I haven’t sat down and read a novel-length book in less than two days for a long time. Or, it feels like a long time. I picked up Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy, because it was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, and because of other buzz which I can’t now recall. It’s science fiction with romantic elements, enough to appeal to the romance reader, I believe.
As I was reading it, I was reminded of the days when I read a lot of CJ Cherryh, and in fact on Creasy’s blog there’s mention of her editor who says Song of Scarabaeus is “…smart science fiction about biotechnology, with a strong heroine, and reminds me of the C. J. Cherryh books I read and loved growing up.”
(My favourite Cherryh remains my first, Rimrunner.)
For me to enjoy this genre, science fiction needs great characterization and believable, interesting world-building, without bogging down in too much exposition while getting the details across. I thought Song of Scarabaeus did a terrific job of creating a complex, convincing world in the first chapter, where I wanted to read on.
The action starts right away. The narrator Edie is a cypherteck who can “talk” to biotechnological creations of all kinds, some more biological than others. It’s a fun and convincing description of how she communicates, and it’s a rare gift that she has. Trapped in her current job by the Crib—a powerful organization in the terraforming universe—she’s not happy with her situation. Then she’s kidnapped by rovers who force her to take a job with them, and her situation worsens, even if she doesn’t want to return to the Crib and the woman who controls her life.
But not only that, the rovers have a serf (prisoner) leashed to her as part of being her bodyguard. If she dies or if he moves out of range of her (2 km), he’ll die because of his brain implant. There’s a nicely developed, understated yet sexually tense relationship between Edie and Finn, her serf bodyguard, a relationship I found quite compelling.
I thought the author mixed different tropes in a unique and fresh way: hero and heroine bound to each other under difficult circumstances (to say the least); heroine whose abilities are fascinating and move the story along; plus ship politics where the guy in charge is a pretty terrible person yet three dimensional—as are the rest of the crew. On top of that, the story moves, with good action and good character development.
For readers who love science fiction romance, I believe this is a book to try.
I’ll be picking up the sequel, Children of Scarabaeus, when it comes out in March.