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The Skolian Empire rules a third of the civilized galaxy through its mastery of faster-than-light communication. But war with the rival empire of the Traders seems imminent, a war that can only lead to slavery for the Skolians or the destruction of both sides. Destructive skirmishes have already occurred. A desperate attempt must be made to avert total disaster.

384 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published March 1, 1995

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About the author

Catherine Asaro

101 books642 followers
Blog at https://www.facebook.com/Catherine.As...

The author of more than twenty-five books, Catherine Asaro is acclaimed for her Ruby Dynasty series, which combines adventure, science, romance and fast-paced action. Her novel The Quantum Rose won the Nebula® Award, as did her novella “The Spacetime Pool.” Among her many other distinctions, she is a multiple winner of the AnLab from Analog magazine and a three time recipient of the RT BOOKClub Award for “Best Science Fiction Novel.” Her most recent novel, Carnelians, came out in October, 2011. An anthology of her short fiction titled Aurora in Four Voices is available from ISFiC Press in hardcover, and her multiple award-winning novella “The City of Cries” is also available as an eBook for Kindle and Nook.

Catherine has two music CD’s out and she is currently working on her third. The first, Diamond Star, is the soundtrack for her novel of the same name, performed with the rock band, Point Valid. She appears as a vocalist at cons, clubs, and other venues in the US and abroad, including recently as the Guest of Honor at the Denmark and New Zealand National Science Fiction Conventions. She performs selections from her work in a multimedia project that mixes literature, dance, and music with Greg Adams as her accompanist. She is also a theoretical physicist with a PhD in Chemical Physics from Harvard, and a jazz and ballet dancer. Visit her at www.facebook.com/Catherine.Asaro

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 265 reviews
Profile Image for Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali.
Author 17 books108 followers
April 3, 2013
At the beginning of the year I decided to actively seek out and read SF&F written by women or with women occupying the titular roles. As you may imagine, when I first learned about Catherine Asaro , a female author who writes hard SF while reading the Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction, I was excited and impressed and went in immediate search of books written by her. Aside from being an author and dancer, Asaro has degrees in chemistry and physics from Harvard. I felt immediately assured that her books would give me that blend of believable SF and intriguing narrative I love. However, not until I started to read Primary Inversion did I realize that she can also be billed as a romance author.
This is where things sort of went bad for me.
I’m not sure if this is the point at which I am supposed to hand over my honorary girl’s club membership card, but I have a difficult time with strong elements of romance in my books. This is a personal preference. More accurately, I can tolerate romance if it is tasteful, subtle, and does not make up the bulk of the story. Not quite so with PI, but this is not my only issue with this book.
It’s not that I hate romance… it’s just that I do. Ha. Specifically, I don’t appreciate the over sentimentalized, sappy, UNREALISTIC, heart-rung quality romance novels frequently present us with. Even more specifically, I prefer stories wherein the romance is a happenstance occurrence and not the crux of the tale.
Primary Inversion (PI) is the first novel in the Saga of the Skolian Empire series. PI is a hard SF, space opera, political intrigue and, yes, romance novel. As I typically do with my reviews, I will try to discuss the merits of the book as I see and understand them without spoiling it for those who eventually chose to go on and read it.
PI is written in first person POV in the voice of the main character, Sauscony Valdoria (Soz). Soz is an intelligent, powerful super soldier-type who leads her own fighter squadron. She is attractive and at forty-eight years old looks about half that. Part of her super soldier prowess is due to her many cybernetic implants, but also in part to her genetic make-up. She is Rhon (I still honestly don’t get it) and this makes her, in addition to everything else, a powerful empath. She is funny and spunky, bright and quick witted. Soz is also the sister of Kurj, Imperator of the Skolian Imperialate, and she is next in line to take his place. What this means is that she is old money wealthy and practically royalty.
Her biggest internal conflict is a ten year old psychological wound she carries after having been once kidnapped and raped by an Aristo, a race that derives pleasure from the pain of empaths.
At first I thought it was the first person POV that I didn’t like, but then I realized that in this case, first person wasn’t the issue so much as the character of Soz herself. She is quite the Mary Sue:
• Very Beautiful
• Strangely colored hair
• All men want her
• Even men who don’t like her want her
• An especially skilled pilot/leader/soldier
• Heiress apparent to the Skolian Imperialate
• Practically royalty
�� Wealthy
• Tragic past (rape) she is still traumatized by making her vulnerable at just the right situations
• Highly potent empath (Empathy is her supernatural power further strengthen by cybernetic implants? Although there are others with this power, hers is particularly strong and well-honed.)
• Pretentious name - Sauscony Valdoria? Really?
• Incorruptible
• Nearly fifty but looks twenty-something
• Recognized her true love via ecstasy inducing mind meld

