Friday, November 1, 2013

Surfing the Human Wave: Cedar Sanderson's Vulcan's Kittens

The very first work of science fiction I read as a kid was The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher. Between that and the Heinlein juveniles, I ended up imprinting on a particular type of children's literature: stories in which the main characters go on fantastic adventures and learn wisdom and self-reliance along the way. Consequently, I found Cedar Sanderson's Vulcan's Kittens quite enjoyable.

At first glance, Kittens appears to be a typical female-targeted fantasy -- complete with fluffy magical animals, warring "gods", and a teenaged protagonist discovering her unusual heritage -- but it is actually a science fiction/fantasy fusion story with a strong fate-of-the-world adventure component.  The narrative implies (and Cedar, feel free to confirm or deny this interpretation) that the "gods" are post-singularity aliens who've mastered the manipulation of space, time, and matter -- and one faction has come to enjoy lording this power over human beings. Thus arises the conflict: said "gods" feel we mortals have become too uppity and have decided it's time to bomb us back into another stone age (in a manner of speaking). It is left up to Linn -- the aforementioned protagonist -- and a group of dissident immortals to stop the upcoming apocalypse.

In the end notes, Cedar says this is her first full-length novel -- and I'd definitely declare this a successful debut effort. The biggest selling point, in my view, is the utter absence of any annoying romance. No offense to any romance fans out there, but I don't like it mixing with my YA. It's become a cliche in the current market for female protagonists to be paired up with male protagonists, and I just don't believe young readers need to be encouraged to dwell on their hormones. What they need is inspiration -- and Linn provides that. Instead of focusing on boys or her body image, Linn learns how to survive on her own. Instead of focusing on high school nonsense, Linn participates in a fight to save the world. And while there are grim moments in the plot, overall the attitude is optimistic. Note to parents: This book is entirely safe to give to your children. (Alas, you can't say the same for many other novels being sold under the YA label.)

My only complaint is that the novel ended before the story was over! I assume this is because Cedar intends to make this a series, but still -- I was a little disappointed not to see a certain key weapon put into use. I would also like to learn more about Cedar's immortal characters -- including the Old Ones, whose point of view we never see. To put it another way: When will we see book two?

Final Verdict: Recommended.     


  1. Yes, Steph, that is precisely right, I'm pleased you caught it. I started out to write a mythology story for my daughter, and found I just couldn't do it - I needed to make them more plausible, so they have come through a rift in parallel universes with tech far advanced of ours. And most definitely that shows in the sequel, which I am working on, and tentatively plan to release in April 2014. I think this will likely be a trilogy, the second book, The God's Wolfling, introduces a young and slightly cranky male protagonist. But still no romance, although, sorry Steph, I may have to bring that into the story by book three!

    1. I don't think either Steph or myself stands entirely opposed to romantic interludes in children's literature (maybe she does but I don't)...what I generally don't like is when the romance becomes more important than the other traits that make up the person...when it becomes the only thing the heroes fight for/care about...or when it becomes too mature too fast. A child-like romance, such as we saw in "My Girl" or "Harry Potter" is one thing. If you write kids having sex,'ll lose us both. :)

    2. By the time the third book comes around, Linn will be 17-18 years old, and that's when I had my first major crush (I was a VERY late bloomer, I know). I am never going to put sex into my children's books, because it's not a children's activity. Sigh… yeah. I have four kids, and I worry about them growing up way too fast and hard in this world.

    3. Yeah -- the reason why I object to romance in YA is that it's often age-inappropriate. Cute My Girl type crushes are okay.

    4. That's a refreshing attitude, that we here at RightFans definitely share. This is why I tip my cap to people who can write good YA...because, as adults, we all tend to view the world through our adult perspectives. It's hard to think like kids again.