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Primary Inversion (The Saga of the Skolian Empire) Mass Market Paperback – May 15, 1996

56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in the distant future, Asaro's debut novel pits Sauscony Valdoria (Soz) and her crew of Jagernauts-bioengineered fighting empaths-against the Trader Empire. Traders are a race that derive pleasure from the amplified pain and anguish of empaths-especially Jagernauts, as Soz knows from personal experience. Soz is also a likely heir to the powerful Skolian Empire, rival of the Traders. On a neutral planet, she meets the Trader heir and discovers he has the unusual psi abilities her race possesses. The two link mentally and fall in love. But will Soz be forced to kill her lover to protect her empire? Though Asaro, a physicist, provides more than enough esoteric detail on faster-than-light inversion drives, cybernetic enhancements and computer networks, she manages to anchor her story with thoughtful, engaging characters and an intriguing vision of the future-and she leaves the door open for a sequel.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In a distant future where three empires battle for control of the galaxy, Sauscony Valdoria, the heir apparent of the Skolian Empire, finds herself inexplicably attracted to Jaibriol Qox, the son of the Emperor of Tarnth and the symbol of everything Sauscony has been taught to despise. Asaro's sf debut features strong male and female protagonists and a well-realized far-future world. Blending hard science with a familiar tale of star-crossed lovers, this novel deserves a wide readership.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Saga of the Skolian Empire (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 2nd edition (May 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812550234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812550238
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Catherine Asaro: Renassaince Woman

Propped against the bookcase in Catherine Asaro's home office is the framed diploma of her Harvard Ph.D. in chemical physics. Nearby, dangling from the doorknob, is a bag stuffed with the tights and leotards she wears when she pulls herself away from her writing for ballet classes. A former professional dancer, this California native has little time for the ballet barre these days. Instead, she's fielding speaking offers and meeting deadlines for her novels.

Winner of the Nebula (R) Award for her novel, THE QUANTUM ROSE, and her novella, "The SpacetimePool," Catherine blends exciting adventure, science, world building, romance, and strong characterization into her fiction. Her latest publication is The Nebula Awards Showcase 2013, for which she served as editor. Her latest books are the novel Carnelians (Baen) and the anthology Aurora and Four Voices (ISFiC Press). Her story "The Pyre of New Day," which appeared in the anthology The Mammoth Book of SF Wars, was nominated for the Nebula Award. She also writes thrillers, including ALPHA and SUNRISE ALLEY.

Catherine's short fiction has appeared in Analog magazine and various anthologies, including "Walk in Silence," "A Roll of the Dice," and "Aurora in Four Voices," which all won the Analog Readers Poll for best novella, and were nominated for both Nebula(R) and Hugo Awards. Her novella, "The Spacetime Pool" (Analog, March 2008), is currently up for the Nebula(R). Catherine has also published reviews and essays and authored scientific papers in refereed academic journals. Her paper,"Complex Speeds and Special Relativity" in the The American Journal of Physics (April 1996) forms the basis for some of the science in her fiction. Among the places she has done research are the University of Toronto, the Max Planck Institut für Astrophysik, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. She was a physics professor until 1990, when she became a consultant and writer.

Catherine also has two music CD's out and she is currently working on her thirds. Her first CD, Diamond Star, is the soundtrack for her novel of the same name, performed with the rock band, Point Valid. She appears as a vocalist at cons, clubs, and other venues in the US and abroad, including as the Guest of Honor at the Denmark and New Zealand National Science Fiction Conventions. She performs selections from her work in a multimedia project that mixes literature, dance, and music with Greg Adams as her accompanist. She is also a theoretical physicist with a PhD in Chemical Physics from Harvard, and teaches part time in the physics department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

In Catherine's youth, the arts were her focus. She studied ballet from age of five, trained in classical piano, and spent hours curled up with books. She successfully pursued London's Royal Academy of Dance syllabus through the first professional level and enrolled at UCLA as a dance major. Then she discovered she loved math and science. "I hadn't studied it much in high school, but at UCLA I ended up taking a lot of science and math," she remembers. "I struggled at first and sometimes I felt like I had no clue. Then one day I read the chapter in my chemistry book on quantum theory--and I was hooked. It felt more right than any other subject I had studied." She went on to earn a BS with Highest Honors from UCLA, a masters in physics from Harvard, and a doctorate in chemical physics, also from Harvard.

Catherine attributes her ability to entertain a broad reading audience in part to her upbringing. "My father is one of the four scientists who postulated that a comet hitting the earth caused mass extinctions, including the demise of dinosaurs. My mother was a student of English literature who loved to write, so from the beginning I was influenced by both the sciences and arts." While pursing her degrees, Catherine continued to dance, founding the Mainly Jazz Dancers and Harvard University Ballet. Perennially on deadline, she now focuses more on her writing than research, but she often speaks on the intersection of science and art at venues such as the Library of Congress and Georgetown University.

Catherine is also proud to coach the Howard Area Homeschoolers, whose students have distinguished themselves in numerous national math programs, including the USA Mathematical Olympiad, MathCounts, and the American Regional Mathematics League. She has served two terms as president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA).

