“Crystal Line” by Anne McCaffrey

“Crystal Line” is the final book in the trilogy that began with Crystal Singer and Killashandra.  It is unique among science fiction novels, as it features an aged protagonist.

One of the risks to cutting crystal on the planet of Ballybran is memory loss.  During the first two books, Killashandra was relatively new to singing crystal, so it wasn’t much of a problem.  By the time that “Crystal Line” begins, there are noticeable lapses in her memory which progress as the book continues.

The Guild Master sends Killashandra and Lars Dahl (her soulmate from the last book) to investigate a planet that appears to have similar characteristics to Ballybran.  It was an intriguing mission, and the duo discover a sentient metallic substance that absorbs anything that they feed it.  However, they very quickly realize that they are out of their depth and leave it to scientists to further investigate.

After returning to Ballybran and to singing, years flash by as Killashandra experiences them.  This was hard for me to read, and not at all enjoyable, as it reminded me of watching my grandmother’s deterioration from Alzheimer’s all over again.  I realize that this isn’t any fault of the book, but rather my allowing personal experiences to cloud my reading.  I couldn’t stop feeling awful for Lars, who managed to stay with Killashandra even as she became so forgetful as to not remember their relationship, and even though she pushed him away at every opportunity. Meanwhile, the old Guild Master killed himself, and Lars found himself taking over in his place, causing a further rift between him and Killashandra.

Lest I depress you or dissuade you from reading, I will say that I was quite satisfied with the ending, which was happy.

I like the fact that McCaffrey chose to keep focusing on Killashandra even as she lost her mind.  That took talent, and you could still see her distinct personality as she kept assuring herself that she didn’t want to remember.  It’s very interesting to read from the perspective of someone who is senile, while at the same time still being able to make sense of the story.

Overall, I would recommend this.  It’s a good conclusion to the first two books, and the parts that I disliked were solely because of my own previous experiences.  It’s a well-written book; it just wasn’t good for me because of the subject matter.  Even though I didn’t care as much for this one, the trilogy is still one of my favorites when it comes to sci-fi novels.

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This book counts toward the The 2012 Science Fiction Experience hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings.  It also counts toward the Speculative Fiction Challenge 2012 hosted by Baffled Books

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Categories: Fiction, Sci Fi | Tags: , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on ““Crystal Line” by Anne McCaffrey

  1. Lenore

    Hi. I just finished reading Cristal Line. I was so affected by it, I have spent 2 days searching online for some sort of relief and stumbled on here. No one in my life reads Sci Fi and I don´t really know anyone who reads McCaffreys books besides me.

    ***Spoilers***

    I love McCaffreys books and I have read many of them over the years. Like you, It has been a long long time since I have read something that made me feel like this. I have absolutely no personal experience with Alzheimer, but I have to agree that what you describe, is exactly how it felt reading this book. Its a train wreck in slow motion and you are obliged to keep on reading a very matter of fact story about the decomposition of a bright witty mind into ornery self deception. It makes you ache for Killashandra and Lars.

    I read the first 2 books many many years ago and finally when I was able to get my hands on Cristal Line, I re-read Cristal Singer and Killashandra. Maybe that made the experience all the more difficult in the third book. I had to force myself to read through some parts too 🙂

    • Yay! Glad you stopped by. Part of the reason why I started blogging about books is because my friends don’t have the same reading tastes (or read nearly as often) as I do, and I wanted a place go rant about what I read.

      I felt awful for the main characters here. After seeing what Killashandra was before, it was agonizing to watch her deteriorate. At the same time, you see how even with nothing else left, her work is still her first priority. It’s heartwrenching, and I give McCaffey a lot of credit for being able to make me feel the way I did while reading. Normally sci-fi isn’t this emotionally charged.

