Where Crystal Singer is an origin story and Killashandra is a love story, Crystal Line is the frantic reaffirmation of both. From the start, we’ve been told that crystal singers have memory problems, that it’s a side effect of the profession. It’s not something that affected our main character much in the first two books, considering how new she was to her profession at that point. For the record, crystal singers also live much longer than most humans, with lifespans of multiple centuries, so when I say “new”, I mean that Killashandra, in the self-titled book, was in her first decade of crystal singing. At the end of Crystal Line, we learn that she is 215 years old.
In Crystal Line we see Killashandra deteriorating mentally. She’s still as fit and able as she was at the start of the first book, but her memory is functioning only in the short term between trips to the ranges and those things which have become instinct and muscle memory. She’s still strong-willed and personable when present in the moment, but she’s also become set in her ways and even more stubborn than previously seen. The book itself is a sad tale of how things can change for the worse if we’re not careful. I guess you can also see it as commentary on Alzheimer’s or just old age in general.
Killa still has Lars, but she spends much of the book pushing him away because he’s advocating change and she’s clinging to the tradition of the past. It hurts to see this character intentionally hurting herself and her beloved, but we can also see how crystal-mazed she’s become over the years (and years do pass in this book, though because of the curious nature of crystal singers living only in the present, the immediate past and the immediate future, we don’t really hear about the overall passage of time) and how it hurts every part of her life.
The climax isn’t the big moment that she dreads for a chapter, but the realization afterward, and it’s nothing less than total relief for the reader, having become attached to Killashandra and her desire to be the best crystal singer in the Heptite Guild. Still, she had a close call overall, and those echoes linger. There may be a happy ending, but like many of the FSP books McCaffrey wrote, there are clear parallels between this futuristic universe and our own world today.
On a nearly unrelated note, Killashandra was one of the earliest books I read to feature a bisexual character, and that preference is explicitly stated at one point. As previously noted, that book came out in 1985. It always makes me happy to see marginalized groups recognized in a logical and respectful fashion. I should’ve put this in my last post, but I forgot. Sadly, I can’t blame the crystal like Killa can.
Having finished this set, I’m not certain what will be on the menu for tomorrow, but you can be sure that I won’t leave the house without a book.