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10 September 2006 @ 11:44 pm
Catspaw, by Joan D. Vinge  
Catspaw by Joan D. Vinge

Title: Catspaw
Author: Joan D. Vinge
Genre: science fiction


I read this a couple of weeks ago on vacation, so hopefully nothing has gotten too fuzzy. I've read it before, actually; it's the second book in a trilogy, but I haven't been able to find a copy of the first book (Psion) in ages. Anyway.

It's the story of a half-human, half-Hydran street kid named Cat. Hydrans were a telepathic species, incapable of causing harm to others due to psychic backlash. But regardless, humans were terrified of them, afraid that to have their minds completely open to another being, and upon realizing the Hydrans couldn't fight back, committed near-genocide. Now anyone with Hydran genes is considered a freak, and a freak who's also a menace if, like Cat, they show any signs of psychic abilities, or, also like Cat, look at all Hydran.

In the first book, Cat was snatched off the streets and sold to into a forced labor gang. From there, he managed to learn to use his powers properly for the first time, and was recruited to help stop a terrorist. By the end of the first book, he had lost his powers totally, but for the first time in his life he had money and a roof over his head. It's up in the air as to whether it was an even trade for him or not.

In Catspaw, a powerful politician is being threatened, and her family's security hires Cat on as a sort of psychic detective/bodyguard to find out who is doing it. They provide him with drugs to allow him to use his powers again, a very dangerous thing. He's thrust into a world he doesn't understand, trying to blend in with the richest and wealthiest in the world, while even the politician he's protecting reviles him. It's a tangled web, both in terms of the mystery he unravels and the emotions he must master.

Cat is a fantastic protagonist. He's tragic and angsty, but smart and active enough to stay alive. He fails often and it has real, serious consequences, but he also learns and tries to do what's right. At the same time as he doesn't give a damn what people think of him, he badly wants to be accepted. He's complex and fascinating, and probably one of my all-time favorite characters. (For those familiar with Mercedes Lackey, Cat fits the Vanyel archetype: powerful, beautiful, tragic, and fantastic; but Vinge's writing is more polished. And also, there are no talking horses. Anyway.)

I think it's safe to say that I love nearly everything about this series. Vinge's writing is fantastic, both in this trilogy and in everything else she's done. The only word of warning I'd put on is that the book would probably garner an R rating in movie-form; it contains both violence and rape.
 
 
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(Deleted comment)
sad lizard jackson just wants a friend: Laylaqueenitsy on September 11th, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)
Both series are awesome, but if I didn't know, I wouldn't have guessed they were even by the same person. the Snow Queen cycle (especially the first book) ismuch more about the development of the universe it takes place in with less focus on the characters; the Cat trilogy is all about character. They're both fantastic, though. Vinge is one of my very favorite authors.
Imperius Infernus [Titan]infernus1218 on September 15th, 2006 09:14 pm (UTC)
I have read all three of these books and all of the ones that I could find from the Snow Queen, Summer Queen & Tangled Up in Blue series... and loved them all.

I really did like all of the books, but I think that Psion was so much cooler than Dreamfall... I ended up just being incrediably sad for the main character, like I wished that he ended up with a little bit of happiness sometime.
sad lizard jackson just wants a friend: Cute as a bug!queenitsy on September 16th, 2006 12:19 am (UTC)
Me, too, especially about the end. It's still very well written, but...I really really wish something nice would happen for cat. Sniff!
Teresa "Meepa"meepa on April 22nd, 2007 09:57 am (UTC)
Another Vanyel? I gotta pick those up.

I am now on my fourth set of Last Herald-Mage books.