Author: David Weber
Publication: Baen (October 4, 2011)
Description: Stephanie Harrington always expected to be a forest ranger on her homeworld of Meyerdahl . . . until her parents relocated to the frontier planet of Sphinx in the far distant Star Kingdom of Manticore. It should have been the perfect new home --- a virgin wilderness full of new species of every sort, just waiting to be discovered. But Sphinx is a far more dangerous place than ultra-civilized Meyerdahl, and Stephanie’s explorations come to a sudden halt when her parents lay down the law: no trips into the bush without adult supervision!
Yet Stephanie is a young woman determined to make discoveries, and the biggest one of all awaits her: an intelligent alien species.
The forest-dwelling treecats are small, cute, smart, and have a pronounced taste for celery. And they are also very, very deadly when they or their friends are threatened . . . as Stephanie discovers when she comes face-to-face with Sphinx’s most lethal predator after a hang-gliding accident.
But her discoveries are only beginning, for the treecats are also telepathic and able to bond with certain humans, and Stephanie’s find --- and her first-of-its kind bond with the treecat Climbs Quickly --- land both of them in a fresh torrent of danger. Galactic-sized wealth is at stake, and Stephanie and the treecats are squarely in the path of highly-placed enemies determined to make sure the planet Sphinx remains entirely in human hands, even if that means the extermination of another thinking species.
Unfortunately for those enemies, the treecats have saved Stephanie Harrington’s life. She owes them . . . and Stephanie is a young woman who stands by her friends.
Which means things are about to get very interesting on Sphinx.
My Thoughts: This was a great science fiction story that should appeal to both boys and girls. Stephanie Harrington comes to the planet Sphinx with her parents. She is twelve. She is disappointed to leave her home planet of Meyerdahl but is eager to explore her new home. However, her parents aren't so eager for her to explore because Sphinx is largely a wilderness with at least two major predators - hexapumas and peak bears - who would find Stephanie very tasty.
Climbs Quickly is a member of an intelligent native species. They have been watching the newcomers to assess their level of threat but haven't exposed their existence. His people are divided between wanting to make contact and wanting to flee deeper into the unexplored interior to get away from the strange two-legs. They are a telepathic and empathic, tool-using species. They also have a weakness for celery.
When Stephanie's mother puts her on the case of the celery thefts she is hoping to distract her from her desire to explore the dangerous wilderness. But Stephanie unexpectedly discovers Climbs Quickly and somehow bonds with him.
Later he rescues Stephanie from attack by a hexapuma after her glider crashes into the forest and she is badly hurt in the crash. In fact, they save each other from the hexapuma as they must fight it off until his clan arrives. In the fight, Climbs Quickly is badly hurt. Stephanie manages to contact her father - a veterinarian - who manages to save Climbs Quickly.
The story is filled with wonder as these two intelligent species try to learn to communicate with each other. They also have to deal with a lot of politics. There are many who don't want to admit the existence of an intelligent species on the planet because it would ruin their plans to sell the land. There are others eager to capture these new creatures either to sell to zoos and private collectors or to dissect to see if they can learn the secrets of their telepathy. Stephanie and her parents need to gather allies to keep their new friends safe from the dangers.
This was an exciting story. Stephanie is a smart and strong character. It is also fascinating to see the human invaders through the treecat's perceptions. I think students who like adventure will like this story. They will also be led to Weber's Honor Harrington series which deals with one of Stephanie's descendants and also has treecats.
The representatives of two intelligent species--one of which had never even suspected the other's existence--stared at one another in the middle of a howling thunderstorm. It was a moment which could not last, yet neither wanted it to end. Triumph and excited discovery flooded through Stephanie like a fountain, and she had no idea that Climbs Quickly felt those emotions even more clearly than he would have felt them from another of his own kind. Nor could she have guessed how very much he wanted to continue feeling them. She knew only that he crouched there, gazing at her for what seemed like forever, before he shook himself and leapt suddenly down and outward.I received this ARC from Amazon Vine. You can get your copy of the book here.