cover image Catch the Lightning: A Novel of the Skolian Empire

Catch the Lightning: A Novel of the Skolian Empire

Catherine Asaro. Tor Books, $24.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86043-1

Alhough Asaro returns in her second novel to the far-future Skolian Empire of her first, Primary Inversion, she begins the story in 1987, on an alternate Earth. In Los Angeles, narrator Tina, 17, rescues Althor, a Skolian Jagernaut (elite space-pilot) whose ship has flung him back in time and into Tina's alternate universe. Before their adventures conclude, Tina and Althor return to Althor's own future and get married. Many of the novel's complications spring from the pair's common Mayan ancestry, which has bequeathed to both of them powerful telepathic and empathic faculties, from Althor's status as a cyborg who is in effect a royal prince and from the Skolian Empire's ability to generate all the bloody plots and counterplots one would expect of any self-respecting interstellar empire. Asaro, who's a physicist, offers an intelligent exploration of possible links between telepathy and quantum physics and informs many of the scenes between the lovers with power and tenderness. But her story is too often comprised of a jumble of elements derived from myriad commercial-fiction genres. Despite strong characters and many fine passages, it fails to cohere and to deliver the vibrant reading experience that her first novel offered. (Dec.)