From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

Review by Cynthia Ward

An orphan raised by the oppressive interstellar government known as the Crib, Edie Sha’nim is now unbreakably contracted to them as a cypherteck, capable of terraforming entire planets for human habitation. Such planets must reset their reengineered biospheres every year to keep them operating; but none has the key to its biosphere. The Crib does—and charges a fortune to use it. The Crib also doesn’t share its cyphertecks, who can hack the biospheres and free them from the Crib’s dominance. This makes a cypherteck immensely valuable to the terraformed worlds, especially when, like Edie Sha’nim, she’s one of the best.

Edie is abducted, but she doesn’t entirely mind. She resents the Crib and her contract. She also feels a responsibility to the serf, Finn, an attractive, enigmatic bodyguard and possible ex-terrorist, whom her kidnappers have literally bound to her: if she dies or gets too far from Finn, he dies. Edie also has a dangerous secret. Early in her career, she deliberately sabotaged the illegal terraforming of Scarabaeus, a planet with an advanced preexisting biosphere. So she cooperates with the outlaws’ plan to illegally sell biocyph to the Fringe worlds. But when her outlaw abductors travel to now-forbidden Scarabaeus to recover the “seeds” used in terraforming, more than exposure of Edie’s crime is at risk. The trip reveals the seeds are still active, and the unimagined results could doom them all.

In her debut novel, Song of Scarabaeus, Sara Creasy provides a scary answer to a frightening question: What if Monsanto were in charge of all biology? Creasy’s extrapolation of advanced genetic engineering as just another form of information technology is interesting and logical. She also creates sympathetic, believable characters, a fast-paced plot, and a beautiful, terrifying world in the terraforming-gone-gonzo planet of Scarabaeus.

The English/Australian-U.S. resident author does not, however, provide much novelty for the experienced SF reader. The future is largely “off the shelf,” with its interstellar government behaving badly, rebel worlds behaving justly, space pirates, easy interstellar travel, and alpha-male romantic interest. As a result, Song of Scarabaeus won’t do much for SF fans long immersed in cyberpunk, quantum physics, and the singularity. But, like the SF novels of Ann Aguirre, Jack Campbell, Kristin Landon, and Linnea Sinclair, Song of Scarabaeus is an accessible, enjoyable entertainment for less-hardcore SF readers and for readers more familiar with media SF than prose SF. Considering the former is a much larger audience than the latter, Creasy might wind up selling better than many SF writers with more originality.

Song of Scarabaeus
Sara Creasy
Eos/HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0-06-193473-5
368 pages | mass market paperback | $7.99 US
April 2010

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