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Undercity by Catherine Asaro
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I enjoyed this book a lot. 2 things bothered me in it. First the need to say how much the people of the undercity didn't want and wouldn't accept handouts at every opportunity was kinda ridiculous. It made the idea just an empty cliche, an insertion of a kind of propaganda more so than a real trait of any people. The other thing is that through a good portion of the book the main character reacted to this one dude's abs the way Homer Simpson reacts to bacon. I guess a good thing about that is that it's made me do more crunches.

But those are small issues about an otherwise fun read. The book is the start of a series that exists in an already established world with an already existing set of books. I'm not really sure where in that established canon this book sits, or if it should be read before or after any of those. My understanding is that this book took place in the past relative to already published books, and that this book might gently illuminate things in those books. ( )
  LeftyRickBass | Oct 14, 2017 |
If you have run out of Lois McMaster Bujold books to read, Asaro's 'Undercity' is a good next choice. It's got that same kind of space-investigation-military-adventure going on, with engaging characters and fast-moving action.

Set in Asaro's well-established matriarchal Skolian Empire, 'Undercity' introduces her fans to Bhaajan - an ex-military woman who's set herself up as a private investigator in luxurious Selei City. (Imagine her as a somewhat-more-moral detective version of Han Solo, with cyber-soldier bio-enhancements).

As the story opens, Bhaaj has just accepted a lucrative-but-opaque assignment. Little does she expect to be spirited far from her new home, and plunged back into the subterranean ghetto that she barely escaped as a child.

The book contains three almost-separate stories. One links right into the other, but each has a separate focus. In the first, Bhaaj is assigned to find a missing prince. In the second, the plot expands to encompass a weapons-smuggling scheme. And in the last, the human-rights theme that is evident throughout the book comes to the fore, as Bhaaj finds herself taking on the cause of the second-class citizens of the undercity.

Good fun, with plenty of room for more adventures to come...

Many thanks to NetGalley and Baen for the opportunity to read this book. As always, my opinions are my own. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Ah, the Skolian Empire! Where the women are all kick-ass, the men all gorgeous, the architecture stunning, the sexual tension thick, the politics complex, the psions fascinating, the enemies deliciously evil, the technology actually useful.... It's impossible to convey how fun Catherine Asaro's books are, on every level—world-building, character, dialogue, plot, action, romance, technology. I'm quite a bit behind on the series, but when I had the chance to get this review copy of the first book featuring a new character, I pounced. Then I gulped it down with a giant gleeful grin on my face. Undercity follows a female (and kick-ass, natch) ex-military P.I. tasked to recover the runaway-or-kidnapped cloistered son of a aristocratic family. It's not deeply intertwined with all of the complex politics and family relations of the rest of the series, so, if you're unfamiliar with the universe, it's a great place to start. And if you're not already reading Asaro—you should definitely start.

I set the gun on the ground. "You have guts." What an incredible understatement. He had just bluffed one of the most brutal criminals on the entire planet with a water pistol.


I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted text has not been double-checked against the published book because it is not yet available.

This review originally appeared on my blog, This Space Intentionally Left Blank. ( )
  emepps | Jan 23, 2015 |
Do we always have to save the world?

Catherine Asaro has never ranked among my fav authors. One of my gripes is the three-story model she likes. Many of Ms Asaro's books are three linked short stories that together present a complete tale. This is a practical approach to writing SF because while SF is centered on short stories published in mags and collections, single-author books can generate more publicity and income for the individual author. The three story approach means that Ms Asaro can write serial stories that can be sold individually and they can also be put together and sold as a novel written in three sections she calls "books."

This is a practical and efficient marketing move and it also gets Ms Asaro off the hook of doing a long-form novel. But I don't particularly like short stories and the bumps between the book sections are not seamless enough for me to pretend Ms Asaro's books actually are novels.

Which brings us to Undercity.

