Friday, 10 May 2013

Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon

Zenn Scarlett is a teenage girl who lives on Mars and is training to become a vet who treats alien megafauna. Earth has become extremely xenophobic and has cut off all contact with other planets, fearing alien contamination. This leaves the (human) Martian society decaying, unable to get all the materials that it needs. Zenn struggles with the resentful attitude of the local humans towards her alien patients, the absence of her parents and the apparent development of strange new mental powers, all whilst trying to pass her end of year exams.
I liked this book. It is imaginative sci-fi for a young adult audience. Zenn is a likeable main character, and the various creatures that she treats are wonderfully described. My favourite was the sunkiller - giant flying reptiles that carry whole cities on their backs. It really appealed to the young girl in me that wanted to be a vet! The Martian community has a bleak, western-like feel which I enjoyed and while the plot wasn't a page-turner it was interesting and well paced.
There were a couple of downsides. Firstly, I might have missed it, but I don't think it was explained why the Martian humans couldn't just trade with other planets for the things that they needed. Obviously the technology would be different, but it would have made more sense if they had adapted, although this would have ruined the plot. Secondly, sometimes the exposition was a bit clumsy - too much of Zenn's thoughts explaining things, which dented my immersion in the book.
These things aside, I enjoyed it and I would recommend it to my students who like sci-fi and also as something a little different for those who enjoy animal stories. I am looking forward to the sequel, and hope that it will reveal more of the universe and some more interesting creatures.

Score: 8/10

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