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CATACOMBS by Anne McCaffrey


by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-345-51378-6
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

When the Barque Cats seek refuge on an inhospitable planet, their problems—and the readers'—are only just starting.

In this follow-up to the team's Catalyst (2010), the large, furry and telepathic Barque Cats are once more in trouble. Having fled persecution at home, a spaceship-load of survivors (descendants of Maine Coon cats) land on the mysterious Pshaw-Ra's planet, Mau, only to find uncongenial desert-like conditions and strange goings-on with Pshaw-Ra's haughty queen. But while the feline adventurer Chester, whose narration alternates with Pshaw-Ra's, immediately finds the strange "treats" given to the furry refugees suspicious, his one-time shipmates seem content to slurp up goodies and be waited upon by human slaves—at least until kittens start going missing. As Chester and "his person," the boy Jubal, track the missing litter into an underground city, they also uncover a web of deception involving the queen, her exiled sister and the sterility of their tawny hosts, who want to use the Barque Cats to breed vitality—and polydactyl paws—back into their line. But while the premise is adorable, the cacophony of names, alternating voices, back story from the previous book, Egyptian mythology (involving mummified cats) and jarringly contemporary cat-health issues (such as feline diabetes) bog the adventure down. Inconsistent tenses—one scene progresses from "Meanwhile the kittens are going 'Mew mew mew' even louder" to "Jubal pressed against the force field"—add even more to the confusion. Unsure of itself as science fiction/fantasy, the book then seeks to fall back on cute kitty appeal, with disastrous results. While both authors have developed loyal followings for their previous work, it is hard to see how this hodgepodge could hold an audience.

Too many half-digested ideas make for an unreadable garble.