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The Veiled Web
Catherine Asaro
Bantam Spectra Books, 355 pages

The Veiled Web
Catherine Asaro
Catherine Asaro is a physicist at Molecudyne Research. She earned her PhD in chemical physics from Harvard, and a BS from UCLA. She also writes science fiction, a blend of hard SF with space adventure. Her debut novel, Primary Inversion, is in its second printing, Catch the Lightning won the 1997 Sapphire Award, and The Last Hawk is a Nebula nominee along with her novella, "Aurora In Four Voices" (Analog, Dec 98). The books are stand-alone novels, but take place in the same universe. Her husband, John Cannizzo, is the proverbial NASA rocket scientist, and an excellent resource for a writer of romantic space adventure!

Catherine Asaro Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Quantum Rose
SF Site Review: The Radiant Seas
Excerpt: Primary Inversion
Excerpt: Catch the Lightning
Excerpt: The Last Hawk

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jeri Wright

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Catherine Asaro successfully combines elements of several genres (science fiction, romance, suspense) into one fantastic read. Set in the near-future (2010), The Veiled Web explores the ramifications of artificial intelligence and virtual reality technology in terms of both science and of human spiritual values. Can machines think? Can they be self aware? And how does the possibility of a true artificial intelligence fit into human ideas about the soul? At the same time, this is also a very personal story of two people falling in love and trying to find common ground between vastly different cultures.

American ballerina Lucia del Marchas leads a surprisingly restricted life, spending what little time not devoted to the dance on the Internet, exploring new places and "conversing" with the wide variety of people she encounters there. Her life changes when she meets businessman Rashid al-Jazari at a White House reception. She is both intrigued by Rashid, and disappointed to realize that she will probably not see him again. An unexpected second meeting with the attractive stranger plunges her into an adventure that will change her life. Rashid is the creator of a brilliant new piece of software that could change the world, and some very dangerous people want it. Unwittingly, Rashid has placed Lucia in danger as well, and he is determined to protect her.

Swept away to his well guarded home in Morocco, Lucia becomes involved with Rashid's work while becoming more and more drawn to the man himself. The gulf between their two worlds, two cultures, two religions, is enormous, and neither is sure that even love can bridge the gap. Lucia also begins to wonder about her refuge; is the seclusion for her protection, or is there something more sinister going on? Surrounded by people whose language and customs are alien to her, Lucia is unsure how she can fit in while at the same time holding fast to her own identity. At the same time, she becomes increasingly aware that Rashid has created something astonishing: the promise of a true artificial intelligence. His creation could change the world in incalculable ways, but how can they ensure that it will not end up in the wrong hands?

I love the way Asaro combines fascinating scientific speculation with characters who are so human and so real. I am intrigued and excited by the concept of a true artificial intelligence. Most science fiction fans are weaned on stories of thinking computers, and I enjoyed exploring questions such as "how do you define a soul?" or "can a machine have a conscience?" The AI in this novel is a memorable character in its own right, and an appealing one.

Even more, however, I enjoyed the developing relationship between Rashid and Lucia, and the look at a culture that is as foreign to me as it is to Lucia. The characters were very real to me, and I cared about what happened to them. A romantic myself, I wanted things to work out for them, but at times the distance between them seemed impassable. The two main plot elements mesh perfectly; the story of two individuals attempting to find common ground in which they can be together, and the idea, the dream, of a new technology that can help all humanity find a common understanding.

Copyright © 1999 Jeri Wright

Jeri is a voracious reader who believes that paradise could well be a quiet afternoon, unlimited chocolate, and a novel to lose herself in. She reads and reviews all types of fiction, and enjoys sharing her life long passion for books with like-minded readers.


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