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Friday, September 27, 2013


When you're studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school... is a different kind of animal.

Best-selling author Mike Mullin (Ashfall) calls Zenn Scarlett "...delightful, bizarre, and occasionally terrifying." Melissa West (Gravity) says it’s “Utterly imaginative… sci-fi at its best... I couldn’t put it down!” And Temple Grandin (Animals in Translation) says "All future vets will want to read Zenn Scarlett and her adventures with veterinary medicine on alien animals."

The Story

Zenn Scarlett is a resourceful, determined 17-year-old girl working hard to make it through her novice year of exovet training. That means she's learning to care for alien creatures that are mostly large, generally dangerous and profoundly fascinating. Zenn’s all-important end-of-term tests at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars are coming up, and, she's feeling confident of acing the exams. But when a series of inexplicable animal escapes and other disturbing events hit the school, Zenn finds herself being blamed for the problems. As if this isn't enough to deal with, her absent father has abruptly stopped communicating with her; Liam Tucker, a local towner boy, is acting unusually, annoyingly friendly; and, strangest of all: Zenn is worried she's started sharing the thoughts of the creatures around her. Which is impossible, of course. Nonetheless, she can't deny what she's feeling.

Now, with the help of Liam and Hamish, an eight-foot sentient insectoid also training at the clinic, Zenn must learn what's happened to her father, solve the mystery of who, if anyone, is sabotaging the cloister, and determine if she's actually sensing the consciousness of her alien patients... or just losing her mind. All without failing her novice year....

A_TiffyFit's Review: Received an e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Zenn is a young woman who lives on the planet Mars. Yup. There's atmosphere on Mars and living there is possible. The "clear and invisible layer" like the Earth's formed and the people from Earth have now colonized it. As was done on Earth, those brave men and women set forth and populated it and cultivated the land for vegetation, bringing animal stock from Earth for ranching, too. In this tale, humans explored galaxies and other planets and developed relations with other beings from these far off places.

However, as is inevitable for our race of beings, not all humans are happy with the "mixing" with these alien lifeforms. Many, the radicals, wanted autonomy, no contact, however small. Although there are numerous benefits to mankind from these interactions, these radicals do not approve.

Zenn and her family and friends live at "The Cloister" - a veterinary hospital on Mars. Having grown up among multiple animals and beings, Zenn has affinity for them and she loves that there are so many different species of animals from so many different planets. Not only that, but she loves getting ot know the "aliens" from these different planets, too. Hamish, in fact, is one such alien who is also there at the Cloister to learn veterinary skills. He is an insect-like being but no less intelligent than human beings. In fact, I'd say he is better than some human beings because he isn't prejudiced or close-minded like they are. Hamish is a kind soul with a deeply compassionate heart...well two hearts! He demonstrates his character during one dangerous incident where Zenn surely would have died as he rose up to save Zenn's life without a second thought to his own safety.

Mars is in trouble, economic trouble due to the "rift" with Earth. For a long while now there's been no trade with Earth for the necessities and the Mars citizens are suffering harshly. On top of that, their means of transportation through the galaxies and planets is in danger as well. Recently their starships have been going missing without a trace and no one knows who, what, or how it is occurring.

One such missing ship contained Zenn's mother who had been on board to care for the lithohippus who had become ill. The space travels were possible for the Martians and other beings only because of these gentle gigantic animals who evolved through millions of years developing the ability to "jump" from one place to another in a blink -- of a sort. Without them, transportation between galaxies is not a possibility. Many millenniums ago some people, they do not know who as the history is lost now, learned to harness these gentle creatures allowing space travel to be possible and it has been passed down ever since. Zenn's mom, being a veterinarian to all different creatures, was attempting to help the sick lithohippus when she and the creature disappeared right before Zenn's, her dad's, and her uncle's eyes, who were there to see what they could do to help when they had received the news that Zenn's mom wasn't able to come out of the litho's body. She'd entered this being's body via spacepod to help get to the site of the illness when something went wrong and she got lost in it.

Hazardous events happen at the Cloister, one after another. Someone is sabotaging them to close out the Cloister and throw out Zenn's family. When they discover who it is, there is deep shock but the truth is made known.

Zenn sets out to rescue her father, who has been kidnapped for reasons unknown. This and the other recent events force Zenn to grow up fast and for the first time, she leaves the Cloister for unforeseen adventures.

Entertaining and imaginative, this was a fun read. My only complaint is I don't like the unfinished, ending to be continued! :) Luckily, book 2 is due out April 2014...not that long to wait! 

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