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Friday, November 04, 2005

Primary Inversion, by Catherine Asaro

I have now read my second novel by Catherine Asaro, Primary Inversion, also set in the Skolian Empire. (The title is because the means of faster-than-light travel is an inversion, whatever that is.) Primary Inversion precedes The Last Hawk, but there is no compelling reason that they have to be read in that order. Will I read more Asaro? Maybe. Her Quantum Rose got some good reviews, but I haven't seen it yet.

I previously said that I couldn't remember the hero of The Last Hawk. He is mentioned, but never appears, in Primary Inversion, and I have remembered him because of this--his name is Kelric. He has been missing for some time in Primary Inversion. I know where he went, because I read The Last Hawk first.

Sauscony, Kelric's sister, is a more memorable character than Kelric. They, and other siblings, are Rhon. Rhon are very rare, mostly in Sauscony's family. They have several special genes in homozygous condition, and having these gives them psionic powers. They can read minds, to some extent, and are empaths--they feel what others are feeling. I won't give away the plot anymore than that. At least the broad strokes of the plot are quite predictable.

Sauscony's character has to do with several others that she loves, including her parents, and others, and the conflicts that these loves cause.

The Skolian Empire is large--many stars, and is held together by the Skolnet. The Skolnet is a psionic and computer communications network. It depends on the mental activity of three persons for its existence. These are the emperor, Sauscony's brother, her father, and her aunt. One of the shortcomings of the book is that Sauscony's aunt's effect on the Skolnet is described, but the aunt never appears, and is not described, or even named. Another shortcoming, at least to me, is the whole concept of a psionic network. I'm not convinced that such a thing is possible. If it were, why would it depend on only three people, all of whom have other things to occupy their time, and who also have to sleep, for its existence? (One of them is so technically inexpert that he can't log on by himself!) What does it mean, if anything, to be able to visualize a psionic/computer network? (I know that William Gibson, in Neuromancer, and Dan Simmons, in some of his Hyperion novels, and, no doubt, others, have also supposed such a thing, but I have difficulty vizualizing their visualizations) Could it be jacked into, with a physical connection to the central nervous system?

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