Born in Oakland, California, Asaro grew up in El Cerrito, north of Berkeley. A challenger of rules since her childhood, she explores the boundaries of genre fiction in her novels. "It's like stretching different muscles for dance class," she says, adding that dancing and math aren't as dissimilar as people may think. "There is a beauty in seeing a math problem come together just as there is in performing a ballet. And the discipline it takes to do ballet well is similar to that needed to do math." But no matter what the style of her novels, she writes from the heart. "The flashy adventure is fun," she says, "but the characters mean the most to me, both as a reader and as a writer."

Visit Catherine Asaro Visit her at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on January 7, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Asaro's future universe:

There are essentially 3 civilizations in Asaro's future universe. The Allied Worlds are those established by humans from Earth. The Skolian Empire and the Eubians (the Trader Empire) are remnants of another human civilization (the Raylicon Empire) that left Earth long ago and established a presence in the stars. When the Allied humans left Earth to explore the universe, they were suprised to find that humans were already there.

Allied humans are much like you and me. Skolians, however, are generally empaths, and their civilization is based on a royal family with exceptionally strong empathetic abilities. They are "psions", who can read emotion almost as well as communicating with words. The Eubians (or Traders) literally derive pleasure from the pain of a psion, who transmits the emotion and amplifies it like an antenna. Some of the Eubians are pretty nasty in their taste for the pain of their Skolian pleasure slaves. Other Eubians, however, aren't so bad.

The Skolians and Eubians are always either on the verge of war or are at war, and the Allieds try to be neutral.

This book, in particular, deals with one Skolian heir who is admirable in the way that she is a strong and amazingly capble woman. Sauscony Valdoria (or "Soz"), heir to the Skolian throne, is a Jag pilot, an elite fighter group composed entirely of highly empathetic psions. Soz can deal out some serious butt-whoopin' when she needs to, but her personality is more of an INFP for those of you familiar with the Myers-Briggss personality test. Soz is an introverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving person who is exceptionally intelligent. The plot is well written and intriguing.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By AntiochAndy on October 30, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
PRIMARY INVERSION is apparently the first scifi novel by Asaro. For a first try, it is pretty good, despite some shortcomings. She clearly is well-grounded in science, and the hard scifi aspect of her writing is intriguing and well thought out. The plot of the story held my interest (though I wouldn't quite describe it as a page-turner)and the main characters have enough depth to make you care what happens to them. On the other hand, Asaro's political set-up is, at best, fuzzy. The Skolian dynasty is "decrepit" and there is some sort or elected body, but once you get into the story Primary Valdoria's half-brother seems to rule in a very absolute sense. Further, way too much of this story revolves around special mental powers. The advanced inter-personal links that might flow from nanotechnology and computer implants aren't enough. There have to be special psychic powers as well, and these powers constitute the main difference between the rival Skolian and Trader empires. The special powers should have been left out, in my opinion. The sadism of the Trader ruling class could easily have had other sources. The "Rhon" versus "Aristo" business was, in its genetic origins, obscure and confusing. Finally, most of the action (which is well written, by the way) takes place in the first part of the book. More action in the latter part of the story would have been a plus.
Although PRIMARY INVERSION has its weaknesses, it was engaging enough to hold my interst throughout. For a first effort, it was promising. I will probably be reading more of Ms. Asaro's books. I think most scifi fans will find this an entertaining read.
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41 of 52 people found the following review helpful By kankan on November 5, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Primary Inversion is a heady mix of the worst of romance and the best of hardcore sf. The sadistic Traders and psionically-enchanced Skolians are fighting a continuous war. The two heirs of enemy houses(ahem, Romeo and Juliet?) fall instantly in love and cause a great ruckus. After a quick Sunday morning run-through, that is all I got from the book.
I'll probably be blasted for not giving this book stellar ratings, but hey I'm trying to be helpful by critiquing good AND bad points. I was interested in Asaro's writing because of her background in physics and was hungry for new female science fiction writers. Unfortunately, the plot reeks of immaturity. Grossly adolescent, Sauscony, the older but so sexy heroine, reads like a female version of James T. Kirk whose "heartbender" (umm, shrink) asserts that she is incapable of being with an equal. Bagging little boys is fine, but even that was boring! The galaxy seems to be chock full of strapping Jagernauts, quivering barmaids, and gorgeous little college boys, and a line of Emperors surnamed "Qox". Oh baby, whose Qox is it.. Ur Qox baby! And for "puggings sake", do adults not swear like adults? This is like the Bold and the Beautiful in Space.
There are a few positive points that, with more time and training would have made this book digestable. The underlying technology is refreshingly real and captivating, the ftl drives and antimatter weapons for example. Empathic fighters have cybernetic implants that can block their victims dying screams. The notion of love at first sight between the two heirs would seem silly if not for the fact that they had engineered "Rhon" genes that create pheremones so potent, they rack their potential mates with primal lust (like genetic soulmates).
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