A few weeks ago, Darkcargo announced that Catherine Asaro would be making a guest appearance during AtHomeCon. Contributor Paula Jordon has been working with Ms. Asaro on an interview. Unfortunately, due to the death of an elderly relative, that interview has been postponed. Our warmest thoughts and condolences go out to Catherine Asaro, her family, and friends.
Paula and Lady Darkcargo Beth have been fans of Catherine Asaro’s writing for years; wise they are. Paula wrote a very enticing Asaro fan bit a few weeks ago. Below is an intro by Paula, for those of you who have not bent to the coolness of Asaro’s writing. This is followed by my review of her latest book. I am a newly converted Asaro fan myself.
Science fiction and fantasy writers come from all sorts of backgrounds, but with a couple of common threads: skills and interests in a variety of fields, and a habit of thinking that rarely goes anywhere near the box. But few have the range of skills and interests, or think further out of the box than Catherine Asaro.
A ballerina – with a Harvard PhD in chemical physics and twenty-some novels of science fiction and fantasy to her credit. A NASA consultant in futuristic propulsion systems and acclaimed author of character-driven hard science fiction in her Skolian Empire series – whose fantasy novels are carefully constructed metaphors for advanced theories of science and mathematics.
Not surprising, then, that Aurora in Four Voices, a new collection of her short fiction, should touch on such varied topics as art, music, psychology, mystery, and cultural diversity as well as echoes of characters and events from the Skolian Empire.
–Paula S. Jordan
Aurora in Four Voices is not only the title of Catherine Asaro’s book, but also the title of the first short story in this collection. This book was my introduction to Asaro’s works; Paula and Lady Darkcargo have been fans of Asaro for some time and I have to say, they know what they’re talking about. This book was comprised of 5 short stories, plus goodies. There is an intro by Kate Dolan and an afterward by Aly Parsons. There is also a short chapter by Asaro on the math used in her science fiction stories.
On that note, Asaro throws in bits of math and physics through out her tales. But if you don’t get it, it isn’t a big deal. The Story still goes forward. If you do get the math and physics references, then you can feel like a Smarty Pants. Which always boosts my ego just above level for a little while. (And no, I didn’t get all the math and physics, but I had a darn good time trying.)
Jigan and Aurora in 4 Voices
Aurora in Four Voices (46 pages)
For those of you who have read Asaro’s works, you will probably be familiar with the two main characters in this tale – ISC Imperialate Messenger Soz and Jato. Soz is our biocomputer enhanced heroine. She is strong and beautiful, has integrity, becomes slightly flustered in her personal relations. This makes her a very approachable character. Jato is this angry, lonesome man that has been trapped on the world of Ansatz in the city of Nightingale for several years for a crime he didn’t commit.
Intriguingly, Jato isn’t computer savvy. The Dreamers, natives of Nightingale, find him ugly and rarely interact with him. Over his lonesome years, he has made this beautiful bird sculpture – it’s proportions correspond perfectly to a fugue he dreamed up.
Granite Crankenshaft, a master Dreamer artist, is using Jato to create his master art – which is the dark side of the Dreamers – the Aristo. Aristo are the ancestral founders of Ansatz and are now known as the compassionless Traders who are trying to dominate the Universe through slavery.
So here is Soz, merely for a day or two while minor repairs are made to her ship. Plopped right down into a minor mystery of why Jato is being held on this planet for a falsified crime. The chemistry between Soz and Jato was alternately fumbling and steamy. I was sucked in by the depth of character and then swept along by the scenery, and driven to the end of the story by the gripping plot.
Ave de Paso (14 pages)
The location is Southern NM, a most breath-taking locale. The two main characters are native Mayan Mexicans, cousins Manuel and Tina. They are there to mourn her mother, his aunt. In doing so, she sees the Earth God Yahval Balamil. He wants them both and tries to take possession of each in turn.
I could definitely tell there was a bigger story here – each character has history, with each other, and separately. When I finished this short story, it left me wanting more. I especially liked how Asaro caught the nitty-grittyness of the desert.
The Spacetime Pool (72 pages)
Janelle is a strong, intellectual female thrown completely out of her element into an alternate universe where women are valued by the wealth or alliances they can bring to a marriage, and then on their beauty and child-producing ability. Intelligence is last on the list. Dominick and Maximillian are two warring brothers, thrown at each other’s throats over a prophesy made before their births. And Janelle is at the center of that prophesy.
Asaro throws in a few mathematical puzzles throughout the story. But even if you have no idea what Riemann sheets are or the Fourier number, that’s OK. The story still holds together and carries you forward.
I really enjoyed this novella and read it all in one sitting, staying up later than I should have on a work night. When it was done, I felt satisfied, but yet still craving…maybe not an immediate second helping, but more of the same for the next meal. Thank goodness, there were still two more stories in the book.
Light and Shadows (20 pages)
Kelric Valdoria is a test pilot on planet Diesha. Jessa Zaubern is the red-headed engineer for Glint, the test aircraft. Kelric is missing his dead love Cory, driving him to suicidal thoughts.In his grief, he has few interactions with people – his primary conversations being about the new aircraft Glint with his CO or the engineer.
There are a few paragraphs that talk about light speed and how mass increases, etc. Also the time-travel stuff. The concept of the inversion engine was a new one for me, and having it introduced in the middle of an engaging tale means that it will stick with me.
Reading Asaro makes me smarter.
Cities of Cries (88 pages)
Major Bhaajan is hired for a discreet job back on her home world of Raylicon in the City of Cries. She has been engaged by the aristocratic Majda Family. She has to find a missing Prince.
Asaro set up an interesting dynamic by making the Majda a matriarchal society – the women rule the family, the finanaces, and the military. Men are kept secluded and are treasured for thier beauty, nurturing character, and fertility. So, if a cossetted Prince goes missing, it is a big freaking deal.
Bhaajan engages some of her underworld contacts in tracking this handsome MIA down. In digging up her old contacts, she reignites more than one flameable relationship.
I loved all the tech in this story – the little beetle bots, the dampers, the cloaking tech, the weapons, the bio-enhancements. Throwing in a bit of mystery and a bit of romance rounded out this ride to make it a most excellent tale.