During the course of this book, which spans over a few months, Soz enters into three relationships. The first and most appropriate is with a man who eventually becomes a paraplegic. He breaks up with her so as not to destroy her life and prospects. Of course she was prepared to forego her comfort and her position for him, but... Her second relationship is with a twenty something year old who seems terribly naïve. Their relationship was hardly explored outside of their cuddling and romps. He was her golden haired boytoy. The last relationship was with a twenty year old named Jaibriol Qox, who she met in the beginning of the book. JQ wasn’t just naïve but he was wholly inexperienced and also, being Rhon, had this immediate mental connection with her that meant that they were soul mates. The problem with this was that JQ is the heir apparent of the opposing side a galactic war.
Yes, what we have here is a Romeo and Juliet-ish tale.
I don’t like Romeo and Juliet.
I don’t like my characters perfect and awesome and unflawed.
I don’t like spending an entire book stuck in the head of a character whose stuck on themselves. She spends a lot of time stuck in Woe-is-me-land and I can’t stand that place. Not only that, rape or not, I have a difficult time feeling as sorry for her as she does for herself. As a matter of fact, there was a scene in which, while drunk, she “mistakenly” held a loaded weapon to her head. I kinda wished she would have pulled the trigger. Oh, the misery.
I’d also like to note here that JQ is the much younger male mirror image of Soz. In other words, Gary Stu. See all those Mary Sue traits listed above? Yep. That’s him with the odd adjustment here and there.
So, you’re likely wondering why I finished this book. Well, in Asaro’s defense, and mine, PI presents so many interesting and fresh concepts and ideas that I can’t declare it a complete loss. The problem is that the ideas that I personally found interesting, were either not well developed of weighted in simple yet excessive narrative.
Again, first person brought me too close to this character who I did not care for. I believe that had this been written in third person, despite my dislike for Soz, I could have stomached her.
As far as the SF elements go, there are a ton of detailed technical descriptions that instead of adding to the overall depth of the story actually slowed the pacing. I skipped huge chunks to get back into the fray because at some point I’d just glaze over. Part of the issue, I believe, is the fact that PI has too many things going on. You know, less is more, and all that jazz. We have empathic beings, racial issues (although everyone in this book seemed human and white… don’t even get me started on that), cultural issues, strong military elements, space travel, political intrigue, cybernetic implantation, AI…
About halfway in, I started thinking about McMasters-Bujold with her subtle use of technical verbiage and easy believable romantic elements. I missed that while reading PI. I know it isn’t entirely fair to compare the two authors, but the similarities and the differences are striking, I think, and Asaro could learn something from McMasters-Bujold about subtlety and believable relationship progression.
For me, the crux of the issue is that this story with all of its political intrigue and SF elements, which I’d normally enjoy, appears to have been woven to support these unlikely romances as opposed to the romances occurring as the natural result of what happens when two attractive unattached and compatible people are thrown together. Deus Ex Machina is shamelessly and ruthlessly employed here and in the course of one tale is so over used as to become absolutely unacceptable.
The unfortunate past rape of Soz is a looming element in this tale, as it colors Soz’s future experiences. I know that rape happens in real life, that it can alter how a woman sees herself, how she feels about the world around her and that it colors future relationships. Rape is tragic and horrific and unacceptable no matter what. That said, I don’t object to the inclusion of such a tragic element in a story if employed with the sensitivity it deserves. However, in this case I do resent its use as it feels like a pillar upon which to prop the protagonist whose character is annoying, weakly constructed, and paper thin.

Profile Image for DivaDiane.
974 reviews94 followers
March 9, 2022
This is the first book published of the series The Skolian Empire, but it is not first in the internal chronology. Those two books Schism and The Final Key, I read many years ago and enjoyed quite a bit. Now that this series is offered on Audible Plus, I decided it was time to read at least this one.

I was afraid I wouldn’t remember anything from the duology I had read, but decided it probably didn’t matter since this was actually the first book she wrote in the story. As a matter of fact, virtually everything from those books is told in this one in condensed form. That duology is basically the backstory of this book fleshed out quite a bit.

Another thing worth knowing before reading this book is that Catherine basically writes Romance with a side of Science Fiction. The book has all the trappings of a Romance novel, but because she herself is a physicist, there is also quite a bit of hard Science Fiction included. I suspect one or the other aspect might be a deal-breaker for a fan of one OR the other. If, like me, you don’t mind Romance in your SF, you’ll probably enjoy it. The relationships in this book have a depth and backstory, so that the racy bits don’t necessarily come out of left field. Except when the MC is surprised by one in particular. This is NOT erotica, so the sex happens off-screen, as it were.

All in all, this was a nice diversion and reintroduction to the series. A welcome “something a bit different”.
Profile Image for Lois .
1,867 reviews478 followers
March 12, 2023
Reread 2021:
I did not enjoy my reread the same this time.
Not sure why.
This remains my favorite retelling of a Romeo & Juliet (esque) storyline.

From 2018 Reread:
I still truly love this book.
Soz remains one of my favorite literary characters.
This book introduces you to the world of The Ruby Dynasty. The premise is interesting if clumsy in places. In 4000BCE an unknown race of aliens take human beings from South America and places them on the planet Raylicon. From Raylicon the humans reverse engineer the alien technology and settle the Stars.
Not often do we see Indigenous Peoples of the Americas in space which is really cool.
Also an alabaster enemy who actively captures and enslaves other humans beings, hm.
The science is interesting and the story moves along quickly. The author covers PTSD, generational trauma, domestic violence, incest and difficult/toxic family relationships.
The audiobook narrator was jarring after listening to the last few books in this series (the prequels as technically this is the first book in this series) by a different narrator. Once I got accustomed to this narrator I liked her quite a bit.
Profile Image for Kelly.
274 reviews181 followers
August 15, 2016
Do you ever read the last page first? I do it all the time. A number of people give me a certain look when I admit this. You know the one; you’re probably doing it right now. But really, I can’t say as it’s ever ruined a good book for me? Ursula LeGuin puts it well: “It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” Every book is a journey, and when you put ten or more books together, the journey just gets longer and longer and you never want it to end.

I started reading the novels in the saga of the Skolian Empire backwards. My introduction to the universe created by Catherine Asaro was the twelfth published novel, ‘The Ruby Dice’. Interestingly enough, that novel was also my introduction to Jaibriol III, Emperor of Eube. ‘Primary Inversion’ is the first published novel in the saga and tells the story of Jaibriol’s parents, Sauscony Valdoria and Jaibriol Qox.

