Friday, April 15, 2011

Superkitties, round two

kw: book reviews, science fiction, space fiction, cats, cat lovers

I reviewed Catalyst last September, the first novel of backstory by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough about the telepathic Barque Cats, which kill vermin, provide companionship and in general guard spaceships everywhere. The second book in the current series is Catacombs.

At the end of Catalyst a space-faring Egyptian cat named Pshaw-Ra has enabled dozens of ship cats to escape a galactic destroy order that is based on a mistaken understanding of the remnants of scarab beetles in their feces. The scarabs came from the super-Egypt located on planet Mau, to which the cats are taken as Catacombs begins.

The focus of this yarn is the culture clash between the ship cats, some of which are becoming telepathic with their chosen "cat persons" due to ingesting the special scarabs, and the cats on Mau, which are regarded as deities. Much of the plot is driven by the machinations of Pshaw-Ra, who is the Grand Vizier to the Queen of Mau. The former queen, Pshaw-Ra's mate, has died while he was gone, and their daughter (of course the vain, evil one) has taken her place. In the middle third of the book, the action takes place in the catacombs attached to an underground city (Mau is quite hot, topside).

A huge, magical serpent that inhabits the underground tunnels has to be driven back a couple of times, and is finally, it seems, killed, but Phoenix-like, seeming death is part of its cyclical life. It becomes space-faring as a cloud of energy-hungry mini-serpents that threatens to extinguish some of the stars in the settled Galaxy.

Wouldn't you know it, the next generation of cats, crosses between the ship cats and the Mau cats, are just the right warriors to eliminate this horde of mini-serpents and save the threatened stars. The book ends with the end of the first battle, successful for the cats, but boding more to come.

With quite a bit of willing suspension of disbelief, the book makes a fun yarn. In the interest of continuing the series, I offer these possible title words:
  • Cataract: More goings-on beneath Mau with its underground river.
  • Cataclysm: Terrible danger for the nascent race of Barque Cats, ending with a hairbreadth escape.
  • Catamarans: An interlude on a more watery world, perhaps with a swimming version of the big serpent.
  • Catatonia: The Cats are threatened by a paralytic syndrome.
  • Catapult: I can't think of a plot line, but I had to include the word.
  • Catenary: Super Cats design suspension bridges (A catenary is also a type of geodesic in a uniform field, which might make more sense with space-faring felines).
  • Categories: The librarian duties of the more literate Cats.
  • Catalogue: A companion volume listing the names and special abilities of the varieties of Barque Cat; sort of like Pokemon catalogue lists.

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