“During one of his visits to see my mother when I was a child, he had seen me riding in the woods around my fatherâ€™s house, a fourteen-year-old girl practicing with a bow and arrow. He told me later that he never forgot that image, the wild bare-legged girl shooting at trees. He called me Artemis then, after the goddess of the hunt.â€
In Primary Inversion, the first novel in the Skollian series, Catherine Asaro introduces Primary Sauscony “Soz” Valdoria, a bioengineered fighter pilot and heir to the Ruby Dynasty family of empaths. The empathic abilities of descendants of the Ruby Dynasty enable them to power the “psiberweb” and also to maintain contact with one another during “inversion” or faster than light travel.
Asaro subverts classic gender roles first by setting up the Ruby Dynasty as a martriarchy, and second by attributing typical male traits to it’s female protagonist, Sox Valdoria. From Wikipedia:
The main character, Sauscony Valdoria, embodies many what we could call “traditionally male” qualities. She is a warrior, a Jagernaut (biomechanically enhanced fighter and pilot) with the rank of a Primary (military status equivalent to general [admiral]) and very tough. She admits to being bad with words and emotions, she suppresses her feelings and hides her weaknesses. She is much more comfortable with physical rather than emotional confrontation. In her relationship with Jaibriol Qox, she also takes the dominant role. She is more than twice his age, more experienced and powerful. When he is captured, she rescues and more-or-less physically carries him out on her shoulders.
Despite it’s matriarchal genesis and the Skolian Empire moving to a more egalitarian society, Soz still has to contend with a father from a primitive planet who specifically never understood her desire to enter the military, and more generally disapproved of many of his children living a modern urban lifestyle.
I don’t quite agree with Wikipedia as far as Soz’s emotional intelligence goes, rather I agree more with James Schellenberg when he says that Soz is:
a strong, dynamic character, one that people of either gender can easily identify with. However, Sauscony is not a one-note monolith of fortitude and brawn — she is articulate, funny, and empathic to boot. But most of all, Sauscony is a character with a past, a past filled with needs, betrayals, tragedies, friends, and triumphs.
Asaro was one of the first authors to deliberately hybridize Science Fiction and Romance. She and others of her ilk have proven that SF readers donâ€™t mind a little Romance and vice versa. As a physicist, she set the bar pretty high for the science in her novels. Character-driven hard SF can be difficult to find and Asaro blends the two nicely, adding in elements of the love story appropriately.
Alan P. Scott sums up Primary Inversion better than I could:
Space battles, planet-annihilating orbiting platforms, genetic engineering for psychic powers, super-computers that work instantaneously across Galaxy-spanning Nets, three-count-’em-three Space Empires (Okay, two Empires and one Alliance), gobbledygook rays and “psiberspace,” lost colonies and space academies – even the title refers to a faster-than-light drive explained with almost Campbellian gusto and jargon by an author described on the inside back flap as a physicist…Oh, yeah, and there is a star-crossed romance. And the characters really are “intense and spirited.” It’s not all pulp. But mostly. And ya know, today, I think that’s a GOOD thing.
(Above, the anime version of Soz Valdoria.)