1/12/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
Catacombs (A Tale Of The Barque Cats book 2) by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 237 page hardback. Price: $26.00 (US), $30.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-51378-6.
check out websites: www.delreybooks.com, www.annemccaffrey.netand www.eascarborough.com
I’m beginning to think it should be a requisite that book series had a ‘story so far’ before plunging into the latest novel. Saying that, you do get a little reminder in the opening chapters of the series progress to get your head into gear even if there is little attention to it for the majority of the book. Essentially, a spaceship of barque cats and their human keepers are fleeing a potential plague on cat-kind and hole up on the planet Mau when they run out of fuel and where cats are common-place and treated with respect. News comes that the plague is sorted out and these intelligent cats are welcome back. During this time there’s been a little cross-breeding with the local population resulting in kittens with shorter hair. On the starship returning after being suitably fuelled, a deal is struck with some intelligent rats on-board to prevent them chewing the wires. A lot of the plot then is devoted to the discovery that these cats are capable of taking on giant snakes and a recruitment into the military against another menace which means we’re entering spoiler country.
Authors Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough play out the story from different perspectives, including the cats and their observations of humans is hilarious. The description of humans sweating as leaking water is priceless. There’s also a good reminder why cats shouldn’t be allowed on spaceships considering how much hair they shed.
However, a large chunk of the end of the book glosses over so much in short order that it practically feels like an earlier draft before details are added. It would be fine if the book series had started out this way but when compared to the detail, especially in characterisation, in the first book then it wouldn’t have mattered. Whether this is the fault of the writers, who I should say have shown to be able and competent, or the publishers shortening deadlines is hard to say. Instinctively, I would probably go for the latter, mostly cos there’s fewer new Science Fiction books coming out and they are making sure there’s a presence out there. The problem with this is the tendency for a drop of quality for the sake of a deadline and that ultimately serves no one. This doesn’t mean the story isn’t still readable but it does make a potential gem a little rougher than it should be.
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