Part of ‘Primary Inversion’ is an oft told tale – star crossed lovers – but Catherine Asaro tells it with the compassion I expected. I have read several of her novels in the past and what always draws me back, besides the depth of her stories and the quality of her writing, is the emotional pull of her characters. I like a little romance with my fiction; I think it adds an all too often ignored element to the story. Love is a powerful motivator, which is why so many of the great sagas start with a marriage, and usually one that reaches across bloodlines, politics and in this case, empires.

The novel opens by setting the scene for intrigue, action and the proper start of a story that will take decades and many novels to unfold. As a debut novel, it’s an astounding accomplishment. Sauscony Valdoria is a Jagernaut, one of the elite soldiers of the Skolian Empire. Her chance meeting on a neutral planet with the Aristo, Jaibriol Qox, kicks off a series of events that will change her life and perhaps the course of two very disparate empires.

From the opening tension, where Soz (Sauscony) tries to figure out what is different about the Aristo, Jaibriol, through a battle in space that could reignite the war between Skolia and Eube, the interlude where Soz deals with her past and her present and through the conclusion where she makes her choice, this story kept me enthralled. I don’t often forgo food for a book, but I lost hours with this one, in the best kind of way. It’s hard to describe the plot in any further detail without giving away the surprises, however.

The narrative allows the author to lay the foundations of her universe in an entertaining way. There is a lot of information and history to absorb, but it only sparks the desire to learn more about the world and the people within it. The Skolians are not set up as a shining example of right and their enemies, the Eube, are not set out to be an all encompassing evil. They are close, but chinks exist in the façade. But just as there is light in the darkness, there are always shadows in the light and they are also exposed and explored.

I have ‘Catch the Lightning’, the second novel, on my shelf and I don’t think too long will pass before I pick it up and lose yet another day to the world created by Catherine Asaro. I’ve already read ‘Diamond Star’, the latest novel in the saga. While I don’t need any more encouragement to complete my journey, it is fun to see what’s in store.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
June 24, 2010
2.5 stars. The first book in the Saga of the Skolian Empire. I was expecting to like this a lot more than I did. The basic premise of the series sounded very interesting. The Skolian Empire rules a large interstellar empire and is in a constant struggle with a larger rival empire, the Eubian Concord. The ruling class of the Eubians are engineered to derive pleasure from the pain of others and the Skolian empaths are their most desired victims. Decent world building, decent story, decent book. I just didn't love it.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,202 reviews3,675 followers
March 4, 2023
I have mixed feelings about this. It's got interesting elements, but some things don't hold up very well.

Primary Inversion is the start of a sci-fi series with a strong romantic element, featuring a main character who is an empath and secret heir to an empire. She meets and falls for a much younger man who is the heir to the enemy empire, so it's got a bit of a Romeo and Juliet vibe, but with a lot more hard science fiction.

The sci-fi elements are interesting and you can definitely tell this was drawing on the state of technology in the early 90's when wifi wasn't a thing. I also appreciate (for a book of its time) how it handles the heroine experiencing PTSD and suppressed trauma from an extended period of torture and sexual assault in her past. There are discussions of how that's not something you just "get over" and even though she's now 10 years past it, nothing has healed because she just buried the trauma instead of working through it. However, I did feel like things resolved a bit too easily and she fails to communicate with this man she supposedly is in love with about what happened and how her body is reacting.

The age difference in the relationship is kind of weird even if he is the younger one, and based on other plot points and characters I think this was TRYING to explore issues of power and consent. I just don't know that Asaro was a deft enough writer in this early work to pull it off. But for something written in the mid-90's, it's certainly doing more than what many people were talking about at the time. The other thing I don't love about this is the idea that a certain people group is genetically predisposed to enjoy the pain of other people. It's....not great and smacks of xenophobia.

Ultimately I think this is interesting as a piece of sci-fi history, but I'm not sure it ages very well. I would be curious whether future books improved upon this beginning.
Profile Image for Joy.
1,401 reviews19 followers
February 2, 2014
The first Skolian Empire book stars Soz, aka Sauscony Valdoria Skolia, squad primary, heir to the emperor. The Skolian empire is in endless war against the Traders. The Trader aristocrats have sadism bred into them. To the empathic Skolians, the Traders' love of torture -- their need to torture -- is the ultimate horror. Soz has found, unbelievably, a Trader Aristo who is not a sadist, and now she has an opportunity to make peace between their empires, if she can keep him and herself alive.

I found PRIMARY INVERSION to be swift paced and deeply involving. The relationships within Soz's family are as important as her passionate relationship with Jabriol. Consider the conflicts inherent in a soldier who empathizes with every enemy she kills, an empath who must shield his throne from rebellion and assassination. The family of the Skolian rulers is tangled and explosive. I want to follow all those threads.
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews534 followers
April 30, 2011
Space empire ruled by royal telepaths something opposing empire of evil sexual sadists something soulbond something something boring space battles.

I don’t object to getting some romance in my scifi (or even some scifi in my romance, sometimes). It just helps if one or the other is, uh . . . good. This is terrible, amateurish scifi full of narcolepsy-inducing descriptions of how every stupid little piece of technology works. And it’s also a cardboard romance where all the actual authorial work and interesting character development is bypassed in favor of an instantaneous soulbond. So much easier, you know, when you can skip all the getting to know you, all the building attraction, the growing reader investment, all the self-discovery and important choices to be made, and instead stick in a few paragraphs about how their minds melded, amiright?

Vague gesture at bonus points for attempting to deal with post rape trauma, but just . . . no. This isn't even funny bad.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,042 followers
April 8, 2018
2.5 stars. Interesting world, story, & conundrum with way too many unnecessary data dumps, often in clusters. Might have been better in text rather than audio due to this. Uneven, too. Some parts were quite good, others dreadful, some obviously forced.

