Thursday, May 16, 2013

Zenn Scarlett (review)

Did you grow up loving animals? Not just pets, but were you curious about exotic animals, creatures in the pages of books that existed in far away countries,  but had unbelievable and almost mythical qualities about them? Like singing whales and snow leopards and oryx and platypus and lemurs? 

Maybe if you loved animals, like me, you wanted to grow up to be a vet or a zoo-keeper or a wildlife biologist.

Or maybe computers and chemistry sets and gadgets and science fiction were more your thing.  Maybe you wanted to grow up to be an astronaut or the first engineer to figure out how to fly beyond light speed. 

Or maybe, just maybe, you were BOTH of these - animal friend and star dreamer.  That was so me. It's still me. 

So the premise of Zenn Scarlett, by Christian Schoon, about a veterinary school on Mars for alien animals, oh my gosh just made me all kinds of excited. And even better, hints that the main character has a special type of communication with the animals/aliens. I dreamed about this kind of stuff when I was a kid! Living on another world; check. Communicating with animals; check. This author brilliantly thought to put these two ideas together. 

I loved the first chapter. Especially the introduction to the first alien creature: the Indra. And what the Indra can do, and how space travelers have partnered with it, is so... sooo....alakshgsdhdgouncldg. Yep, words fail me. I want to say "cool" but that is too lame of a word. Awesome, too overused of a word. Back to lsknxsaqhyejlsd. I'll spare you the exclamation marks. 

I didn't finish reading this novel, but that might just be me. If the premise grabs you like it did me, TRY IT!!! Maybe you'll love it (other reviewers did). Certainly the first four chapters I read had a lot of potential. I just couldn't click with the main character or the particular style of this book. 

But the reasons why I encourage you to try the book if you like the premise:  there's this character called Hamish who is fascinating. After I got over my first reaction of utter disbelief (a giant and kindly alien beetle? really? okay - I guess that works), I was very impressed by him, because his voice immediately rang true. There's also some really inventive things, like the mobile virt-screens "hovering before his face like butterflies", and how Mars was made suitable for humans to live on, and some of the medical devices used for entering and ah, exiting large alien creatures. No vet book, alien or not, would be complete without some potty humor. I have a feeling the author, Christian Schoon and James Herriot are kindred spirits. 

And also, there were some places where the writing was very impressive:

Her father's entire being was like a fresh wound.

....Sometimes, she thought she understood what made him go, that he had no choice, that he couldn't survive both his own pain and hers. At other times, she simply lost sight of this sort of understanding; as if heavy fog had rolled in, obscuring the landmarks that had guided her at first.

Thank you Strange Chemistry and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to try out this book.


  1. You know, that really does sound like my kind of book. I'll give it a try.

  2. Nice. Maybe a little too sci-fi for my taste, but fascinating nonetheless.

  3. I went through a veterinarian/marine biologist phase when I was little! This book sounds really cool. Thanks for the rec!

    I'm glad I'm hearing such great things about Into Darkness. I'm looking forward to seeing it!!

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

  4. This book sounds awesome! I gotta read it. Nice excerpt too. And thank you for not spilling spoilers on the Star Trek movie. LOL I'm planning to see that soon--yeah!!!

  5. Interesting. Sounds like they are tweaking some fresh ideas when so many of the older SF tech is becoming reality.

  6. It sounds like we had some similar issues with Zenn Scarlett. I found her voice much younger than her teenage years would suggest, and her single-mindedness made for a sometimes... repetitive read. And as much as I enjoyed Hamish, I disliked that he was used as a means to an end - the info-dumping conversations between Zenn and Hamish were hard not to skim through.



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