Review: Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon

cover

Rating: *** / 3 out of 5
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian, Mystery, Science Fiction
To be published on May 7, 2013 by Strange Chemistry
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When you’re studying to be exoveterinarian specializing in exotic, alien life forms, school… is a different kind of animal. 

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….

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An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any shape or form.

You want the truth? I’ll give you the truth. The synopsis of Zenn Scarlett didn’t suck me in – the cover did. If y’all follow my reviews, you must know by now how insanely obsessed I am with anything related to space. Paste a picture of the cosmos on the cover of your book, overlay or screen it with warm yellow-orange-red colours, and you got yourself a follower, my friend. Just look at that sweet, sweet baby. I’d love to have a big poster of this book and hang it on my bedroom wall. It would be a spectacular sight.

But, unfortunately, as a book blogger, I do not review covers. They’re simply a bonus okay fine maybe they’re also a factor whether or not I’ll read the book, adding a little touch of aesthetic value to the product. I read the book, and review the content. And this is what I have to say.

For starters, the premise is unique and highly interesting. It does not only take place in another planet and involve intergalactic travel, it has aliens. Alien animals. I found myself deeply intrigued, especially since the only extraterrestrial lifeforms I’ve had the pleasure to watch were from Alien vs. Predator movies and a few others I cannot recall right now, so I was looking forward to this book riling up my imagination.

However, this aspect kind of fell short. Yes, the alien life forms introduced were interesting, but the descriptions of the creatures didn’t reach out to me. Don’t get me wrong, they were all described nicely, but I felt it seemed a little too technical, with big and unfamiliar words as well as scientific names inserted here and there, that I just couldn’t picture them in my head. In the end, the aliens simply became mere sentences and words to me, not a being I could envision and imagine. This really dampened my mood, because they were what I looked forward to the most in this book. To be honest, I do not want to read a paragraph three times over to get what was being said or described.

Granted, I’m not a native speaker, and I guess I could use a little more vocabulary on the technical side, but still. I checked Amazon and it was listed there that the intended audience for this book was 12 years old and above, and I really doubt that the lowest denominator could trudge on those descriptions about aliens,  procedures, and equipment, without consulting a dictionary. I felt that the words could have been simpler to make it easier for non-natives of the English language like me and for those young ‘uns, otherwise, it’s akin to giving us a blank page. What’s there to visualize if you can’t even understand what’s going on in the first place?

The plot, on the other hand, was predictable and simple, but nevertheless enjoyable to follow. So Zenn is living in a human settlement in Mars, together with her Uncle, and studying to become an exovet. Their clinic gets a lot of huge aliens to help and take care of, and this riles up the rest of the humans because they’re (gasp) monsters and pests. It also doesn’t help they have been cut off of all contact with Earth, and are thus limited to the alien planets in the Accord. The clinic has debts to pay, mortgages to worry about, and animals running loose suddenly without any explanation, and oh, yes. She suddenly has this ability to feel the animals. What’s a girl to do, right?

The plot here is easy to follow, and like I said, quite simple. I only feel that it could have been given more shocking events, because it felt as if the pace was really slow, or that things were, majority of the time, uneventful. However, the ending implies a bigger and more sinister plot, and I guess that’s a plus, but it felt totally random in the end because it was like “la la la la nothing’s really happening here oh crap an animal is let loose, oh, no, it’s speaking to me, I’m linked to it!, oh, it’s fine now, aha!, so it was you all along and you did that for what?! How dare you?!, okay, back to normal la la la la” and then suddenly wham! you’re given a twist that spans galaxies and worlds. Um, ok. While that threw me off guard, I found myself to have enjoyed the plot nonetheless.

The world-building was decent, but I felt it could have given a bit more “umph”. When I finished, I still couldn’t exactly picture the human settlement in Mars. Other planets are mentioned, but what they’re like are not totally explained. How the Indras work, though, I thought, was nicely done and kind of made sense to me. If there is a second book (and I am certain there will), I would really want to know what else this world has in store for us. The author has a huge imagination, and I’d love to see more of it.

The heroine, though, annoyed the fricking hell out of me. We’re told that she’s smart, level-headed, and things like that, but throughout the book, her actions and recklessness merely spelled fickle, stupid and annoyingly naïve. How can someone who’s been studying to become an exovet for the longes time, has an “edge, or so she says,be distracted and forget important procedures? Every time she spaced out and forget a thing or two here, I couldn’t help but want to go inside the book and slap the lights out of her. I also hated her stupid Rule regarding no attachments because boo-fucking-hoo! If I have friends, they’ll only leave me! They’ll only hurt me! They’ll only give me pain! Me, ME, ME!Who cares if the most important is the memories, or the connection, or whatever – relationships or opening myself up to people will only make me suffer! Boo-hoo!

T_T 

Really, sister? Really? What the flying fuck, girl? GET A GRIP! THE WORLD DOESN’T REVOLVE AROUND YOU, AND NEVER WILL IT REVOLVE AROUND YOU! Those kind of sentiments are really selfish, and I really wince a lot whenever I encounter such a situation. I also didn’t get her action in the ending. I won’t spoil it, but what the fuck? How could you do that?

All in all, this is not a bad book. Far from it, actually. I liked it enough to give it three stars, and enough to look forward to the second instalment. There were just a few bumps in the road, a few things that caught me off guard, but otherwise, it has a refreshing premise and a lot of promise. I’m sure it will get better; there’s a lot of room for improvement. Give this one a try come May 7!

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Faye

Faye

A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena

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    • FayeFaye says

      Yeah, I wish the heroine had a lot more… erm, spunk. And wit. And common sense. She was the factor I appreciated the least!