The end relied on a a really ridiculous idea that was fairly typical of this. A world leader wouldn't be the first & only person told about the discovery of a new planet by an automated drone. That would be relegated to a team far down the food chain with the expertise to evaluate it. Nor would one of the possible heirs to an empire be completely unknown especially to security people. I thought the mental breakdown part was very well done, although an empath with so much responsibility would likely be better monitored.

I think Asaro is generally a YA novelist. That's not really an excuse. I doubt I'll continue with this trilogy.
Profile Image for Bryan Alexander.
Author 4 books292 followers
August 16, 2016
I love reading space opera, that classic science fiction subgenre. I've enjoyed it since I was a kid, before I even knew the term. As an adult I track the stuff down, hunting for excellent and obscure titles. So I was delighted to come across Primary Inversion in a library give-away, since I hadn't read it before.

I enjoyed the novel, as it gave me many space opera pleasures: space battles! interstellar empires! cyborgs! new worlds! intrigue! ...but after finishing it my mind wouldn't stop picking at the book, pulling at problems, and revealing an ultimately flawed result.

Primary Inversion takes place in the future, where two interstellar empires battle for survival and conquest, respectively. There's also a third, neutral party, which includes Earth, but we don't matter much. The good empire is the Skolians, dominated by an elite family of telepaths. Actually, the Skolians end up looking pretty not-so-good, but at least they aren't the villain Traders. Those guys are run by an aristocratic elite called... the Aristos, and that bunch is genetically bound to be sadistic, as in torturing people by the cartload. Nasty.

The plot concerns a Skolian leader and elite warrior, who stumbles upon a Trader secret, while trying to deal with personal and family issues. Along the way Sascony encounters romance (plenty of it), fighting (ditto), and scheming. You will all notice how I am trying to avoid spoiling things.

So far so good. The novel was also surprising on two counts. First, many reviewers complained that the romance was too big or sappy, and I, as a hetero male... didn't find that to be true. Yes, there's romance (or romances), but they largely made sense, and didn't bloat across the book. The second surprise was that this was mostly a family story, about Sas, her brothers, her father, and mother, and more stuff.

That's where things fell apart.

Because the family is unbelievable in the setting.

Sascony isn't just an elite soldiers. She's one of two heirs to the Scolian throne. Her older half-brother is the emperor. Her father is... the heart of a telepathic internet, and the net can't exist without him. Her mom is some kind of interstellar beauty queen. Her aunt runs the legislature. More, this family contains the most elite, tip-top DNA, which makes them royalty *and* gives them psychic powers.

All right, so it's a novel about royalty. A political novel where all characters are rulers. That makes sense. Except it doesn't. This handful of people, upon whom the fate of one thousand worlds (this # is specified and repeated) traipse around the universe, risking their lives, doing foolish things, all without any protection. We never get a sense of armies or bureaucrats. Although Sas' aunt runs the legislature, there's no sense it actually exists or does anything. There are apparently no media outlets anywhere, because despite these people ruling the empire, most folks can't recognize their faces. There's no sense of how anything gets done.

(Actually, there's a weird moment when we learn about an off-stage character being a seamstress (93). A seamstress in an interstellar empire? What for? Is there automation here? What about trade? Ah, never mind.)

Nothing happens in the Skolian web beyond the wills of these people. There are no political parties, no religions, no cultural differences, no social movements. Primary Inversion is a weirdly private affair, almost a stage play with no budget for extras or sound effects. The effect is ultimately disturbing, a very interior story splashed across a quiet and depopulated galaxy. It's a big childish, in the sense of an infant seeing the entire world as restricted to his or her immediate environment.

Worse, the family are epic Mary Sues (please read here if the term is new to you). Primary Valdoria is beautiful. She looks half her age (we're told, several times). She's brilliant, and physically powerful, and well trained, and romantically irresistable, not to mention part of a glorious bloodline and standing to inherit a chunk of the galaxy. She has no flaws. She did have some awful experiences, which gave her PTSD, and Asaro does a good job of probing this, but it also means a continuous stream of pity parties thrown every chapter. Our heroine is perfect. So's her family: powerful, gorgeous, brilliant, and above all essential to a thousand star systems. Her brother is also a brute (152), but that doesn't matter.

That combination of Mary Sue-ness and family blotting out everything else makes the results very thin by the end. Beyond the heroine's happiness (and you know she deserves happiness, because she's perfect) there isn't much else. The book hints at Skolia being actually kind of vile, but there's no traction there. The villains keep on being villains. Earth, well, doesn't matter.

I know this is the first of a series, and I'm interested in reading further. Asaro created a fun world to explore, and also did some grand scenes. Chapter 6's space battle is damn near perfect. The description of embedded technology and how it alters interpersonal relations is fascinating and ahead of its time. Some of the language games are fun. The data dumps are very efficient (the first paragraph is one, which is daring). I just hope the rest of the series expands the weirdly narrow range of this first title.
Profile Image for Isabella De Oliveira Campos.
49 reviews8 followers
February 19, 2019
One of the best science fiction books (or any books in general) I have ever read! I still remember when I searched about new space opera books to read, and I found this one. The summary on Wikipedia sounded interesting so I bought it. Then I read some reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and got a little scared that maybe it might not be such a good read. Oh boy, how I was wrong! This book has everything: space opera drama, irresistible romance, interplanetary adventure, heavy action, good ol' hard sci-fi with complex scientific concepts and a great protagonist with serious problems that were well developed and explored by the author. Sauscony Valdoria is a gem of a female science fiction protagonist, she felt so real and well developed that she became one of my most favorite female characters in science fiction.

