The Veiled Web

Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 18, 2000

The Veiled Web by Catherine Asaro

The discussion of Catherine Asaro’s recent technothriller drew twelve participants. Asaro is to be the Guest of Honor at this year’s ArmadilloCon. The Veiled Web is a near-future novel in which an American ballerina, Lucia, gets romantically involved with a Moroccan computer genius named Rashid. While Lucia and Rashid are trying to work through their cultural differences, they get captured by spies who want to harness Rashid’s intelligence for their own dubious plans.

We generally found this to be a well-written thriller. The Veiled Web contains several gripping action scenes that we thought worked well. We thought Rashid’s computer research was interesting, and we liked his AI character Zaki. The personality of Lucia seemed realistic for a ballerina, and it’s clear that Asaro knows a great deal about dance. The cultural and religious background of Rashid and his family seemed carefully researched. Asaro obviously felt passionately about the beauty of Morocco and its society, and she avoided common stereotypes about Moslems. One member of our discussion had been reading this book on an airplane, and she found the story so compelling that when her plane landed, she finished the book in an airport waiting area before claiming her baggage.

A few in our group just couldn’t accept the strong romance element of this plot. As one of this contingent put it, “I knew where this book was going and did not want to go there.” Interestingly, both women and men were in the group put off by the romance element. Additionally, the group that liked the book contained both men and women.

Even those that generally liked the book found a few problems with it. One person felt the depiction of artificial intelligence research lacked verisimilitude. Others felt there was too much explanation of how the World Wide Web works, although we agreed that the editor likely made the author include this material. Some felt that the balance between the various elements of the plot (romance, spy thriller, and artificial intelligence research) wasn’t quite right.

Overall we found this to be a successful thriller for those who don’t mind a lot of romance. At the end of the discussion, we added several books to the reading schedule. Our current schedule runs through September.

— A. T. Campbell, III