This is the second in the Zenn Scarlett series, and if you’ll recall, I really enjoyed the first book, Zenn Scarlett. Under Nameless Stars (a beautiful title that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the book) picks up right where Zenn Scarlett left off and it’s recommended that you start with that first book.
When communication with her father ceases, and Zenn fears the worst, she and her friend Liam stow away aboard a (space)ship, Helen of Troy. The ship is powered by a creature known as an Indra, with awesome powers of dimension-transportation. The Helen of Troy is hijacked, transported to an unknown location in the universe (‘under nameless stars’) and it seems that Zenn is the target of the hijackers!
The book moves along very quickly, clearly designed to hold the interest of young adults. Author Christian Schoon does a very nice job of combining the action with the introduction of new characters and building on Zenn’s character. Zenn is still a very well fleshed out reluctant hero. In typical teen fashion, she constantly questions her own abilities yet blunders ahead. In this book, she becomes much more of a leader than she was in the previous book.
I still feel that the idea of an exo-veterinarian is just about the most brilliant concept for a science fiction book. It strikes me as one of the most useful skills to have in an era with interplanetary travel and alien-life-form contact. And at the same time, it is completely understandable how many people would fear such skills or contact with other beings. This concept, along with Schoon’s wonderfully created creatures, still has me enthralled with the books.
Life, and the activities aboard the spaceship/starliner is just a little less believable than the world-building Schoon had done in the first book. Try to imagine, in our current world, an ocean-liner that harbored an aquarium large enough for whales, inside the ship. Now try to translate that, along with house-sized rooms of fiery activity and ‘monsters’ aboard a space-traveling vessel. Difficult. Even for those of us who have thrived on ‘unbelievable’ sci-fi for such a long time.
As mentioned, the story moves along quickly, with action sequence after action sequence, and Zenn and her companions moving from frying pan to fire (sometimes literally) in almost every chapter. I don’t recall this in the first book, and it did feel almost too active, with not enough time to establish characters and plot. We know almost nothing about anyone Zenn partners with. The ship’s captain; Jules, the talking dolphin; even Liam and Katie the Rikkaset take a back-seat (character-wise) in this book. Lots of characters are introduced, many for a few laughs or for their inventiveness, but rarely for any plot-building or character development.
That we learn more about Zenn’s ability to emphatically connect with other creatures, which was developed so well in the first book, is wonderful. For this alone, it’s worth the read. And to follow up on the story of her parents, which was left hanging at the end of the first book, is also greatly appreciated (though even this felt secondary to action). Schoon does a nice job of wrapping up the loose ends in the first book and leaving the door open for another, without relying on unanswered plot points to draw us to the next book.
YA books always seem to walk delicately around the idea of romance/relationships. I get it … teens, hormones, and all that … but I really liked their relationship, until the end of the book when they actually talked about it. Is that just a total ‘guy thing?’ Let a relationship develop as it will or won’t and forget talking about it? Sorry, ladies… I just didn’t think it needed any more!
This isn’t a book for die-hard sci-fi fans, but I do recommend it for any adults looking for a quick sci-fi read, and I definitely recommend it to any YA readers who like sci-fi/adventure books.
I should add … while we try never to judge a book by its cover … the covers to this, and Zenn Scarlett, are beautiful!
Looking for a good book? This sophomore novel in the Zenn Scarlett series is inventive and active and captivating; and a real delight to read!
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Under Nameless Stars
author: Christian Schoon
series: Zenn Scarlett #2
publisher: Strange Chemistry
paperback, 368 pages