Of course, there is the love story, the romance, which may sound a little melodramatic at times (I could say Primary Inversion is like Romeo and Juliet in space, if Juliet were a cibernetic soldier with PTSD) which may evoke a strong hostile reaction in some readers, but for me the romance was one of the strong points of the story, not a weakness. If you don't like romance in your science fiction, I recommend you stay away from Primary Inversion, but if you have no problem with that I really recommend the book.
Profile Image for Chantaal.
999 reviews104 followers
March 12, 2023
My thoughts are all over the place, I don't really have a proper review for this.

I think the character work her was in turns very strong, and very weak. Strong because when Asaro is having Soz deal with her PTSD in therapy, it breaks down a lot of who she is and why she is, and that helps her make plot decisions that make sense (to a degree). I didn't much like the romance additions in each part of the book because it only ever felt like Soz liked one person - the others just felt like instalove, or instafriendstolovers - but when she was working on herself and dealing with her trauma, Soz was great. Weak characterization came with how Soz was pretty much great at everything ever AND she's sexy AND she's basically a princess AND she's extremely gifted at empathy/cyberspace work/etc etc etc. She felt like she started as an incredible Mary Sue who eventually got filled in with some real character work.

No other characters felt great. I just didn't care about anyone else, to be completely honest. Maybe Soz's father, in the end. They all just felt like they were supporting actors playing whatever role the story needed for Soz.

The plot was fine, but holy hell was it bogged down by the most intense, infodumpy narration I have EVER seen. I don't know if this was a characteristic of 90s sci-fi, but there were pages and pages of just explaining every little interesting thing that the author made up, with no real purpose. Like yeah, tell me all about inversion works...only for the actual mechanics of it to matter in one page at the end. The infodumping absolutely breaks up the flow of the story as a whole. The political plot fared better, at least; I understood decisions characters were making or decisions Soz made to prevent or solve problems. The ending was quite lovely, even if I didn't believe in the romance/character work there.

Really, this was interesting and I'm very glad I tried it out despite having big issues with it. The narrative in the middle of the book that focused exclusively on Soz attempting to face her trauma was fantastic stuff.
234 reviews13 followers
May 21, 2008
Someone pitched this to me as "hard SF meets romance." I was intrigued, but ultimately rather disappointed. The hard SF bits are rather clunkily described (few authors can keep me interested in lengthy descriptions of their technology, particularly if it's an imagined visual/telepathic version of cyberspace...), and the rest of the plot is pretty standard. The only really intriguing concept here is the idea of empaths as soldiers-- the Skolians' most elite soldiers are also usually the most powerful empaths. That's... pretty wacky. Unfortunately, Asaro doesn't do quite enough on the social/cultural end of things (although she handwaves the scientific end of things away with drugs to keep the empaths from becoming overloaded with others' feelings) to convince me. Too bad, I find the concepts of empathy and telepathy intriguing, and few authors do it well.

In terms of hard SF meets romance with some incidental psychic stuff, Scott Westerfeld does a far better job in the Risen Empire books.
Profile Image for Soo.
2,598 reviews265 followers
October 4, 2021

Currently on Audible +

Enjoyed the intimate look into a key figure in galactic politics. I thought the threads of trauma and after effects were well done. A haphazard setup for the series but the pieces fall together well towards the end. I'm curious to see how well the psionic powers will be farther explored in the series. Well, not explored as much as how it is shown to impact the characters and world.
Profile Image for Christine.
Author 13 books417 followers
January 24, 2011
This book featured a number of compelling moments, sandwiched between a few extreme info dumps and techno babble.

To put this in perspective, it has been a long time since I've ventured into space opera, so I might not be remembering genre norms very well, but the first three chapters of this book were really just one long, boring info dump. The problem with this kind of info dump is actually two-fold: First, it was boring to read, and came very close to making me put the book down. (I'd had anything else I really wanted to read waiting for me, or I probably would have.)

The other problem with an info dump like this one is that later in the book, when the information became relevant, I couldn't remember it very well. I'm still not clear on what a Rone is or why it's so rare, or so important for the heir to the throne to be one, or how they've managed to maintain that line given how few of them there are.

This book would have been much, mubhc better, I think, if I had been reading it in print, instead of audio. I could have skimmed the boring bits, and then flipped back for reminders when I needed to know something. I could have skipped some of the longer sections of techno babble altogether, because even though I realize some readers love that stuff -- I'm not one of them.

What I'm interested in -- what interested me enough that I gave the book 3 stars despite the way I just lambasted it -- is the human element. Sauscony is a powerful empath, with borderline telepathic abilities. She is also a warrior, with a computer running through her body and brain. She's got issues -- a few years earlier, one of the enemies captured and tortured her for three weeks. Apparently, the Traders are some kind of anti-empaths who can't feel pain, and they use empaths for sadistic pleasure. So when she meets the Trader Empire's heir, she's understandably wary.

The book includes Sauscony's personal growth, her problems with relationships, some political intrigue, and a bit of a love story, all of which worked fairly well. I admit that I was a bit put off by the 25 year difference in ages between the lovers, but the author managed to make it matter less to me than it normally would have, probably because of their shared empathy.

My only other complaint about this book was the use of the first person in a story that I felt had two clear sides. I'm not really sure why it was told that way, since the narrative voice wasn't that strong (it wasn't bad, either -- my only real issue with it was that I felt the story was half told). The Trader Empire seems so hopelessly evil to me at this point that I almost have trouble believing it -- but I think it's because of the one-sidedness of the story. As much as Sauscony tried to understand some of it when she linked empathically with Jaibriol, it just left too many holes.

