Published in 2011 by Baen
So, David Weber decided to make a Young Adult (YA) series.
Yes, a sci-fi author known best for his highly-descriptive military sci-fi works characterized by very long conversations is entering a field where too much violence and too much conversation are both problematic. Well, I thought, this should be interesting.
Weber expanded a short story that first appeared in an short story collection More Than Honor from 1998 as part of the extensive Honor Harrington series. Eleven year old Stephanie Harrington is the main character in A Beautiful Friendship and she is an ancestor of Honor Harrington.
Stephanie lives on the planet Sphinx, a fairly new colony that is part of a star kingdom called Manticore. Stephanie's family has moved to the planet because their skills are needed but Stephanie is bored by frontier life. However, she is intrigued by a mystery that is being reported across the planet - celery is disappearing from gardens and greenhouses across the frontier.
The treecats live a low-tech lifestyle consisting of hunting, gathering and light agriculture. They do not have a spoken language because they are telepathic. They have an rich culture and are able to communicate over relatively long distances with their minds. It turns out that treecats find celery to be irresistible. When Stephanie and the treecate (named Climbs Quickly) meet they form an intense psychic bond, stronger than most mated treecats would experience. Despite Stephanie's utter lack of telepathic skills she is still able to "feel" Climbs Quickly and she knows where he is even if they are separated by miles.
The balance of the book involves the exploration of this bond, their difficulties in communicating (he has no spoken language and she is not telepathic), the dangers facing the treecats by human encroachment (no, this is not a mindless environmental book - it recognizes that human society needs natural resources) and a plot that endangers a band of treecats.
So, how does it work as a YA book? My 12 year old daughter loved it. I liked it. I would think that it is too talkative for most teens and pre-teens, but then again my daughter loved it. What do I know? There is action and to Weber's credit he treats his young readers like intelligent people and does not sugarcoat the tendencies of advanced cultures to overwhelm lower-tech cultures. His treecats are a believable society. I just ordered the second book in the series and I will be sure to read it after my daughter reads it.
I rate this novel 4 stars out of 5.
Reviewed on October 7, 2012.