"...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