      • Lenore

        Hi Grace!
        You know one of the things that really stunned me in an after the fact kind of way, was that McCaffrey takes you along for the ride inside her head. She makes you so angry and frustrated at Killashandra but also makes you (the reader) try to interpret the looks and comments she gets and the references to things you do remember and she does not. I just kept hoping people didn´t give up on her.
        The other thing I found really hard to get through was the fact that Killashandra kept wanting not to remember anything till all she had left was anger, and even then she didn´t really know what exactly she is angry about. When you think that she could still live many many more years like that… wow!
        Over all, not what i´m used to while reading McCaffrey. (I have read every single one of the Pern books so I do have some sphere of reference)
        To think I actually thought it would be light reading Jeez 😛

        • Exactly! It’s really heartbreaking to see her deteriorate, especially as she was such a strong and independent character before.

          It may sound like sacrilege, but I haven’t read any of the Pern books yet. They’re definitely something that I’ll get to eventually though!

  2. Yay! So glad you enjoyed these. Lots of the older McCaffrey stuff is out of print, I think – but not too difficult to find at the library or at used book stores, I have discovered. Thank goodness!

    • A lot of it is still available through Amazon as well. I haven’t bought anything by McCaffrey at a normal bookstore because they never seem to carry the older books, which is quite unfortunate.

  3. Congratulations on finishing the trilogy. I must admit that I just skimmed the review as I have the intention of one day reading this, simply because I’ve stared longingly at the cover of Killashandra for years. Michael Whelan seems to have that effect on me. I did the same thing with Second Foundation and it finally got to be too much and prompted me to read Foundation and Foundation and Empire just so that I could finally crack that book open!

    • You should definitely read it; I think it’s something you would enjoy. I’m a bit sad that I only have the Kindle versions of the second two books, as the Whelan artwork is incredible, but at the same time, I never see this trilogy in bookstores.

      I’m still working my way through the first couple parts of Foundation, and the more I read, the more I’m seeing Asimov’s influence in other works that I’ve read.

      • If you are interested in used copies I will keep an eye out for you next time I do the rounds at the local used shops. I often see copies of Killashandra. Wouldn’t mind at all.

        • Well, I have the Kindle copy, so the extra would mostly just be taking up space in a small apartment… thanks for offering though! 😀 I totally added the artwork to my folder of wallpapers for my computer, so I get to see it that way.

          Used book stores are my favorites… old books just have so much character!

  4. Yay on finishing the trilogy, and at least it goes towards your challenges. It sort of reminds me of The Hunger Games and me not liking the last book all that much…

    • It’s weird. On one hand, I’m glad I read it. On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy reading the bulk of it…

      I keep hearing about The Hunger Games. Note to self: Read it. Soon.

  5. One of these days I really need to get back around to Anne McCaffrey… I haven’t read nearly enough by her.

  6. This is an author I would like to start reading. Glad the last in the series wasn’t too disappointing. Sometimes they can let you down completely.

    • It had a bit of a slow start, but I think it wrapped things up nicely. At the same time, one of the things that I like about this series is that each book is its own story, describing different parts of Killashandra’s life. You can read one without picking up the next and still have resolution. I think that helps.

  7. L

    this and your previous review of Killashandra remind me that I need to read McCaffrey, an author I’ve yet to read, and one whom my brother loved in his younger years.

    this post also reminds me I need to get on the ball with my SciFi Experience reading…

    • I need to get around to reading some of the Pern books eventually. I enjoy her writing, but the books that I’ve read by her aren’t the ones she’s famous for.
      I’m with you on the Sci-Fi Experience reading… I keep getting distracted by other books, lol.

  8. I find this an interesting topic in a sci-fi novel but can understand how it would affect me if I had gone through something similar. It’s very sad.
    I think you reviewed another one of her books, maybe part I and II. They did sound interesting. I’ll be reading LeGuin this year.

    • I reviewed the first two in the trilogy. I had read Crystal Singer back in high school and loved it, then rediscovered it this past year when I came across it at a used book sale. It was good to finally finish the trilogy, and I got caught up in each of the books in the same way that I did with the first. I like books that make me oblivious to the world around me, lol.

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