goal. Enough is revealed about Finn for this story's purposes, but he is still a mystery by the end. He's definitely the most intriguing character so far. The other secondary characters are interesting for their "grey" areas with some better drawn than others.

There is a touch of romance and I enjoyed the way that developed. It's not too fast or too blatant, instead the emotional connection and building chemistry between the characters seems like a natural progression. As it turns out, there is a cliffhanger at the end of this book and those usually bother me. However although you can tell there's a continuation coming, the story is not cut off at an awkward moment and it ends well enough. Having said that, I'm glad I don't have to wait long to read the next book, Children of Scarabaeus, Book 2.

The best recommendation I can give Song of Scarabaeus? I couldn't stop reading the book and couldn't wait to finish it. I recommend it to readers who love sci-fi and sci-fi/romance. I think this is an excellent debut novel for Ms. Creasy and will definitely look for her books in the future.

Goodreads 
Sci-Fi Romance
February Read
Category: Science Fiction/Romance
Series: Scarabaeous
Published: Harper Collins; April 27, 2010-Kindle Edition
Grade: B

Series:
Song of Scarabaeus, Book 1
Children of Scarabaeus, Book 2 - Releasing March 29, 2011

Visit Sara Creasy here.

11 comments:

  1. Humm, I think I'll add this one to my list. I'm very leary of SF romance -- I was an SF fan before I was a romance fan and most SF romances suck, to be brutally honest -- but it sounds like the SF might actually be decent here, and the fact that the protag isn't meant to be physically kick-ass is actually a plus. Not that I have anything against female characters who can hold their own hand-to-hand; my complaint is against authors who can't write women going hand-to-hand without turning it into a trainwreck. :/ It sounds like this is more focused on the plot and tech, though, which is encouraging.

    Angie

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  2. sounds like a great book, Hils. I'm going to add it to my TBB list :) I like that Edie would be a geek LOL. by the way, do you know how many books are planned?

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  3. Angie, I know how you feel about SFR! LOL! This is not heavy SF, just a warning. But it does focus more on the tech and the worldbuilding. I know you like hardcore SF for the most part, but you might enjoy those sections of the book, or at least find them interesting. I'd like to know what you think of it if you do read it. :)

    Nath, I liked that Edie was the geek too! I'm glad you'll give this book a shot, I know SFR is not your usual cup of tea. I asked the author in the Goodreads thread, and she said that there are only two books planned for this series and the next one comes out in March. It's not a long series. I like that. :)

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  4. Nice review, Hils. A B grade is awesome for a debut SFR novel. I'm going to keep this one in mind for when I get the urge to read something different from my usual.

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  5. This book sounds awesome!! And something I would really really enjoy. :P Great review Hils!!

    Also, a spaceship called the Hoi Polloi? I'd take a ride. LOL

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  6. Oh, I do like the sound of this. (I find the idea of terraforming fascinating :) And I like it's not too sci-fi heavy...I hate books that are so dry (with characterization a lost thought) that I get bored.

    Great reviews Hils. Hopefully my library has it :)

    *checks*

    They do! On my TBR list :)

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  7. Christine, this book was actually nominated for the 2010 Phillip K. Dick award for Sci-Fi Best Original Paperback. So, not too shabby for a debut novel at all! I thought some aspects of it were excellent (A material) and others less so, but overall this was a solid read.

    Ames, I hope you enjoy it! I loved the name of the ship too, and I believe the author actually has illustrations of the ship at her website. I haven't checked them out because I prefer to use my own imagination, lol!

    Orannia, if you like the idea of terraforming, you'll love this book. The author uses that idea and runs with it quite well. Edie is well developed and she's the main character. The others, including Finn, are less so. Finn, I believe, stays a mystery on purpose but we do find out enough for the purposes of this story. :) Hope you enjoy it. BTW, the author is Australian... (not from NZ), but from your immediate area, lol!

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  8. Oh that's interesting, Hils. And actually makes this book more compelling. I may have to add it to my list, then. Especially as it's a debut novel!

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  9. Christine, I'll be reading the second book and will let you know how it turns out too. :)

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  10. I almost picked this one up at Barnes and Noble over the holidays, and considering some of what I did buy wasn't very good, I should have bought this one! Thanks for the review; it'll remind me to pick this one up now.

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  11. KMont, this is a good read. I know how much you enjoy SFR and I think you might like this book, plus the second part is coming out soon. I liked the combination of tech and action, plus the usual SFR type of romance. Not too much on the forefront, it grows gradually. I hope you enjoy it. :)

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