The Cerulean's Secret by Dennis Meredith
Paperback: 285 pages
Publisher: Glyphus LLC (February 2, 2015)
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
Purchase on Amazon
OK, first things first. I have found rather late in life that I am a cat person. I've always liked cats, but didn't have strong feelings about the species until my daughter "gifted" me Hunter, a black cat who was being kept in a foster home until my daughter adopted him to be her college companion. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way, Hunter came to visit my house and ended up staying.
A few years later, Hunter was joined by Daphne, a muted-calico dumpster kitty my daughter, who was then currently at law school, removed from the front of a bodega where the animal had set up a regular begging station. Judging by the kitty's weight at time of pickup, this strategy was not working well, so Daphne was whisked home to my budding law student's studio apartment, which was apparently too cramped to accommodate six pounds of cat. Daphne soon joined Hunter at my house, where the relationship between the two can be best be described as "polite." Hunter like to rough house and Daphne does not, leading to occasional fits of loud hissing and cat screams when Daphne feels her dignity being impinged upon. She likes to take revenge by sneaking up on Hunter and whacking him on the back of his head with her paw when he's not watching. Both of them feel it is their inalienable right to walk all over me when I'm laying in bed, then snuggle up to my side (Hunter left, Daphne right), and take a nap.
Thus, when I was asked to review The Cerulean's Secret, a story of a cat genetically altered to possess bright cerulean blue fur, I said yes. Also, the color plays a role in my new novel Selling Steve Jobs' Liver, so that was another inducement (the blue cloud on the cover is cerulean). Finally, much of the book's action takes place in a Bronx milieu set 50 years in the future and having grown up and lived the majority of my life in the burrough, I wanted to see what it would look like in a few decades.
This book was not presented to me as a YA title, but after reading it, that's how I'm classifying it. As I say in the submission guidelines, I'm not the best fit to this type of book, but I went ahead and read the novel and it's a fun, though flawed, experience.
Cerulean is about the adventures of Timothy Boatright, who works as a NYC cabbie and dreams of becoming a writer. He becomes embroiled in the "catnapping" of the Cerulean, a genetically altered cat who because of its color (and other characteristics I won't discuss in the review), is worth a fortune. Powerful forces in this future society have created this cat and powerful forces want it back and are prepared to leave no pile of kitty litter unturned until the Cerulean is returned to their control.
From a Sci-Fi standpoint, I enjoyed author Meredith's speculations about how genetic engineering will enable us to one day create exotic animal chimera's and how their presence will impact society and future markets. We're at the dawn of the age of direct genomic manipulation of pets and other animals, but we can all see that some very different creatures are going to be barking, woofing, and chirping at us in the future.
Much of Cerulean's writing is also crisp and interesting. Here's a sample of what I mean:
It all started on a day I drove my cab like always, and New York stunk the way I liked New York to stink, with the sharp tangy aroma of electrics, the fumes from the gas cars, the aromas of sidewalk food, and the general rich, organic funk of people and the city. As it got hotter, all the great smells just sort of cooked themselves together like a steamy bubbling stew. Everybody immersed in the stew busied themselves acting the way only New Yorkers do. The drivers inched along in bumper-to-bumper Manhattan traffic, cabbies cussing and big traffic -scarred trucks double-parked, with everybody trying to squeeze in on everybody else.
That's pretty good stuff and reminds me very much of Manhattan in August. Of course, being a native New Yorker and speaking of pets, when I was a kid I remember another sort of odor that was baked into the city streets and it wasn't very fragrant. But then the pooper scooper came along and things are better these days.
However, in certain respects, The Cerulean's Secret suffers from the curse of YA plotting. The Bad Guy of the book is a dastardly English ne'er do well who takes control of the company that has engineered the Cerulean from its benign creator, Rozoff. It's a bit hard to take this part of the book seriously when Timothy is able to look up this bit of information about the story's resident Snidely Whiplash with almost no trouble:
I called up Talbot’s bio, and it wasn’t flattering. Boy, it sure wasn’t! His history showed him to be the black sheep of an upper-crust British family, which was ironic considering the animal-making business he’d gotten into. He’d squandered most of his inheritance on drugs, gambling, and expensive yachts. Then he tried to get it back by drug-dealing. Not just nickies, but the really bad stuff.
I mean, just how did the job interview for Talbot go?
Interviewer: So, Mr. Talbot, it says here on your resume that you're a drug dealing Limey mobster. What makes you think you're a fit to the culture here at Rozoff, Inc?
Talbot: Uh, I drowned a kitten when I was twelve?
Interviewer: You're hired!
You can get away with that kind of clunky exposition in YA, but that doesn't cut it for adults. At least not this one.
If I were giving this book stars (which I do not do), I'd give The Cerulean's Secret 3.0 stars as an adult read, 4.0 as a YA title. For the teen in your life, a fun, enjoyable afternoon's read.
Review Submission Guidellines
Want me to review your book? You must join the Rule-Set mailing list and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do NOT use the contact form for a review request; for press and publishers only. Your book can be a proof but ready for sale within 60 days.
Scifi/-fantasy only at this time. Make sure it's been professionally copyedited. If it's not, I'll know in about five pages and will reject the book. I don't mean to be a hump about it, but approximately 40% to 50% of the books I've received have had far too many typos, comma splices, misuse of dependent clauses, etc. (No, it doesn't have to be perfect. Most books have a few typos, including ones coming out of "traditional" publishing.) Your book cannot succeed in the market with such flaws and it's not fair to ask reviewers to read it in such a state.
I'll take a look at YA, but I'm not the best fit to that audience. PDF, Mobi, print all fine. If you have an author website you wish me to link to, please provide the URL. I don't charge and I also don't guarantee a good review!
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