I am undecided whether or not I will continue reading this series. If you like space opera, and if you can read this in print (I'm blind, so I don't have the option), you may like this.
Profile Image for Rachelle.
106 reviews6 followers
September 13, 2016
From the synopsis, I didn't think this would be a story told from a First Person POV. I was expecting something more along the lines of "Battlestar Galactica." Instead, everything is seen from Soz's perspective. Soz is a woman, and a soldier, and that made Primary Inversion another difficult book for me.

I was reading Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins at the same time, and due to how much both books hit home for me, I ended up having to take a break from them to read something a bit more light-hearted. Primary Inversion is an excellent example of the kind of mental breakdown many soldiers, including myself, have gone through. While Soz's mental health isn't the only thing in the story, it stood out for me because Catherine Asaro wrote Primary Inversion nearly a decade before the subjects of PTSD and suicide rates increasing amongst Veterans began to make headlines as they came home from lengthy deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

As hard as it was for me to face myself in a Sci-Fi novel, I wish there were more books like Primary Inversion. Reading about Soz was like looking in a mirror, and that's still a rare event for a woman who has been to war.
Profile Image for Lianne Pheno.
1,217 reviews70 followers
August 30, 2019

Peut être pas la meilleure entrée en matière pour un grand cycle de space opéra mais l'univers a du potentiel. Et pour avoir déjà lu le second tome, je confirme qu'il part sur une toute autre direction ensuite !

Quand l’héroïne rencontre son pire ennemi et qu'elle s'aperçoit que celui ci possède les mêmes pouvoirs qu'elle alors que ça semble totalement impossible, c'est le début d'une grande aventure.

En effet celle ci fait parti des Skoliens, un peuple humain empathe qui a été développé génétiquement parlant pour mettre en avant ce fait dans le passé. Ceux qui possèdent encore le patrimoine génétique d'origine sont appelé Rhon. Depuis les modifications génétiques et les sélections ont été abandonnées mais le don est resté, même si les Rhon deviennent de plus en plus rares.

L'empire Skolien est dirigé par la dynastie Ruby, une ancienne caste dirigeante de Rhon qui servent principalement à maintenir en état le réseau neuronal psionique qui fait la puissance de l'empire Skolien. En effet la stabilité de celui ci est assurée par une triade ayant différents rôles mais dont chacun des membres, les Clés, doivent être Rhon pour que cela fonctionne.

L’intérêt de ce réseau vient du fait qu'il est instantané et ne se souci pas de la distance. En cas de guerre et pendant les batailles, cela constitue un avantage certain pour les Skoliens qui l'utilisent à sa capacité maximum.

A la même époque du passé, un autre peuple humain a aussi été développé par les même chercheurs : les Troqueurs qui sont l’opposé total des skoliens, des êtres fabriqués pour ne plus ressentir la moindre douleur, à la base dans le but d'en faire des soldats parfaits. L'élite des Troqueurs sont appelés les Aristos par les Skoliens, ils ont les yeux rouges et sont devenus la tête de l'empire Eubien.

Mais ce que les chercheurs d'origine n'avaient pas prévus c'est que ça créerait une espèce de boucle. Les Troqueurs étant créés pour ne plus ressentir de la douleur, celle ci se transforme en plaisir quand ils la ressentent quand elle est émise par un empathe.
Depuis les Eubiens ont réduits les empathes en esclavage, les surnommant "donneurs" et les font souffrir pour leur plaisir.

Les Troqueurs sont évidemment vraiment en colère du fait que ceux qui, pour eux, ne sont fait que pour être leurs esclaves puissent avoir réussi à créer le réseau psionique, surtout qu'ils en sont eux même privé. C'est d'ailleurs quasiment le seul vrai avantage qu'ont les Skoliens sur les Troqueurs à l'heure ou se passe le récit.

Du coup quand l’héroïne, Soz, membre de la lignée Rubis et une des héritière de l'empire Skolien, découvre par hasard un spécimen d'aristo possédant un physique parfait de Troqueur mais un esprit Rhon (bien caché derrière un verrou mental pour que les autres Troqueurs ne se ruent pas sur lui), elle est effarée. Quand en plus cette personne s'avère être en fait l'héritier de l'empereur Troqueur en personne, c'est la panique.

Les Rhon sont très très rares, même parmi les Skoliens, il n'en reste plus qu'une 10ène, elle comprise. Et les Rhon ont la particularité de pouvoir se lier totalement entre eux (et pas juste superficiellement comme avec les autres Skoliens), de manière a quasiment fusionner leurs esprits. C'est d'ailleurs de cette façon qu'elle a découvert la vérité sur l'héritier aristo, elle a pu voir toute sa vie et ses émotions quasiment en direct quand ils se sont touchés (et réciproquement).
Égoïstement peut être, elle ne peux pas laisse mourir sa seule chance d'avoir un partenaire de son espèce, elle décide donc d'essayer de le sauver ...

La réputation de ce tome en fait une romance de science-fiction. Mais en fait il ne faut surtout pas le lire juste pour la romance, finalement celle ci est totalement anecdotique et n'est pas du tout traité comme un vrai livre de romance. Nous suivons Soz dans son quotidien et si elle passe son temps à se poser des questions sur plein de points, allant jusqu'à voir un psy, à aucun moment elle n'est sentimentale. Pour elle est plus comme une évidence que sa vie se fera avec lui mais elle est aussi très pragmatique, elle ne le connait finalement pas du tout malgré leur lien neural. En plus c'est une guerrière, pas du genre à parler d'amour.

