Customer Reviews: The Quantum Rose (The Saga of the Skolian Empire)
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on January 6, 2001
Quantum Rose is more than simply a science fiction romance. Asaro devotes considerable time to issues of physical/sexual abuse, gender expectations, societal change in response to rapid introduction of advanced technology, and the responsiblity that those in positions of power owe their constituents.
When Analog serialized the first half of QR last year, depictions of the heroine's abuse (physical and later sexual) by her originally intended caused quite a stir. Rape is a motif that Asaro returns to repeatedly: Soz in "Primary Inversion", Tina in "CTL", and Kelric (too many times to list here). But here it is presented graphically, not as an isolated incident, but in conjunction with brutal physical mistreatment. Long-term abuse is an issue that we tend to down-play because it makes us uncomfortable. Too often we blame the victim rather than the abuser. It is to Asaro's credit that she forces us to look at the ramifications of such behavior for the victim.
Both the hero and heroine serve their respective peoples by acts of extreme self-sacrifice necessitated by desperate situations. Asaro tackles the question of, "When is enough enough?" She also explores gender expectations and how differing worldviews lead to conflict between cultures. She does this much more subtley than she did in "The Last Hawk".
The romance between hero and heroine is intense and satisfying. There is far less sex than in "Ascendant Sun" and "The Last Hawk", and it is portrayed much less graphically. The heroine's planet is believable, although the author should have paid more attention to language and naming practices. If the base language descended from Tzotzil Mayan, then it's unlikely that names would be contractions of English terms (like Lyode from light emitting diode).
The book ends happily insofar as the major problems (you'll have to read the book) are satisfactorily resolved on the hero's home planet. There's a positive spin on introduction of superior technology. I found sections towards the end a bit sterotypical (reminiscent of Oz, actually) and far-fetched. If you've read the other Skolian novels and were curious about the non-military members of the family, this book is your opportunity to meet them.
All in all, it's a fine book, very readable, unsettling at times, and definitely thought-provoking.
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on April 3, 2002
I am a faithful Asaro fan who dutifully buys her hardbacks as soon as they come out. I expect to love her work, and so came to this book with high hopes. I was _really_ puzzled when I realized about a hundred pages into it that it was boring, meandering, confusing, and just plain sub-professional, writing-wise. I am only giving _Quantum Rose_ two stars as opposed to one out of respect for the author, who has done much better with other tales.
Please: if you haven't bought the book yet, consider holding off from doing so. It's not a page-turner, the plot is not compelling, and kudos to you if you can finish it. I could not, and I'm really sad about it.
I have to wonder if multiply-published authors get a free pass with their subsequent books, no matter how bad. I also am wondering if this book was written BEFORE some of the others, as I know Ms. Asaro has published other books in a different order than they were written in. I would not be surprised if she had written this book first, at the beginning of her writing career -- I KNOW she is currently a much better writer than this.
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on December 3, 2007
Kamoj Quanta Argali is the 18 yr old governor of a planet of former slaves. When a newcomer on the world Havyrl arrives to recover from an ordeal which left him half mad, he spies Kamoj taking a bath in a river and falls for her. Impulsively Havryl offers to marry her which causes strife and conflict throughout the region, as Kamoj's spurned fiancee vows revenge.

I looked forward to this novel, but I admit I didn't care for Havryl. The drunken binges, the whining, and his 'tragic past' was a bit overdone. The relationship between Kamoj 18 year old (I don't care how biologically mature) and the Havryl 64 year old guy skeeved me out. I just don't like huge age differences between my romantic couples. At one point Havryl is talking about being a grandpa and described as being a hot-looking 40. Umm.. No.

There isn't much sci-fi in this one except for the revelations about Kamoj's people. I felt this was an okay book, which could've been better.

