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    Review of CHANGELINGS by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough


    Del Rey, December 2005

    The sentient planet of Petaybee is creating a new land, pushing volcanic masses up from the ocean floor far from the current land masses--at the ice-covered poles. For now, though, its small population lives with the extreme cold--adapting to it so strongly that only the very young can ever leave the planet, and those unwelcomed by the planet are quickly expelled. When the leaders of the human inhabitants of Petaybee have twin children, there is much celebration--and interest when it becomes clear that the children, like their father, are changelings--silkies who become (intelligent telepathic) seals when exposed to water.

    Near the twins' eighth birthday, a visiting scientist spots them transforming from seal to human and attempts to capture them. The twins are sent into space for their protection, to live with an aunt on a space station. The scientist follows them, however, and the two are plunged into danger. On the space station, they also learn of the other humans in the galaxy, and how many of them are being exploited by the corporations which control access to planets and space.

    Authors Anne McCaffrey (see more reviews of novels by McCaffrey) and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (see more reviews of novels by Scarborough) combine telepathic seals, cute (intelligent) otters, sentient cats, and young protagonists in a story that seems designed to appeal most to young girls. Although the corporations remain a veiled threat, the real antagonist in this story is a scientist who will stop at nothing to learn the secrets of how the twins manage their transformation between seal and human form.

    The opening scenes are a bit labored, as characters use dialogue to give information to the reader more than to each other, but the pace picks up with the twins' fateful meeting with the river otter (Sky), and their confrontation with the wolves. Their time on the space station gives us a glimpse of what McCaffrey and Scarborough see as some of the risks of a corporate-driven future--a welcome change from the corporate-utopian thinking that seems common in much of today's SF.

    The deep-sea otters seem to claim too many pages for the highly limited role they play in the plot of CHANGELINGS. I hope that we'll see more of these beings in the future and that this isn't something that was thrown in and never used.

    CHANGELINGS is a pleasant enough diversion. The concept of a sentient planet is a good one--and worthy of a lot more attention than it gets here (note, however, that CHANGELINGS is a continuation of an earlier series). Girls, in particular, will find the mind-talking and almost uniformly cuddly animals to be appealing. Serious SF readers are not likely to find a lot here that catches their interest, but they're probably not the target that McCaffrey and Scarborough are attempting to reach.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 4/23/06

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