Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Quantum Rose book cover The Quantum Rose (2000)
Futuristic Romance in the Saga of the Skolian Empire
2001 Nebula Award Winner
Tor science fiction paperback (left)
cover art by Julie Bell
413 pages

Analog magazine - May 1999 (right)
cover art by George Krauter
features part 1 of 3 of novel serialization
Analog May 1999 Quantum Rose

From the book back cover:
       Kamoj Argali is the young ruler of an impoverished province on a backward planet.  To keep her people from starving, she has agreed to marry Jax Ironbridge, the boorish and brutal ruler of a prosperous province.  But before Argali and Ironbridge are wed, a mysterious stranger from a distant planet sweeps in and forces Kamoj into marriage, throwing her world into utter chaos.

Read for group discussion on July 24, 2002

The Quantum Rose was serialized in three issues of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine: May 1999, June 1999, and the combined July/August 1999 issue.
How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy - stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 3 Barb 3
Aaron 4 Cynthia 4
Jackie 5 Ron 4

Aaron's Commentary  Catherine Asaro - Quantum Rose

Catherine Asaro has done a remarkable thing, creating a competently written novel that meets the conventions of both the science fiction and romance genres.  I don’t mean simply a love story within a science fiction novel, I’ve seen that often enough.  I mean a science fiction novel driven entirely by a romance story, with all the trappings.  Our heroine Kamoj is thrust into an arranged marriage with mysterious stranger Havyrl Lionstar.  We get all the initial fears about what he will look like, until he’s revealed to be a big ol’ hunk.  We get a rival for Kamoj’s affections, harsh-tempered Jax Ironbridge.  We get Kamoj and Vyrl falling madly in love, with plenty of detail on their initial sexual encounters.  We get early impediments to their ability to stay together – his drinking, and the need for him to travel to other solar systems.  Then we get a whole series of annoying and contrived events conspiring to keep them apart.  The formula is simple enough, but few if any science fiction writers have even attempted to write a real romance novel before, and from what this group has seen few if any romance writers are capable of writing passable science fiction.

If I try to stay objective, all I can do is express admiration that Asaro could pull this off.  If I allow myself to be subjective, I must say that it holds no interest for me at all.

I stayed with the romance story for a hundred pages or so, but after that I found it tedious.  If Asaro wrote a short romance, about the length of one of those old Harlequin books they used to print by the thousands, perhaps I could enjoy it.  But this novel’s four hundred pages were far beyond my capacity to appreciate.  I found it a particularly tough slog because I was so often irritated by Kamoj’s docility, even if there was a plausible explanation for it.

Nor did the science fictional elements do much to help me.  Kamoj is a member of a formerly advanced civilization that has fallen back to a more primitive level.  This is a familiar setting in science fiction.  Asaro handles it competently enough, but she doesn’t take the premise anywhere interesting.  Perhaps because I haven’t read any of Asaro’s other Skolian Empire works, I could muster no enthusiasm for the politics between Earth and the Skolians.  Without that, the latter half of the novel turns into maybe the most elaborate trip to meet the in-laws in all of literature.

Another thing that made it difficult for me to get involved in the story as science fiction was that so much of it could as easily have been told without the SF background.  The most obvious example is Vyrl’s drinking problem.  Kamoj and Vyrl may be on another world, but the story element of a woman helping to give her lover the strength to overcome alcoholism would be just as much at home in a real-world setting.  Asaro doesn’t even have the good grace to disguise matters by telling us that Vyrl is addicted to the exotic substance zwyxtol.  For me, this burst the illusion that there is anything meaningful about Asaro’s science fictional setting.  It’s just for show, the backdrop for a standard romance.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Catherine Asaro (1955-    ) is a US writer who combines hard science fiction with romance in her writing. She has a Ph.D. in physics and is a former ballet and jazz dancer.

1997 Sapphire Award for Best Science Fiction Romance Novel for Catch the Lightning
1999 Sapphire Award for Short Fiction for "Aurora in Four Voices"
2001 Nebula Award for Best Novel for The Quantum Rose

Saga of the Skolian Empire (Ruby Dynasty) books:
-- Primary Inversion (1995)
-- Catch the Lightning (1996), sequel to Primary Inversion
-- The Last Hawk (1997)
-- The Radiant Seas (1999), a direct sequel to Primary Inversion
-- Ascendant Sun (2000), a direct sequel to The Last Hawk
-- The Quantum Rose (2000)
-- Spherical Harmonic (2001)
-- The Moon's Shadow (2003)
-- Skyfall (2003)
-- Schism (2004), contains three stories
-- The Final Key (2005)
-- The Ruby Dice (2008)

Near-future science fiction thrillers:
-- The Veiled Web (1999)
-- The Phoenix Code (2000)
-- Sunrise Alley (2004)
-- Alpha (2006)

Fantasy books:
-- The Charmed Sphere (2004)
-- Misted Cliffs (2005)
-- The Dawn Star (2006)
-- The Fire Opal (2007)
-- The Night Bird (2008)

Asaro also writes short fiction. Her novellas "Aurora in Four Voices" (Analog December 1998), and "A Roll of the Dice" (Analog Jul/Aug 2000) were both nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

The anthology Irresistible Forces (2004) edited by Asaro contains the "Ruby Dynasty" story "Stained Glass Heart".

Books of Catherine Asaro - home page
Catherine Asaro - Wikipedia
Locus Online Catherine Asaro (1999)
The SF Site Featured Review: The Quantum Rose
THE ROMANCE READER reviews: The Quantum Rose

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