3 stars.
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on April 20, 2004
"...a science fiction author who is not only a talented writer but an accomplist scientist"; "A deeply romantic novel set in space that was also an allegory for quantum physics..."; and "Wow, what a fabulous story!" I had heard so many wonderful things about the Skolian Empire Saga (and its brilliant author) that I just had to give The Quantum Rose a try.
Catherine Asaro invented a universe in which humans had spread among the stars ages ago through time travel. Some colonies, such as the one on planet Balumil, had been lost to their parent civilizations long enough to forget their origins, regressing into a sort of dark ages as their ancestors' technology slowly faded. Kamoj Argali is a beautiful young ruler of a province on Balumil who is being forced by circumstances into marriage with another governor who could only be described as a sociopath. Without warning Vyryl Lionstar steps in and claims her away from her sad fate; he has fallen in love with her at first sight. In the days to come Kamoj learns some uncomfortable truths about not only her planets' people, but the civilizations beyond. Now, it looks as if Lionstar needs her to stretch her psychological endurance to its limits so that together they can save the Skolian empire together.
I got almost what I had expected from this novel. Yes, it is a romance. Yes, it is science fiction. Yes, it is an allegory for quantum physics, employing clever wordplays and terms to complete the analogy. There is plenty of adventure among the stars, interesting cultural speculation and psychology explored in The Quantum Rose. The problem is, although I am otherwise well-educated I have never taken a physics class in my life and I cannot remember much about high school chemistry. Let's just say that the clever physics allegory flew right over my head, leaving me with...a nice romance that did an abrupt about-face in the middle and turned into a pedestrian interstellar adventure. Maybe if I'd had a better head for mathematics and science I would have found the alleged brilliance in this book more than enough to make up for its lack plot originality. As it is however, I can only judge TQR on its storytelling merit, which was just average in my opinion.
Asaro deserves credit for well-thought-out universe building and unusual insight into the complex relationships between her characters. I think of her writing style as having the potential to become very good, but unrefined here. Indeed, maybe her later books show improvement. The romance plotline was nice and standard, but gratifying to somebody who would like to see more such good sci fi/romance hybrids make it into the mainstream. BUT, unless you're a chemistry/physics/mathematics wiz, there is nothing particularly special about TQR beyond that.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle
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VINE VOICEon March 28, 2002
"The Quantum Rose" is another winner in Catherine Asaro's provocative and compelling "Skolian Empire" series. This one doesn't advance the saga all that far-it's more of a gapfiller than anything else--but it has a kick to it. The tale starts out as yet another take on "the culture that the galactic civilization forgot, and which has regressed" and has gone medieval.
Sounds familiar? But be not afraid, Toto. We're not in Darkover any more. Asaro has a new angle on the old idea, filling it with romance, high tech, low tech, dance, horselike critters (two brands) telepathy, and oh yeah. Quantum physics.
There's enough action for the space opera fans; steamy romance for the romantically inclined; and hard science for those who like their science fiction to emphasize, well, the science (an early version of the first half, we're told, appeared in _Analog_).
At heart, though, the story is about growing up and taking charge, as young Kamoj, torn between two men, Vryl of the Skolians and Jax of her own world, eventually finds love in all the right places, and grows as a person. So, in the end, the story is more about the development of character than anything else. And how many genre novels can you say that about?
There's enough material here for a 1200-page by-the-numbers trilogy, but Asaro, with her lean, mean, prose style, doesn't waste our time--she keeps things down to a reasonable 403 pages (plus appendixes).
This is a must-have for Asaroistas although newcomers would probably be better off starting with _Primary Inversion_ , which led off the series, before they tackle this one.
All in all another example of what science fiction can be in the right hands.
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on April 3, 2002
This was given to me as a birthday present by my best friend and after I read the first couple of pages I called her to say, "What did you give me!" But she wasn't home and I read a little more and I did get into and enjoy it.
The weakest parts of the book are the first few pages and the chapters on Havyrl's home world of Lyshriol. Asaro spent way, way too much time describing Kamoj's home planet's vegetation--from her point of view. Later on you realize that Kamoj's perception of color is most likely different from human normal because she has genetically altered vision that gives her feline pupils and night-vision. So, what does her world look like to Havyrl? And all these colors every where are described as these bright, lovely, fairyland colors like the land of Oz--I would have liked something more low-key and incidental throughout the story rather than whole pages describing to "turquoise tubemoss" and the like.
Havyrl's home world of Lyshriol is described as a sort of happy, happy neverland complete with glitter bubbles springing up from the vegetation as people disturb it. Charming, but after a while, pretty silly, as literally thousands of people are on the march kicking up bubbles.
All the references to language history were difficult to follow and did not contribute to any sense of otherness. "Argali" means "rose", while "quanta" means "quantum"--yet both are supposedly from the same ancient non-English roots? I don't think so. If a writer is going to refer to other languages, it must be done convincingly and with greater skill--otherwise forget it.
I liked the romance, I liked the love triangle, the characters, and I enjoyed the world-building as I began to understand the setting. I immediately found and read _Primary Inversion_, Asaro's first novel in the series and I was very impressed with it and I just wish _The Quantum Rose_ had been as well written. I do plan to read the other books in the series now.
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on November 24, 2010
Like other reviewers, I got this because of the Nebula Award. I guess it was a bad year for "science fiction," because this is a pretty bad book.
There is a chance the plot becomes interesting after the first 150 pages or so, but the writing is so bad that I could not be bothered to find out. The writing is bad on many levels: the prose is wooden and contains many mistakes (such as poorly placed adverbs and the like); the characters are simply Harlequin Romance characters (though not with their depth) at a costume party; the "world building" is like a pre-teen's attempt at a hero comic book; and the dialogue unfailingly unrealistic.
With so many other worthy books around (e.g., The Sparrow, which I finished just before I picked this up), I cannot think of a single reason to recommend this book.
I only gave it two stars because it was not (at least so far as I read) offensive.
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on September 12, 2014
The Quantum Rose, by Catherine Asaro, follows the blossoming love of Kamoj and Vryl, a woman and man from two vastly different cultures on vastly different planets. They’re pulled apart by cultural forces, by diplomatic obligations, by jealousy. They’re attracted to one another on a deep level, they resonate. Also, Asaro reveals at the end of the book that the chapter structure is also a parable for particle physics.

