This charmer of a story highlights relationships between lifeforms, first and foremost. It’s a YA story filled with intimate bonds that aren’t romantic, family dynamics that are both adversarial and caring, and even a starship that was once… well that would be telling.
The story of Crudrat begins in a claustrophobically small space. Our protagonist works inside a scyther tunnel filled with spinning, sharp blades. Maura has spent half her life cleaning those blades free of ‘crud’, which she feeds to her ‘partner’ a fuzzy, blue, long tailed, crud-eating murmel. I marveled at her grace as she jumped between the blades. Her livelihood and her life depended on her every move. But she’s a growing girl, and is literally outgrowing her job. Which means society is outgrowing any need for her.
So, what will Maura do now that she’s outgrowing her job and her life? She hasn’t a clue, but as she finds her way, we follow along. I always pay attention to how an author chooses to introduce new settings and circumstances to their readers. In Science Fiction and Fantasy, worldbuilding is especially important, as we’re most likely delving into lots of alien territory. I quite enjoy the ‘through the eyes of the protagonist’ method used in Crudrat. We learn about the space station Maura has lived on all her life, called The Wheel, as she races through it after snitching some food. It’s the ultimate ‘dine and dash’. Bit by bit, her world grows bigger, and we’re there to witness it.
Various nuances of language help highlight the differences between species, such as saying “this one” rather than “I”, and the crudratters quirky banter that reminds me of London’s chimney sweeps.
Criudrat is an engaging story. It’s easy to cheer for the good guys and boo the bad ones. I became emotionally engaged very early on. If you love Sci-Fi, you’ll enjoy the Tinkered Stars universe. If you like character-driven stories, this one will leave you feeling satisfied.
Unfortunately, I needed to drop the star rating by a point for the editing and proofreading. It’s not good. I hope the author and publisher are getting enough feedback on this problem to correct the errors (I counted about 40) and give this darling little book the polish it deserves.