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CATHERINE ASARO -- Skolian Empire Series and Other Books

Science Fiction Fans

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1aprillee
Sep 6, 2008, 4:26am Top

I've just finished reading her latest, The Ruby Dice, and since this is the ninth or tenth book in the series, I thought it's high time for Asaro to have her own thread.

Skolian Empire books:
Skyfall (Roca marries Eldrinson)
Schism (Soz in Military Academy)
The Final Key (First Skolia-Trader War)
The Last Hawk (Kelric on Coba)
Primary Inversion (Soz and Jabriol)
The Radient Seas (Soz and Jabriol and war)
Ascendant Sun (Kelric returns)
Spherical Harmonic (Dehya coalesces)
The Quantum Rose (Kamoj and Vyrl)
The Moon's Shadow (Jabriol III becomes Emperor of Eube)
The Ruby Dice (Kelric and Jabriol deal with things and each other)
Catch the Lightening (Althor and Tina)

Non-Skolian sf:
Sunrise Alley
Alpha
The Veiled Web
The Phoenix Code

Please feel free to discuss her SF books here...

Have you read any of them?

Which ones are your favorites?

What do you like about them? What did you dislike?

Much is made of Asaro being a physicist--what do you think of her use of physics in the books? Of her version of FTL travel?

Do you like a lot of romance with your SF--or would you prefer to see less in her books?

What do you think of her world-building? Does the world seem plausible to you? What do you like about it? In her Skolian books: How about the seeding of mankind? Or the effect of psionics? Or the breeding programs? What about the Eubian Empire?

What about her non-Skolian books? What do you think of the plots, characters, worlds and the science in those?

Please feel free to discuss what you please here!

2andyl
Sep 6, 2008, 6:09am Top

I read The Quantum Rose when it was serialised in Analog. Personally I found the form too much like a romance novel. The romance aspect isn't just one sub-plot amongst many but seemed to me as the core focus of the book from what I remember.

3iansales
Sep 6, 2008, 7:24am Top

I read Primary Inversion and found the same - too much panting and pining. The science was handled well, but it was all smothered in a sickly romance sauce.

4DugsBooks
Edited: Mar 17, 2010, 11:46pm Top

I have read none of the books mentioned in #1 however I just got through reading Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson and I have an issue that may be similar to the response begged by the question:

"Much is made of Asaro being a physicist--what do you think of her use of physics in the books? Of her version of FTL travel? "

My issue and concern is how science is presented in SF, contrasted by the tension created by wanting SF to introduce concepts but not be an overly didactic-teaching presentation aggravated by my not wanting to get up off the couch while reading to look something up on the web.

In reading Red Mars, whose characters were all engineers, Mr. Robinson used geologic and engineering descriptive terms in the dialogues of the characters as engineers would when they converse with each other I guess. The terms are used without a layman's description of visual characteristics for example of the terms used to describe geologic features.

I have had several university level geology courses over the years but many of the specialized terms have fogged over. This created great, one foot on the floor one foot on the couch, strife of indecision over whether to look something up immediately or dog ear the page in the library's book for later research and try to use context to divine the meaning for the time being.

So I guess the question is, is SF obligated to be didactic? Should actual science concepts be explained occasionally {accurately!} or should authors be able to have characters "reverse the controls" to break the light barrier? {Movie: The Sound Barrier (1952)}

I like learning new topics when I read but ,by accident, I returned a heavily dog eared book to the library without looking anything up. ;-)

::edited at a later date while sober but didn't help a lot:::

5gilroy
Sep 8, 2008, 3:42pm Top

I read The Veiled Web and was severely disappointed. The blurb on the back cover is nothing like the book, and the only real speculation on technology was a small bit about AI with Nanobots.

It left much to be desired.

6sussabmax
Sep 25, 2008, 11:46am Top

I am re-reading The Phoenix Code right now, so I like that one. It does have a bit more romance than I might like, but it works in this book, since it sets up the triangle and illustrates the many of the issues around sentience in an AI.

DugsBooks, I think SF is not obligated to be didactic. I wouldn't want an author to sacrifice a good story to educate me. I would hope that they would use accurate terminology, and do it in a way that I could figure out what I need to know to understand the plot from context, at least enough to get through. And then I could go do more research later if I am really interested in the concept.

7DugsBooks
Edited: Sep 29, 2008, 11:44pm Top

#6 {A fun way to start a post, reminds me of "Get Smart" or "The Prisoner" series} I waffle back & forth on how much science should be in SF.

I just finished Green Mars, the second in the series, and I think some good ole fashion ideal gas laws should have been explicitly invoked when described stuff like; deep holes on mars where liquid water would not evaporate and ice not sublimate, and directed meteors adding atmosphere instead of casually mentioning "millibar pressure". I would have liked to of seen some actual gas law formulas utilizing current atmospheric conditions on mars or a formulaic explanation of how conditions had to be altered.

Hell, he used some weird assed sociological diagrammatic charts to describe the population that resembled logic charts in a philosophy encyclopedia I have. I think maybe he made them purposely inane so they would pass as high science.

I remember when very young and reading Heinlein {before spacewalks} he described weightlessness in space which helped understand some physics concepts.

BTW thank you for allowing us to edit our posts LT, I got bad science, bad grammar and poor spelling all in one post- an English teacher's red ink wet dream

8sussabmax
Sep 30, 2008, 1:06pm Top

Yeah, I think I agree. It seems like an author could do some explaining without getting bogged down in textbook science. I've seen it done well without digressing too much from the story. I particularly like it when there is a real story need to explain this kind of thing to another character--say when they are talking about business applications, or to a reporter, or something like that. As long as that character is really needed in the story, I think that works, and it does make it even more interesting.

