Thanks to Jacoby’s cousin Toki’s human, Julie of Cat Atelier, I was incited to read Catalyst and Catacombs, two “Tales of the Barque Cats” books by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough.
(I had forgotten that Sparkle reviewed these books earlier this year).
The nominative stars of the books, the Barque Cats, are the science fiction version of ship’s cats, future descendants of the same Maine Coons who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean centuries ago. But the real mastermind behind the events that take place in the books just happens to be a cat named Pshaw-Ra, who…well…here is how he is described: “Were he not the bold, heroic, cunning, adventurous, incredibly brave, fast talking, quick thinking, highly skilled, and of course devastatingly handsome cat he knew himself to be, all would have been lost. But thanks to his daring, his farsightedness, his willingness to spend month after solitary month in alien space cleverly tricking passing ships into unwitting participation in his master plan, his race would be saved.”
Chester, a tuxedo tom Barque Cat, calls him “the tawny shorthaired big-eared Pshaw-Ra…”
Oh, yes, indeed. Pshaw-Ra is an Abyssinian, all right. In fact, he’s out to save his race; as he explains to one of his daughters, “Our gene pool, it seems, has become too shallow and we are now too interrelated.” And if that isn’t the sort of problem a future race of intelligent, telepathic Abys would have, I don’t know what is.
And these books are a wonderful conglomeration of some of my most favourite things: cats, science fiction, and cats in science fiction. The first thing I was reminded of were the stories of the Instrumentality of Man by Cordwainer Smith, not just The Game of Rat and Dragon, which the authors acknowledge as an inspiration, but also Norstrilia. And a cat who’s telepathic and flies his own spaceship? How could that not remind me of The Cat From Outer Space. Of course, Jake is somewhat less self-aggrandising than Pshaw-Ra, but they do share an affinity for fishy treats and fraternising with longhairs…
I have to admit, I was also reminded, just a little, tiny bit of Flyball, the Space Cat, Moofa the Martian cat, and the kittens Tailspin and Marty…
There is also some wonderful Ancient Egyptian mythology, as well as little nods to both Paul Gallico and Scarlett, the cat who saved her family.
The only bad thing I have to say about these books is that there are only two of them; I was sad when I got to the last page and had to bid farewell to Pshaw-Ra and the Barque Cats.