The world’s geopolitical balance rests on a genetically modified sea monster and his 17 1/2–year-old trainer. Can she resist the adrenaline rush of a pirate’s life to keep the world aright?
In Skrutskie’s debut, swelling seas and a one-world government rearrange national boundaries. Pirates, quite a few who are born on sovereign flotillas, are the new world threat. The governments hire businesses like the one owned by Cassandra Leung’s mom, which create genetically modified sea monsters called Reckoners to destroy the pirates and their vessels. Cassandra, like her dad, trains the aquatic escorts. On her first voyage, her first Reckoner, a terrapoid—a half-turtle, half–marine iguana hybrid “the size of a football field” and named Durga—is killed while trying to protect her assigned ship from the attack of the pirate leader Santa Elena. Cassandra hesitates too long in killing herself, per her dad’s instruction in order to keep the proprietary secrets, and Santa Elena captures her. Somehow, the pirate leader secures her own marine escort and coerces Cassandra to rear the creature. Even as the author offers pure speculative fiction, she also gives readers a terrifically believable heroine with Cassandra, who makes some all-too-human decisions to survive. Most fascinatingly, the author creates a multicultural world led by two women of color—Asian-American Cassandra and ethnically ambiguous Santa Elena—who are larger than life without resorting to stereotypes.
Personal and cultural complexities distinguish this fresh and fascinating look at a lawless future. (Science fiction. 14 & up)