I love detective stories especially SF detective stories and while the first "book" in Undercity is too short (all short-stories are too short), it is really pretty good. Major Bhaajan (retired) is a private eye based in Selei City on Parthonia. With some reluctance she accepts a job on her home world Raylicon and is instantly embroiled in the culture and politics of the ruling Madja family, an absolute matriarchy. To solve the case Bhaaj must descend into the ancient underground channels that everyone calls "aqueducts" where she grew up. She's been gone a long time and many things have changed. Her friends are still there and so are her enemies and some of each have switched sides. Bhaaj solves the case, of course, and sets out for home. Jump to book two.

At the end of book one, Bhaaj has made the sensible economic and emotional decision to return home to Selei. Jak, her love interest, is considering coming with her, or at least coming to visit for a while. The Madja ask her to delay her departure to continue the investigation because some of the information Bhaaj has already uncovered points toward a leak of weapons and information and possibly treason. Bhaaj agrees and we are off on another mystery set in the aqueducts.

Book two isn't as good as book one. Ms Asaro has started adding extraneous stuff in preparation for book three. In an annoying shift that is not grounded in the story, Bhaaj decides to stop calling the children of the aqueducts "dust rats" because rats are "vermin." Tell that to the 7th Armoured Division, UK, or to people living in the Southwest USA or to parents of "rug rats", or to any other persons or groups using "rat" as an affectionate nickname implying persistence and survival. Ms Asaro suddenly finds it important to tell us that the world of Raylicon is "dying." I haven't figured out what that has to do with anything at all.

Book 3 discards all pretention to being a mystery and doesn't even tie up the loose ends from Book 2. Instead we have a reworked Dune including the puzzle of where Raylicon's water went. Bhaaj organizes the undercity population, saves "her" undercity culture, and sees a vision of the future that is lifted straight from Muad'Dib's head (oh look, another affirmative rat reference). Big yawn here.

I received an advance review copy of Undercity by Catherine Asaro (Baen) through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Dec 10, 2014 |
UNDERCITY is an accessible entry point for readers interested in Asaro's Skolian Empire books. It tells the story of a woman who escaped the poverty-sticken and violence-ridden Undercity by joining the army, has a successful career, retires and becomes a Private Investigator on a different planet. When she is hired, at an extremely high rate of pay, she finds herself returning to the planet of her birth and having to go back to the Undercity she thought she had escaped forever.

She has been hired to track down a missing Majda prince. While searching for him in the Undercity, she runs into an old love and some old enemies too. She also uncovers a plot that has the potential to destroy the culture of the Undercity and destroying the Skolian Empire too. Bhaajan is an interface between the power elite of the world and the people in the Undercity. She finds herself educating her employers about the culture of the Undercity and protecting the citizens from forced assimilation by the residents of the upper city - the City of Cries.

I enjoyed this story about a woman who finds herself going back to a world she thought she had left behind. I liked the way she advocated for her culture which she could do because she has spent years in the dominant culture. I liked the way she handled the culture clash. I liked the rekindled romance in the story. I thought the technology was fascinating. I liked the mention of the psychic powers that has the potential of turning the residents of Undercity into an essential resource for the Skolian Empire even though that made the loss of their culture more imminent.

I look forward to reading more books about this character. ( )
  kmartin802 | Nov 19, 2014 |
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"BOOK ONE IN A BRAND NEW SERIES by Nebula and Hugo Award Winner Catherine Asaro set in the world of her Skolian Empire universe. In the galaxy-spanning future, Major Bhaajan is a tough female P.I. who works the dangerous streets of Undercity. Major Bhaajan, a former military officer with Imperial Space Command, is now a hard-bitten P.I. with a load of baggage to deal with, and clients with woes sometimes personal, sometimes galaxy-shattering, and sometimes both. Bhaajan must sift through the shadows of dark and dangerous Undercity--the enormous capital of a vast star empire--to find answers. About Catherine Asaro's Skolian saga: "Entertaining mix of hard SF and romance."--Publishers Weekly "Asaro's Skolian saga is now nearly as long and in many ways as compelling as Dune, if not more so, featuring a multitude of stronger female characters."--Booklist "Rapid pacing and gripping suspense."--Publisher's Weekly"--… (more)

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