Song of Scarabaeus

Sara Creasy
Song of Scarabaeus Cover

Song of Scarabaeus


This was my random pick in the WOGF challenge.

Edie is an exceptionally talented cyphtech - a technology that enables Edie to mesh biology, genetics and computer science. On one level she can interface with spaceships, computer systems etc. to control, maintain or override them. At another level, using 'wet-tech' she can control biology and genetics via her thought processes.

The Crib is the 'evil empire' of the novel - it's an organisation that has the technology to change planets ecosystems into ones that can support human life. The problem for settlers is that The Crib hold keystones (think licence keys for temporary usage of software) that if the settled worlds don't pay for in turn haemorrages their economy and ecosystems and turns the planets into inhospitable mush. Of course The Crib exploit the usage of keystones as a brutal yet effective mode of taxation.

Edie as a cyphtech is one of the few people who has the capability with her thought processes to change a world from unhabitable to fit for settling. Therefore she is very valuable to The Crib.

Space Pirates (known as rovers in the book) kidnap Edie to utilise her skills in effect to extract the technology from failed planets and to free the Fringe worlds from the oppression of The Crib.

The issue is of course that Edie doesn't have many options in this. She was rejected from her home world due to being a 'half-breed', feels used as a (valuable) slave by The Crib and of course is taken by the rovers against her will.

To ensure compliance and ostensibly for her safety she is leashed to Finn. Finn is a serf - in effect and indentured slave bought and sold. Serfs are criminals but in the book are treated as less than human. The leash is a nasty piece of tech. If Finn moves more than 2000 metres away from Edie or if Edie dies his head will explode!

Edie ends up journeying to Scarabaeus to extract the tech but she's been here before...

The premise of the novel is pretty decent but I really struggled to get into it and once I reached the middle third I really wanted to drop the book but perservered as it was the last in the WOGF challenge.

I found the 'hard sci-fi' quite difficult to grasp at first and potentially would have benefitted from a re-read of the background to the tech. I think Creasy has a good idea of her world but I didn't really think there was a lot of depth to it. I wanted to know more about The Crib and it's history. In the novel it just came across as a faceless evil empire of taxation - Robin Hood in space.

The novel also seemed like a series of stand alone episodes - Edie gets kidnapped, goes on a spaceship, goes to Scarabaeus, goes back on spaceship.

I wasn't overly immersed with the two central characters - Edie is often waiting for Finn to save her and comes across as a damsel in distress at times. However, it is clear that her skills do not lie in dishing out violence. Finn seems an archetype. Strong, silent, hard to read who then softens as the novel continues. He in contrast is good at violence. Finn isn't meant to be one dimensional but I found him very predicatable. There is an undercurrent of romance between Edie and Finn which I am not sure works.

There is a lot of moral ambiguity of the characters, in particular the crew of the Hoi Poilloi - the rovers ship. Some of them are downright despicable. What is nice is that in some contexts characters are good but in others take actions which most would not probably support.

The world of Scarabaeus is painted quite well and it reminded me of some of H. G. Wells world building and was the highlight of the book.

The end third of the book did seem to drag but the finale picked up a fair bit. In terms of the space opera genre I think it doesn't stack up well with others in the genre.