The beginning of The Crystal Singer series which revolves around the planet Ballybran. Under a permanent biohazard travel restriction, Ballybran is home to one of the FSP's wealthiest, yet most reclusive organizationsâ"the Heptite Guild. Source of invaluable crystals vital to various industries, the Heptite Guild is known to require absolute, perfect pitch in hearing and voice for all applicants, especially those seeking to mine crystal by song...
(first published in four parts in Continuum 1, 2, 3, & 4, edited by Roger Elwood)
In "Crystal Singer" Killashandra Ree has trained all her life to become a stellar class vocal soloist. After her final exams, she is told that there is a flaw in her voice which would prevent her from singing lead roles. She does not wish to continue a life in which she will be limited to choral work and secondary operatic roles. She meets a Crystal Singer, a kind of miner who sings in order to mine crystals for uses in different technologies. (Ballybran crystal has unique qualities that make it a necessity for almost any machinery or communications equipment.) Life as a crystal singer strikes her as attractive â" high pay, travel, prestige, and near-immortality. In a fit of pique, Killashandra travels to Ballybran to investigate her chances of joining the Heptite Guild and becoming a Crystal Singer. She meets the main qualification, perfect pitch, and believes that if she cannot be first among operatic performers, perhaps she could become first among the select group of elite Ballybran crystal miners.
However, Ballybran is not a normal world. Habitation on the planet is restricted because of the planet's dangers, primary of which is an alien symbiont that invades the human body. The symbiont provides the host many benefits, including rapid tissue regeneration and a vastly prolonged life expectancy but it often alters the human host in negative ways, such as hearing loss or altered vision. It also negates the host's ability to have children. The only persons allowed on planet are the crystal singers and the support staff for their facilities and only the singers are able to travel away from the planet, although even they must return before too long in order to replenish their symbiont.
Killashandra becomes a Crystal Singer of the top tier by locating and mining the rarest and most elusive form of Ballybran Crystal, Black Crystal, and is subsequently sent offworld on assignment to install the set of crystals she mined for their eventual buyers. She is required to "perform" in the role of a mysterious member of the highly respected and powerful Heptite Guild to win over an audience of mistrusting asteroid miners who have mortgaged their futures on the badly needed black crystals. Her success brings her full circle and she returns home to Ballybran to begin her new life of wealth and status.
Great book. I like how the main character was developed in the story. It is the first part of a trilogy, but it can stand alone. It provides the background for the next two novels. I really enjoyed the world McCaffrey created.
one of the authors most interesting characters and most fascinating worlds, this book is a thrill a minute page turner.