Sunday, March 6, 2011

Barque Cats Return!

Catacombs: A Tale of the Barque Cats
by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (F MCC Main)

Reviewed by Jeanne

In the future, spacecraft have cats on board who keep down vermin such as mice who chew on cargo and components that could endanger the ship and its passengers. These highly trained cats also alert the crew of potential hazards such as air leaks. The cats are so valuable that they usually have their own person assigned to keep them well cared for and healthy.

Or that’s the way it used to be, before a panic caused the humans to try to eradicate animals. A whole group of the Barque Cats and some of their humans followed the alien cat Pshaw-Ra to his home planet, a paradise for cats.

As Catacombs opens, Barque Cat Chester and his boy Jubal are beginning to wonder a bit as to whether they jumped out of the proverbial frying pan into the fire. For one thing, this planet is very hot and rather uncomfortable for long haired cats and their humans. For another, their welcome has been a bit. . . reserved. It seems Pshaw-Ra may have misrepresented things just a bit. It soon becomes obvious that there’s something sinister going on and the Barque cats may be just pawns in the struggle for power among the royal cats.

Oh, and Pshaw-Ra has plans to take over the universe for cat kind.

I enjoyed this second book more than the first, in part because the setting is so vivid. The authors did an excellent job of evoking the hot, sandy, arid world—not an easy thing to do when I was surrounded by winter when I read it! The Egyptian imagery and mythology were a plus for me. The scenes in the catacombs were particularly effective. Parts of it reminded me of McCaffrey’s Dragonriders; I won’t say more. Humans and cats work more as a team in this book, with better developed personalities on both sides, and the action scenes are well done. One thing I noticed in the first book was that one character who was supposed to be in her twenties sounded younger than that; in this book, there are no such problems. Both McCaffrey and Scarborough are seasoned writers, though usually they write for adults; I felt there might have been a little bit of adjusting going on in Catalyst which has smoothed out in Catacombs.

This is one of those books that adults or teens would enjoy, and you needn’t have read Catalyst first. Cat lovers will especially enjoy the books, but even if you aren't a feline fan there's plenty to like here. Unfortunately, this appears to be the last book. I for one will miss Chessie, Doc, Pshaw Ra and Chester. I hope many will be inspired to make their acquaintance.

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