There is only one other author who has left me wanting more when I finished a book. Tom Clancy.
I did not want to stop reading this story. I can hardly wait for the prequel & sequel.
Quite often, a novel has too little, or too much action. The pace of CR is perfect... enough to keep you in its grip without overwhelming the reader.
In addition, Friday's sex scene writing is another fine balancing act of titilation without being vulgar.
I have never re-read any other author. period. Not in >50 years of reading. This book begs for it to be re-read and makes it easy. I've read it 5 time so far.
Ellie Hall, I absolutely respect your obvious experience and knowledge of writing and reviewing. I agree 100% with a lot of your evaluation, especially these statements:
"A fast-paced, Classic SciFi that reads more like a mystery with a Romantic SF thread woven in. Set in the far-future on an alien world, humanity's last remnants are trying to save the species from extinction. Huxley-ian eugenics in a Classic Dystopian caste system are artfully blended with an Asimov-ian "machine-turned-man" story by first-time Author Marjorie F. Baldwin."
Those who enjoy a detailed social Sci-Fi in the old tradition, where complex societies are presented and peopled by solid, complicated personalities, have found one of the best examples written recently. Conditioned Response is multi-layered, weaving together a number of intriguing social, personal, and political mysteries into a fast paced thriller.
The representation of this future human colony and its imperialistic disdain for the powerful indigenous people rings as true as any page of history. Caste discrimination, human trafficking, genetic regulation, sexual intimidation and violence, power-at-all-cost-manipulation of men and minds – all these things seem to rise from an inevitability we recognize in the societies we share today. And on that base the story, or more rightly stories, are masterfully built."
However, I disagree with the statements you make about the pace being slow to develop and the disassaciation of the characters. I found that I felt very close indeed to Raif and Shayla. I felt Raif's distress at being misclassified (as a Proctor), his heartbreak caused by denying his affections for Shayla, his anguish induced by Kindi's manipulations, and his frustration in his efforts to determine his origins - especially painfull after discovering he had known in the past but the memory was taken from him.
I felt Shayla's pain, despite the attempt to "choose not to recall" the pain. I felt her lonliness - belonging to neither the World Council or, due to what living amoung the Outsiders, her own people anymore. I really felt her disassociation and desire to create something that she could live in and "belong".
Perhaps you were kept at bay by the strength of Shayla's ability to push aside her pain - maybe she was too good at it for you to feel her pain anyway. Or, perhaps, you feel so strongly about the horrors of rape, especially of children - as I do - to allow anyone to treat it with less strength and anger than you would. I can put aside my own outrage and desire to avenge the child to understand that it is simmering just below the surface and (avoiding a spoiler here) ...
I admit the romantic thread in the book took time to develop but it was very strong. Remember, this is not your typical romance novel. I think Friday has done an incredible job crossing lines and fusing the different genres.