Saffron Savage, red-haired animal shit-shoveler extraordinaire, lives with her crushed dreams of looking after exotic animals on a backwater world at the ass-end of the galaxy. The zoo owners don’t care for the animals and would rather let them die than pay to take care of them. Only one of three women on the entire planet, her situation is less than desirable.
Seeing a chance to get off that dump and leave her poor life choices behind, Saffron absconds with a rare, highly protected, and equally highly desired animal. A kind of two-headed llama thing called an umemeh. The umemeh is highly sought after because something in its next muscles can be converted into an effective impotence-fixing medicine.
Saffron is her own worst enemy for most of this book. Sure, she is deeply indebted to the galaxy’s most notorious mob boss, who would happily kill her should she fail to deliver. Still, her poor choices and inability to communicate effectively with people are her main issues.
She can therefore be hard to like at times when she’s wallowing in self-pity and recrimination, but she does elicit some sympathy. She is flawed, be she is trying to be better. Parts of this really hit hard, with some fantastic passages where she is deep into her despair, and her inability to trust anyone makes Saffron as a character feel very real.
I always enjoy a ridiculous title, and “The Galactic Zookeeper’s Guide to Heists and Husbandry” certainly caught my attention. The blurb does a pretty good job of describing what you’ll get. I wouldn’t exactly describe it as fast-paced. There’s always something going on, but I think “frenetic” might be a better adjective.
The length of the book took me by surprise. There’s always some disaster or catastrophe going on, and when I thought I must have been drawing close to the end game, I looked at the time remaining, only to find I was halfway through. I hadn’t noticed the runtime was a tick over fourteen hours when I dropped the credit, so this made a lot more sense when I realised that.
The world-building was okay. We get a general understanding of the universe and some of how it functions. Planets or stop-over points with names like the Horse’s Ass or the Hobo’s Towel drop in with no explanation behind their name. The quantum communicators (aka quanta-coms) I liked and how they neatly solved the problems of talking to people many lightyears away.
The narration by Kim Churchill was excellent. No production or quality issues that I noticed, and a good range of voices for all the various characters… even some (well, one) that is particularly annoying… but he’s meant to be an annoying robot, so it suits.
Overall, it’s fun and silly with a sweary, thirsty, rather crass main character on a mission to pull herself out of a terrible situation by swapping one bad choice for another. I doubt I’d rush to give it another listen anytime soon, but I can see myself giving it another go at some point.
One final note – and this is a particular bugbear of mine, so please excuse the rant – but the low-effort audiobook cover art bugs the hell out of me. The rest isn’t as noticeable, but with all the competition out there, it’s the little things that count. Not a deal-breaker for me, but something I was compelled to mention.