Friday, July 10, 2009

The Moon's Shadow; Catherine Asaro

The Moon’s Shadow was published by Tor in 2002. I categorize it as science fiction with romantic elements. If you’re a romance reader, be aware that this has romantic elements only, unlike the novels Ms. Asaro has written for Luna. This novel is the first part of what I think of as a duology, the second part is The Ruby Dice, to be reviewed shortly. They are a continuation of the story of the same man, Jaibriol Rockworth Qox told with a nine year gap (within the story) between novels. This book is a coming of age tale. It’s set in the same world as her Skolian Empire series depicting a member of the Eubian Concord, the Skolian’s despised enemies.

Jaibriol Rockworth Qox, aka Jai, is seventeen and has grown up isolated and sheltered. His parents were mortal enemies who fell in love and were killed trying to reunite when Jai was young. Their story is told in the book Primary Inversion. At least I think that's the right one. If I'm wrong, please let me know. Jai knows neither his mother’s family nor his father’s. That they were intergalactic scions and rulers of most of the known universe between them all, is about all he knows. As The Moon’s Shadow opens Jai trades himself to the Eubian Concord in exchange for an uncle who doesn’t know who or what Jai is. You see, Jai will inherit the throne of the Emperor of the Eubian Concord as well as being a Ruby Telepath, the rarest of all gifts, inherited from his mother’s family.

As the saying goes, Jai leaps from the frying pan into the fire. He reckons the price worth it despite knowing only a smattering of Eubian culture and some of the language. Of course he’s only seventeen. At seventeen we humans invariably think we know everything (and we’re always right!). As a newcomer Jai sees everything with fresh eyes, perhaps he will be able to take the Empire to new places because of that. If he survives, that is.

I think these quotes sum things up nicely:

"I should so like to make the stars safe for those I love.." and then, four pages later, " may be desirable, sometimes, to act in benefit of Eube [the empire] rather than of oneself." Pages 456 & 460.

The Eubian Concord is a culture where everyone is injected with new and powerful nanomeds (tiny cell like machines) whose primary job is to hunt for poisons and to repair injuries and illnesses and other defects. Why? Because you can’t trust anyone, including members of your own family. Royalty, the universe over, since time immemorial, is always a target. Someone else is after your job because they can do it better, because they hate you, because they think you’re weak, because a ruler breeds enemies like dogs collect fleas.

Culturally, Eubians have bred out almost all feelings since feelings are often perceived as weakness. And Eubians despise all weakness. Eubians exist in a kind of symbiotic relationship with other humans the Eubians call ‘providers’ and everyone else calls slaves. The gap left within by the lack of feelings has to be filled with something though. The providers are the ones to fill this, forced by the Eubians. How can you force someone to feed you their emotions? Why, by torturing them of course. When inflicting pain upon a psychically gifted person a Eubian will feel euphoria (and other positive emotions). Eubians have a kind of ‘sixth sense’ about people who are or could be ‘providers’ and Eubian law and culture treats these people as belongings with very few rights.

What does this have to do with the new Emperor Jaibriol? As I mentioned above, he’s a Ruby Telepath. The Eubians don’t know this though. How can a provider rule the empire undetected? Aside from the fact that he’s only seventeen and practically untutored, that is. You’ll have to read The Moon’s Shadow and find out!

I love the books set in this world. I’ve read The Ruby Dice a review of which is coming in a few days. I also borrowed Ms. Asaro’s newest book, Diamond Star, from the library & plan to read (& review) it very soon. There is almost no physics or technological jargon in this book, which is either a plus or a minus depending on your point of view. As a character centered reader I view this as a plus. I was most interested in watching Jai maneuver in this new world he dropped himself into. Sci fi oriented readers may disagree. I wish that Ms. Asaro's website listed the series books in internal chronological order like Ms. Bujold's site does. I like to read the books by the internal chronological order, which I had to look up on wikipedia, unfortunately. A listing that includes short stories is here.

Image found on B&N.

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