Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club
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
Analog magazine - May 1999 (right)
cover art by George Krauter
features part 1 of 3 of novel serialization
10 Wow! Don't miss it
8-9 Highly 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
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