Musing on Quantum Rose

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been listening to the audio book Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro. The novel was first published in its entirety by Tor Books in 2000. And in 2002, it won the Nebula Award Best Novel.  It is the science fiction retelling of Beauty and the Beast which isn’t one of my favorite tales, but I did like the Disney movie version.

Kamoj Argali, is young woman about 19 years-old who is the governor of a poor province. For the last ten year, she has been betrothed to a brutal and sadistic ruler of the wealthy neighboring province named Jax Ironbridge. That is until Havyrl Lionstar a prince of the Ruby Dynasty comes and through a series of miscommunication he ends up married to Kamoj.

Quantum Rose is a wonderful example of the blending of science fiction and romance.  The characters and their situation would not be possible without the science of the story. This was the first time that I chose a novel because it was science fiction and romance.  The fact that it won one of the most prestigious awards in science fiction only highlighted the point that this would be the type of story that I as a writer should aim to create.  I was worried that the romance would be different or somehow “not right”, but it was quite the opposite. Asaro explores the relationship between Kamoj, Jax, and Havryl in universal concepts that have little to do with science and everything to do with humans.

There came a point in the story, where I felt like it should be coming to end, but my iPod was saying the opposite. It was at this point that I Wiki’d Quantum Rose and found out the story has two parts. Truth, had I known at the start this story had two parts I don’t know if I would have picked it. The first half of the story focuses on the romance and relationship between the three. Kamoj and Havryl fall in love then Ironbridge comes in and tries to break them part but the lovers over come and the first part ends. At this point I was ready to be through with the story, after all once the main characters get together what more romance can there be (yes I know, but still). Now that I have come to beginning of a new part it is very hard to continue, but I’m going to solder through.

I like Lionstar. I can even stomach Ironbridge. But Kamoj’s character drove me up the wall. At one point, she pleads with Havyrl to use sex as a way of dealing with his PTSD.  My inner feminist reared up and pushed stop, it took me several days to push play again. Then her behavior when she was kidnapped by Ironbridge had me fast forwarding through sections. The character defects are explained through a complex mix of history and bio-engineering, but it didn’t stop the pain of hearing it. My inner “Girl Power” wasn’t having it.  Her character has changed since the beginning of the story, but I need to see more change.

The story has a very complex back story that deals with social issues, slavery, the ethics of bio-engineering, and Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder of veterans. Asaro does an amazing job of weaving a story where it all mixes together. While science is a key element, don’t worry you don’t need an engineering degree to enjoy it.

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