01/02/2011. Contributed by Kelly Jensen
Catch the Lightning (The Skolian Saga book 2) by Catherine Asaro. pub: Baen. 320 page paperback. Price: $ 6.99 (US), £ 6.29 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-81255-102-0.
check out websites: www.baen.com and www.catherineasaro.net
Having enjoyed the first volume of Catherine Asaro’s ‘Skolian Saga’ I started the next book, ‘Catch the Lightning’, with high expectations. They were met for the most part.
The plot of ‘Catch The Lightning’ is rather simple. Althor, a member of the Ruby Dynasty, accidentally slips into a different time and an alternate universe and arrives on Earth in 1987. There he meets Tina, a troubled teenager gifted with extraordinary empathic sensitivity. They seem a perfect match and quickly fall in love. Their story is complicated, however, when the government captures Althor’s ship. They pull off a daring escape and return to Althor’s ‘time and place’ only to fall into another plot, someone wants Althor dead. Previous efforts to kill him are what damaged his ship and caused him to travel through time and dimensions in the first place.
The beginning of this book is wonderfully sweet and, as always, Catherine Asaro’s characters are fully detailed and credible beings. Althor’s own story, that of his childhood and the difficulties he has overcome, is a perfect counterpoint to Tina’s. They have both struggled in different ways but neither is embittered by life. This is a view I always find refreshing. Because of the extensive enhancements made to Althor’s body (a result of the advanced medicine of his time and augmentation required for his career as a Jagernaut), he often appears not quite human. These transitions in his character are bizarre for Tina and the reader alike, but are handled deftly by the author.
The story of Tina and her friends helping Althor escape Earth is exciting, and all the scenes of action are taut and thrilling. I always enjoy reading about the connection between Jagernauts and their ships. I liked the personification of Althor’s Jag. Asaro always handles the interplay of dialogue between human and machine and their melded thoughts seamlessly.
Overall, I enjoyed the story for its simplicity and I enjoyed the emotion between Tina and Althor. Following on from the first novel, we learn a little more about the Ruby Dynasty and meet a few more members. I had a sense of a powerful family (dynasty) building in the background and this would be a facet I would look forward to seeing in the next book. What I found lacking was a sense of future for Tina and Althor. The entire narrative was interspersed with comments from Tina such as ‘I didn’t know then’ or ‘at the time’. Sometimes, the novel felt like a prelude or a prologue that finished before we got to the actual story.
Another difficulty I had with this novel was the depth of mathematical and scientific detail. Catherine Asaro is no doubt brilliant and her excitement for her subject leaps from the page, but I would have been happy with less. I grasped her theories well enough to 'believe' them for the purpose of her story, the pages and pages of further argument and detail were mind numbing, for me.
Also, while I understand making entries in a series work as standalone novels, having to re-read the explanations of the Skolian genetics and how their minds work was a little tedious. I think I'd personally prefer to see that information simplified in the story and expanded upon in an appendix. If I have to 'rediscover' how their Kyle scale quantifies and how their brains work and who the Rhon are in every volume, I might begin to tire of it.
Though I’ve listed a few difficulties I had with the book, I am not dissuaded from my course. I like Catherine Asaro’s writing and I’ve read too many of her novels to be put off by one I did not enjoy as much. I’ll keep moving through The Skolian Saga’ and hope to find the further adventures of Tina and Althor picked up at a later date.
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