Si vous lisez ce livre pour la romance vous allez être déçu car au final elle est extrêmement plate à cause de ça et ne satisfera pas vraiment les amateurs de romance.
Pour avoir lu le tome suivant je peux vous dire qu'au final ce tome ci ne sera que d'élément déclencheur de la suite qui fera tout basculer. Il n'est pas juste fait pour être une romance.

Pour ce qui est du reste, l'autrice est une chercheuse en astrophysique primée donc je n'ai pas du tout été surprise de voir la clarté des explications techniques des technologies. Pourtant de base je ne suis pas vraiment très fan quand les auteurs partent dans des explications scientifique, je ne suis pas une lectrice de hard science-fiction et je n'apprécie pas vraiment le genre (sauf exception).
Mais ici ça passe vraiment tout seul, j'ai tout de suite compris vers quoi nous dirigeait l'autrice et je ne me suis pas du tout sentie perdue.

Pour moi ce tome est un peu bancal, ce n'est pas une romance qui satisfera les amateurs de romance et pourtant l'intrigue tournant principalement autour de la rencontre entre les deux personnages principaux et se terminant par une relation, ça sera surement déjà trop une romance pour ceux qui n'aiment pas en lire.

J'ai aussi découvert peu après le début que j'avais surement déjà lu ce roman il y a des années. Ça ne m'étonne pas vraiment vu que le poche traînait dans ma bibliothèque depuis 15 ans. J'ai tout de même redécouvert avec plaisir cet univers dont je ne me souvenais de plus grand chose en dehors des empathes et des aristos aux yeux rouges.
L'univers a énormément de potentiel et je me suis attaché à Soz, j'ai envie de savoir ce qui va lui arriver plus tard. Vu que j'ai déjà lu la suite ça ne sera pas une surprise si je dis que je lirais la suite de cette saga avec plaisir (et je peux déjà vous dire que le second a été une grande réussite, bien mieux que celui ci !).

Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,537 followers
July 30, 2012
Great start to Asaro's Skolian Empire saga. Published in 1996, it has a nice balance between hard sci-fi and space opera themes and development of a sensitive but tough telepathic character, Soz (Sauscony Valdoria) struggling to find love and human connections in the face of emotional isolation as both a military pilot and heir to the heriditary throne of empaths. As a physicist, Asaro is able to put her own innovative twists on the rendering of faster-than-light space travel, artificial intelligence, and cybernetic enhancements. The key to Skolian's power in the "cybernet" for telepathic communication is also an interesting premise. That the empire of the Traders are evil slave holders driven to sadistic pleasure from the pain of others is unfortunately hokey to me. The dangerous love that develops between Soz and the heir to the Trader empire and the intrigue that follows to avert the Trader's gaining an advantage in the war is a satisfying blend of personal and political action.
Profile Image for Carolyn F..
3,422 reviews51 followers
December 11, 2012
I love sci-fi romance books but this one left me confused. I had no idea who the heroine really loved and the guy she ended up with seemed fine but unlike the book's blurb, I didn't see that instant love connection myself. I'll read the next book in the series because I heard this series is good. I hope so.
Profile Image for Contrarius.
621 reviews90 followers
December 20, 2015
Catherine Asaro knows her physics, and she tries to use her knowledge to inject believability and a sense of "hard scifi"ness to this story. Unfortunately, what she ends up mostly doing is destroying the pacing and boring her readers.

Seriously, there is WAAAAY too much exposition and telling in this book. I'll admit that she works hard at explaining the science of things, and she creates lots of hooks for future stories in the series, but she ends up with a plot that often plods instead of flying.

And the opera part of her space opera often breaks down into cheese, which was extremely annoying. I started rolling my eyes when characters actually spoke the lines "Don’t be a fool!" and "No, it couldn’t be!" I mean, seriously? At other points, we had foreshadowing battering us over the heads, and at still other points, we had essentially fated mates (one of my least favorite fantasy tropes) nearly making me gag.

And did I mention the extremely Mary Sue MC? She's 48 but looks in her twenties, gorgeous, brilliant, one of the rarest genetic types in the known universe, making her one of the strongest known empaths and telepaths, one of the military's best pilots, a "Primary" (a rank supposedly equivalent to an admiral, even though she only commands three other pilots), second in line to an empire that spans thousands of planets, AND with a traumatic past. Waaaaaaaay overpowered, and this is supposed to be sf rather than fantasy!

And the logic problems and holes throughout -- yikes. I won't even waste time going over them, except to say that if you go to the trouble to explain at length about how a certain mode of space travel will result in the travelers spending years in flight while the "stationary" world only experiences minutes, and then you actually have a traveler doing exactly that, you'd bloody well better actually show that the traveler has aged substantially while in flight, and that the injuries he got before his trip are long healed once he comes out of flight!

So... yeah.

I did kind of like the psychiatrist and some of the therapy sessions, and I thought the love interest could have been interesting -- but was mostly wasted. In fact, most of the good ideas here were mostly wasted. Sigh.

The audio version was pretty good, at least. The narrator, Anna Fields, is a plainspoken, no-nonsense sort of narrator whom I've enjoyed before, and she was a good choice for this story. No major complaints there, though I wasn't fond of the voicing she used for the male characters.

2 stars.
Profile Image for Laurie  (barksbooks).
1,751 reviews698 followers
October 12, 2010
I read this over a decade ago & re-listened to it on audio while cleaning the house, exercising, cooking & driving to and from work and I didn't find it nearly as enthralling as I did the first time around. Maybe because I'd read it before or maybe because now I'm an oldish crab? I don't know, either way I kept wishing it would hurry up and end because I wanted to listen to something else. It's strange, I remembered this book as being emotionally draining and the torture scenes grueling but this time around I thought they were very sparse and didn't have that jarring effect they once did and I felt detached from the characters for the most part. Of course I could be confusing this with another of the Asaro books I read a decade ago.

