Action-Adventure Space Opera Manners Romances and Coming-of-Age Stories
September 27, 2013 1:56 AM   Subscribe

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Agent of Change and Fledgling are now available as free downloads. Starting points in the Liaden Universe, a space opera series notable for its romance elements and convoluted publication history, their particular sequences (among others) in the same setting take noticeably different approaches to common themes such as complicated manners, familial obligations, and meeting a soulmate. Not to mention humanoid turtles. And occasional cats.

Fans of the series may be interested in watching a Maine cable access show's interview with the authors (2011; 25:57), listening to or reading a transcript of Sharon Lee's talk at Colby College (2010; 9:06), or watching another interview with both authors from 2009:

1 - Guide to Liad and Korval (5:21)
2 - How the Clutch Turtles Were Developed (5:21)
3 - The Future of the Liaden Universe (5:48)
4 - Tell Us About Yourself (7:19)
5 - Ask Us About Cat Whiskers (6:35)
6 - SRM Publishing (7:27)
7 - Future Plans & Appearances (3:52)
posted by Monsieur Caution (13 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I picked up one of the Liaden Universe books at the library having heard nothing about the series. Good on the authors for finding a fan-base and building a universe, but I was not a fan of the book (self-link) despite generally liking this sort of thing. Perhaps I should have started at the beginning instead of jumping in at a random point, is there a recommended reading order?
posted by AndrewStephens at 2:19 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agent of Change, Conflict of Honors, and Carpe Diem were the books that created a loyal following (tons of Usenet readers and "Friends of Liad"), which the authors were surprised to discover when they first got onto the Internet.

Agent of Change and Conflict of Honors can be read interchangeably, and some publishers have swapped them, probably because Conflict of Honors has a more straightforward standalone plot and because Carpe Diem picks up the action directly where Agent of Change leaves off yet requires knowledge of Conflict of Honors.

But since Agent of Change is free and got most readers hooked back in the day, that's where I'd suggest starting.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:02 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hmm. I was expecting more space cowboys.
posted by chillmost at 4:30 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Funny, I went shopping for something new to read on my Kindle a couple of week ago, and decided to download "Fledgling" (by two authors I'd never heard of, part of series I'd never heard of) because it was free. I thought a science fiction story set at a university sounded like it could be fun. I was also intrigued by the "story behind the story" in the introduction, where the authors explain how their original publishing company went belly-up, and they were left without income and the threat of losing their house -- a threat which they evaded with a crowd-funding scheme for "Fledgling," before getting their next publishing contract.

Having finished it, I have since paid ~$6 each for its sequels, "Saltation"and "Dragon Ship." I found, and downloaded "Agent of Change" as well, but haven't started it yet, because I am caught up in the story I started.

So far these books above are my only exposure to the Liaden universe, and I have to confess -- I kind of liked the smaller, tucked away corner of it that was the University Planet of Delgado, better than the more conventional space opera in the wider Liaden universe that our protagonist has discovered since she managed to get off her home planet. "Fledgling" seemed to me to have more interesting (and flawed) characters, and a more unusual setting. Theo is turning into a more omni-competent Heinlein character the farther she gets from home, and her nerdy roots. Which is okay; I like Heinlein books. But Theo herself made better company as a likeable loser of a kid than as a successful and unflappable heroine, to me.

I find each book seems to wander a little aimlessly, just exploring its universe and its characters, until near the end when something dramatic and suspenseful happens, giving the story a momentum which carries me into the next book. That formula is working okay for me so far, though, and I was wondering where to start on the rest of their universe... Good to know that "Agents of Change" will do, since I already downloaded it.
posted by OnceUponATime at 4:57 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I saw "space opera" I was thinking of something more like Aniara.
posted by slkinsey at 5:15 AM on September 27, 2013

Reading order: suggestions at this link on their home page
posted by hank at 8:54 AM on September 27, 2013

I'm a big fan of the Liaden Universe. Own all the novels and short stories. But as with any with any piece of fiction, tastes vary. Read what you love and love what you read.
posted by jgaiser at 9:43 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was a early fan, but the latest books have been somewhat disappointing.
posted by francesca too at 12:34 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

francesca too: Me too. I loved everything until Fledgling. I actually have NOT been able to get through Fledgling, and I've tried multiple times. It's so boring! It is completely different from the rest of the series! I work at a university and I found the world incredibly unpleasant, rigid, and dull, and the entire plot seems like it's about making Theo feel like shit for being slightly, "clumsy," except she's not because she was born of a long line of pilot reflexes. Gah. Gaaaaaaaaah. And what the hell is a gigneri and why do you have to tie losing your virginity with finding out who your father is, even though she already knows?! Also, it takes them a long-ass time (multiple books) to finally explain what her problem was at the end of I Dare, for fuck's sake!

The books after Fledgling have gotten better...or at least I could finish Saltation and was pretty happy to bring back the rest of the cast in the book after it. I still haven't read the two latest books, though...I don't have much enthusiasm to pick them up any more, at least not at full price. SIGH.

I actually started reading with "Local Custom." I'm surprised I kept going because it is literally a Secret Baby Romance Novel (the authors admit it) and I thought Er Thom was so damn emo for the first half of it. But it got better, and then I read Scout's Progress, and then I moved on to the main Agent of Change narrative, which is where things really get good. (Miri forever!) The Anne/Er Thom/Daav/Aelianna books are more romantic, but the rest of the series is awesome space novel adventure, increasing as the books go on, and I love those. Especially I Dare, when previously-neglected Pat Rin lands on a one horse shitty space western planet and cleans up the one-horse town. That's brilliant. And the Crystal duology is a whole nother world, but posits a lot of interesting questions that are only just beginning to come up again in the newer books....

So...I recommend those books, at least. But if you start with Fledgling, be warned that it's a lot different than everything else in the series. (Sorry, OnceUponATime.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:35 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Crystal books, i.e. the Great Migration duology, were what taught me I wasn't going to be fond of everything in the Liaden Universe, though I'd still take them over most things.

Among the recent books, I thought Mouse and Dragon (2010) was near perfect. It's a direct sequel to Scout's Progress, continuing the story of Daav and Aelliana, and my copy must have been really dusty, because, hey, you know.

For fans of the old stuff wondering what else to pick up, I'd also recommend the recent Liaden Universe Constellation v.1 (2013). It overlaps substantially with the Liaden Unibus I (2007) ebook and the Liaden Universe Companion v. 1 (2005), collecting a ton of short stories from 1995-2002. But if you don't have the earlier collections or a big pile of chapbooks and copies of Absolute Magnitude, I'd put this near the top of the list of what to read after the Agent of Change / Space Regency sequence.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:20 PM on September 27, 2013

I started with Scout's Progress, then managed to track down the rest of them over time. That was much harder in the days before Amazon, but I managed through hard work, grit, skin of my teeth, etc.

I've missed a couple books over the last few years, so thanks to everyone for pointing me to where to pick up!
posted by bookdragoness at 9:53 AM on September 28, 2013

Monsieur Caution, if I may I recommend adding the tags "books" "sciencefiction" and "novels" to this post - I wanted to come back to it and had a devil of a time finding it through a tag search.
posted by smoke at 4:24 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

A thousand hossanahs to you!
posted by smoke at 4:46 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

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