Thursday, October 14, 2004

Primary Inversion

As I mentioned in a recent post, I am continuing to read Nebula-award winning novels. As I also mentioned, I will only read books in series order.

That caused me to read Catherine Asaro's Primary Inversion, which is the first book in the "Saga of the Skolian Empire." (The author corrected Michael Dirda at the National Book Festival when he referred to it as a series. Since she is not here to correct me, I will continue to refer to it as a series.)

Primary Inversion is what I'd call "Space Opera", which is unusual in "serious" science fiction these days. By "serious" I suppose I mean "award-winning". I think "faster than light" travel has gotten less popular because people finally got it in their heads that it's impossible, and thus more suited to fantasy than science fiction. Fortunately for the genre, Asaro's a physicist, so she's more than qualified to imagine an FTL drive that's just as plausible as most things found in SF books these days.

"Primary Inversion" was enjoyable, but I'd characterize it as a relatively light, fun read. I suppose I will have to wait until Book Six to get to the Nebula, so it's not fair to compare it to other such award winners. I found out during Asaro's talk that The Quantum Rose, which won the Nebula, is an allegory for quantum field theory. That sounded pretty cool, and I told her so when I went to get a book signed. I mentioned that my background was in mathematics, and she said that I should read Spherical Harmonic, which was about the spherical harmonic. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was a number theorist, and thus had no clue what the spherical harmonic was.

I've started Catch the Lightning, the second book. It's set in an alternate history 1987, which is weird in and of itself. Most of the book so far has to do with a poor girl meeting a space pilot from the future. The "Are you really from space?" dynamic recalls almost every Star Trek time travel episode ever. I'm only mildly enthused, and have put the book aside for another book, which I thought would be more promising. But that's another post...

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