The thing is, SF writers can get away with a bit more exposition than some other genre-writers can, since the people who read SF are obviously interested in science and won't mind.

9CliffBurns
Sep 30, 2008, 1:21pm Top

I HATE exposition and SF writers who fall into that trap are deserving of brickbats. I honestly think most SF fans could give a crap about how many rivets are holding a ship together or the science behind a solar sail. Just tell a good story, commit to the highest possible writing standards and don't insult your readers' intelligence.

10rojse
Oct 1, 2008, 6:42am Top

#9

I also prefer the "this is a basic idea, and this is how it affects us socially and psychologically", because the effects of said invention are far more interesting than the specifics of the invention itself, (particularly since this can become quite dated) but surely hard SF writers have their place too, Cliff?

11bobmcconnaughey
Oct 1, 2008, 8:26am Top

#9. My sentiments exactly! There really are some classics, starting with HG Wells, which both depend upon and explicate recent (for its day and age of course) advancements in science - and both try to popularize some important scientific ideas and work out what their social implications might be. That said if the story doesn't work there's hardly any point doing it at all.

12CliffBurns
Oct 1, 2008, 10:17am Top

Yes,, but obsolete technology looks goofy--when you've got people going to the moon by being fired out of a cannon, etc. Bradbury uses the minimum of tech in his work and, as a result, I think it dates far better and can still be read for its stories and mythic power.

Technology is timely...but it is, almost without exception in SF, rarely timeless...

13andyl
Oct 1, 2008, 10:33am Top

If you are referring to Verne's cannon I think he knew that it wasn't really a sensible scientific idea. But the book is part satire and the cannon fits the satire very well. If you ignore the cannon some other parts of From The Earth To The Moon are much more realistic (for example a 200-inch telescope) and as good as anyone could possibly expect.

14CliffBurns
Oct 1, 2008, 11:07am Top

Not knocking Verne or Wells or any of the early guys, they did what they could with what was available. My point was that technology in Bradbury consists of "The rocket took off..." and his focus was the characters and stories, not making sure his tech was perfect (for its time).

SF writers are no more accurate with their predictions and extrapolations than someone reading tea leaves. For every A.C. Clarke essay predicting earth based satellites, there are 1,000 notions that never occur.

Gobbledegook, as I've written previously, annoys the hell out of me. EXPOSITION. And SF writers are no more allowed to get away with it than mainstream scribes. It's just bad, undisciplined writing when you go on for two pages about the deployment of a solar sail or describing, in minute detail, how tachyon drives work.

Who gives a shit? Get on with the story, man...

15rojse
Oct 2, 2008, 5:32am Top

#14

If you say that about Bradbury, I will try to read at least one book by him now, Cliff. Thanks!

Any other suggestions for authors who take this approach - consequences are more important than the technology that leads to the consequences? I find that this sort of writing is far less dated than the technical approach to SF, and even when the idea presented is discredited, it is still interesting, because the idea can be modified slightly, and still be quite relevant.

16CliffBurns
Edited: Oct 2, 2008, 11:10am Top

Well, with Bradbury you have to read MARTIAN CHRONICLES and, my fave, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES.

Bradbury often gives in to sentiment and treacle but I gotta honestly say no one, writes like him.

P.S. That would be a good thread: non-science science fiction writers...

17bluetyson
Edited: Oct 2, 2008, 11:02pm Top

Don't read Bradbury and expect it to not be dated, rojse, you'll be very disappointed. He was dated when I was a kid.

18rojse
Oct 3, 2008, 6:01am Top

#17

I'm currently on a retro SF binge. If some dated technologies, science, or social memes come up, I find the book interesting in a completely different way - how a book presents once-prevalent ideas.

19geneg
Oct 6, 2008, 10:03am Top

I would suggest also, as I recall it was quite good, but that may be because of its novelty that has surely warn off after fifty years, Rod Serling's Twilight Zone. It may be as much fantasy as SF, but the stories are definitely inventive and fun.

20CliffBurns
Oct 6, 2008, 11:54am Top

You can buy a book that has some of the great short stories that were the basis of classic episodes of "Twilight Zone"--

TWILIGHT ZONE: THE ORIGINAL STORIES

Matheson, Beaumont, Bixby, they're all there...

21DugsBooks
Oct 6, 2008, 3:24pm Top

I remember writing a high school paper on Edgar Allen Poe and you could visualize the spittle flying from his lips as he vehemently gave his opinion of exposition or didactic writing.

My comments were that I like to see some basic science/physics/mathematical laws which are immutable at present worked into a SF story now & then. Good for review or nice to learn for the first time. 90% of the SF I have read was done over 35 years ago so maybe some of that was the "young adult" phase of Heinlein I picked up.

BTW I just read Skyfall by Asaro and it seemed to be a bodice ripping epic, where Jane bangs Tarzan and takes him to New York City, posing more anthropological themes than SF.

The story flows along however and I can think of some former girl friends who would dote on the stuff.

I think the "physics" involved were the extradimensional communications systems used by telepaths described in passing in this book and probably in greater detail in others. I have read that physicists need approx. 10 dimensions to make all their equations work but I had too much trouble with basic physics to offer any criticism.

22chlorine
Jun 2, 12:52pm Top

I'm a little late for joining this topic, but I just discovered Catherine Asaro's work by reading Primary Inversion. I'm about halfway through and thouroughly enjoying it.

Since I feel I will want to read other books from the skolian series, I wanted to ask others whether they recommend reading the books by publication or by chronlogical order?

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