October 2010 Just located my original 1998 review and I gave this five stars.

I liked Sauscony immediately. Her wry sense of humor, her leadership abilities and her emotional strength awed me and despite being full of high tech hardware she was easy to like and so very human. Her emotional battles were as gripping as the ones on the battlefield. It's that blend of emotional turmoil, politics, genuine, fully fleshed out characters that you can care about and the exciting action packed plot that made this such a gripping read for me. I've got to admit though that some of the technical aspects of the book did go way over my head but I enjoyed the book so very much and highly recommend it.
Profile Image for LindaJ^.
2,169 reviews6 followers
October 14, 2013
This was a fun read. There are 3 human based races that occupy various planets. Two are at war and they are human species resulting from attempts to create superhumans. One has no ability to feel empathy and gets pleasure from the pain of others. The other has a superior group of warriors -- enhanced by technology and able to communicate mentally by sensing others. The third that is not a war - the Allies - are unaltered. The male and female who are the individuals picked to secede the leaders of the warring races (one a female warrior and the other a sort of genetically-engineered son of the current ruler)fall in love. Lots of battles, bloodshed, and torture later, they seek sanctuary from the leader of the Allies and manage to escape to a newly discovered, habitable world that only the leader of the Allies and the captain of the space vehicle know exists. There the book ends so I expect there is a followup!

October 2013 update - I neglected to remove this audiobook from my i-touch and delved into it again. I thought it sounded familar and was sure I'd read it within a half hour. My opinion has not changed - it is enjoyable.
33 reviews
August 4, 2011
I very much enjoyed this book. It is storytelling on the galactic scale. If you enjoy science fiction pick up the book. Cybernetics is at the heart of this far in the future tale, yet even with this science there is political turmoil and struggle. Humans have evolved but the quest for domination by the ruling hegemony is as close as today. Evolution through melding humans with computers brings the ability to travel to far distant planets but the political machinations of certain members of the ruling caste subjugate masses of persons across the galaxy. It is a fast read and the characters are brought to life by Catherine Asaro's deft prose. I am glad to find this author and hope she will add to this wonderful tale.
Profile Image for Shara.
312 reviews26 followers
December 22, 2011
I will definitely be hunting down the other books in this series. Not because of Asaro's writing style by any means, but I like the relationships between the characters, and the setting and overall story arc is interesting enough to keep me reading. I'd definitely recommend anyone who is writing or reading hard SF to check it out--read a sample on Amazon, or go to your local library, or something. Also, if you're a sucker for romance (guilty-pleasures, yo), I think you'll be thoroughly amused.[return][return]For a full review, which may or may not include spoilers, just click here: http://calico-reaction.livejournal.co...
Profile Image for Richard.
1,147 reviews1,042 followers
February 15, 2014
Primary Inversion is a quick, fun read. Nothing profound.

There's quite a bit too much world-building in the first pages, and the amount of pseudo-science babble is pretty extreme. A few of the characters are well conceived, but the villains are stick figures.

The best part, I think, is the portrayal of the psychiatric profession, astonishingly enough.

If the next books in the series were available at my local library, I might read more. But they aren't, and there are too many other books awaiting for me to put much effort into this. Although the blurb of the third book did seem somewhat intriguing...
Profile Image for ReadKnitHoard.
2,810 reviews47 followers
January 16, 2019
Intricate worldbuilding, science that "made sense," compelling characters, emotionally satisfying relationships. My only problem with this book is that now I must read more of the series! Love!

(Romance or not? I don't care, it worked just fine for this romance reader without having to pick at nits.)
Profile Image for Manda.
361 reviews8 followers
May 20, 2009
Cheeky physics
Sappy romance

a price in a tower, waiting to be rescued
a princess to do the rescuing

it speeks to my soul

Things i like:
1) untraditional gender roles
2) crazy fun physics
3) eternal love with vulcan mind melds
4) space battles with overpowered wepons
Profile Image for A B.
1,147 reviews14 followers
April 14, 2020

I see why it's called hard science fiction. This stuff can be hard to read.

This book has one of the most jaw-drop worthy elements I've read in a long time: mankind reached the stars many millennia ago, in present time. We just forgot about it. Those original star settlers further explored the universe, then forgot as well.

So, flash forward who knows how long. Earthers are astonished to find humans already in space. Well, almost humans. These descendants of original settlers, now known as rivaling tribes Skolians and Traders, have evolved a bit differently. In Skolia, natural empaths are enhanced with extended receiving and sending abilities. They are also enhanced with blockers, as experiencing the emotions of their enemies can be too much. Traders are sort of at the other end of the spectrum, where they experience only the most extreme emotions, often at great cost to innocents.

Sascony is a powerful empath from Skolia, and also one of several in line for the throne of the empire. She meets an enemy Trader on a neutral planet, which sets into motion not only the action of the story, but also enables the narrator to fill us in on this world's backstory. There are complicated genetics at stake with a subspecies of humans called Rhons. Oh, and for some reason the enemy of the Traders is called the "Ur". His name is Qox. Yes, Ur Qox, much to the delight of my inner middle schooler.

The hard science bits were very cumbersome and a bit much. I appreciate that the author is in fact a physicist and knows a thing or two, but she still lost me at how they "bypass" speed of light travel and implanted blockers and other stuff.

I rather liked the romantic bits. There's no reason you can't have science and love. The last 100 pages really lost me. It was a struggle to finish the book, but most of the journey was well worth it. I don't mind complex world building, but it has to be done correctly. There are too many other books out there I'd like to read so I don't plan to continue with this series, but am glad I gave the first book a try.
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