May 5th, 2009

book 1

Diamond Star by Catherine Asaro

Series: Skolian saga
Publisher: Baen, 2009
Genre: Science fiction
Sub-genre: Space opera

Read the full, spoiler-free review here.

Diamond Star is the newest addition to the Skolian saga, but it makes a wonderful standalone for people who haven't read the rest of the books. And since I haven't mentioned lately (well, at least not today) how much I love and appreciate this kind of series, where I don't have to remember every detail of the previous books, allow me to assure you series of standalone books are absolutely the best kind.

One of the neat things with Diamond Star is that Asaro actually wrote out all the songs from Del's album, with some help from band Point Valid, and the resulting CD is available from Starfleet Music, turning the book into an interactive rock opera. The sound on the CD wasn't what I personally had imagined from just having read the book, and mentioning Point Valid more than once in the novel as as an example of rock done right smacked of gratuitous cross-promotion, but there's a reason I'm not a music reviewer, so your mileage may vary.

As for the book itself, it's a fun space opera with surprisingly dark undertones. Most of the story focuses on Del, his black sheep status within his family, and his music career, but since war between the Skolians and the sadistic Carnelians has only recently ended, anger and resentment is running high, and the post-war setting becomes important.

I really liked Del as a protagonist, which is fortunate for me because he's very much the driving force of the story. He follows the age-old formula of being special without knowing it, but he's uniquely flawed and thinks little enough of himself I'm not sure he ever really grasps his own specialness. His family issues and feelings of being misunderstood make him easily relatable, and while he might occasionally seem flaky on the surface, he always seems to pull it together in time.

Sum-up? Very fun story with two separate climaxes, a likeable protagonist and interesting political undertones. If the rest of the books in the Skolian saga are like this one, I may have to invest in them all. It should be noted I'm generally a fan of space opera as a genre, but this is a good one, even so.