A few thoughts:

- Like Ian M. Banks’ books (Consider Phlebas & Surface Detail are two that I’ve read), Asaro gives us a story within a consistent, much larger galaxy of adventure and stories. This tip of the iceberg approach works well because readers can jump in wherever, and then back track if they like what they see.
- This book has two distinct sections — the first 60% or so takes place on Balumil, where a “Beauty and the Beast” story blends with a tale of domestic violence. The second 40% proceeds to Lyshriol for a tale of political intrigue and passive resistance protest. Personally, I thought the tensions set up on Balumil made for an intense opening, and I think the move to the second planet halfway through is a bit of a cop-out.
- Asaro does a great job of touching on the colonized experience. Kamoj wrestles with feelings of anger over how space-faring cultures are treating her people, Jax is angered by the invaders’ impositions of their legal system, and there are cultural blunders all over the place in the beginning of the novel. Some of it is a little heavy-handed, but it’s a welcome facet of the book nonetheless.
- The domestic violence and complex relationship between Vyrl, Kamoj, and Jax — Kamoj’s jilted fiance — makes for intense reading. It’s not my favorite, personally, but I think Asaro does a good job capturing the complicated feelings people in abusive relationships face. There’s a particularly great scene where people are asking Kamoj what she wants to do with Jax right there, completely unaware (or unwilling to admit) what kinds of pressure he can bring to bear on her.
- Asaro includes lots of great little moments — like when Vyrl reveals that he’s a ballet dancer, but is ashamed of it because on his planet men don’t dance. Kamoj encourages him to do so anyway. Or when Kamoj discovers there is a voice-activated computer in the house and becomes wary that it is watching them all the time (even in their marital bed).

But the biggest little moment for me was when, long after this should have been mentioned, the narrative casually mentions that one group of the people in the novel have differently-shaped hands and feet than do the others (who are basically human, in looks). From page 344:

Eight. So it was natural. At first Kamoj had thought that Lord Rillia, Del-Kurj, Chaniece, and Shannon had deformed hands. But everyone else she saw here had them too. Instead of four fingers and a thumb, they had two sets of opposing fingers, a total of four digits, all thick as thumbs. A hinge down the center of their hands let them fold their palms together, so they could hold and manipulate objects.

This comes out roughly 30 pages after she meets these people. I’m sorry, but if you met a group of otherwise normal people who had hands that folded in the middle and had four thumbs instead of four fingers and a thumb, you would remark on it. Since this section of the novel operates mostly from Kamoj’s perspective (though in third-person omnisicent, mostly), we should have heard about it before this point.

I didn’t really enjoy this book very much — mostly because the romance angle is too heavy in the first half. This isn’t a criticism of the book so much as a note about its place outside my personal preferences. My book club members tell me that the romance elements are more muted in the other books, so I may try another one at some time.
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on November 17, 2002
I bought this book because I had heard it won a Nebula award, but I should have been forwarned by the blurbs that were not from SF sources but rather from the Romance Novel set. This book had a number of major problems. 1) There are a number of major plot holes. The heroine make sacrifices becuase of the love of her country (of which she is queen) but the country and her knowledge of it are hardly developed at all. 2) I had a few laughs over the names of the 2 males in the triangle. Vyrl and Jax. Hmmm... 3) The naming of other characters after quantum states and terms in physics as also a bit of a stretch. 4)The central section of the book is tedious in the extreme, and I thought not terribly coherent or entertaining. Ultimately co-dependent pathologic relationships are a downer. In short if you are a SF fan that likes a logical story and interesting ideas, you may not find this the book for you.
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on November 25, 2000
Asaro has really hit her stride in this new saga in her Skolian universe. She successfully blends not just romance and hard science, but politics, genetics, cultural expectations and change--and gives us complex, fascinating characters.
Her villian is absorbingly complex; as she delves deeper into the ramifications of the Trader culture, Asaro is creating tensions and conflicts within what once were easy villains to hate--but at the cost of complexity. With THE ASCENDANT SUN and now this book, the Traders are coming into focus as individuals, some of whom are beginning to realize that they are part of a culture gone morally bankrupt, if powerful in every other sense. (One wonders what Jax is going to think, once he travels...)
Yes there is sex, all well-written, sometimes harrowing, other times graceful, with scintillants of humor.
Reaching the last page leaves the reader torn between a desire to reread more slowly--and to have the next book NOW!
Highly recommended.
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