4 March 2013

March Madness: The Liaden Universe

As the doldrums of slushy-iced filled February moves into slushier snow days of March, I realize I am in need of a mission.  A reading mission that is, not a cold war John Le Carre type.  I take that back, my desperation is critical enough that I would consider flying off to Berlin, trench-coat in hand in pursuit of plans stolen by the Commies.  Cabin fever sits firmly on my brain.  

My first attempt in developing a reading adventure quest was a big fail.  Last spring I was struck by the desire to expand my Star Wars book knowledge.  Unfortunately, this grand pursuit came to a lurching halt having subsequently read and disliked The Thrawn Trilogy. Devastated (exaggerate much?) by not discovering a hidden, creative, vast world of prose all wrapped tightly up in The Force, I swore off missions.  Obviously, I haven't learnt my lesson as here I am again developing a reading pursuit that is not only interesting but achievable.  The question is what to read.  The most adventurous quest I have been able to find is the guy who is reading in order of star date, every Star Trek book published.   Blink. This is no mere idea, this is a life pursuit or more simply expressed a nut job geek glorifying in what he loves best.  While I jest, I read his blog, even linking to it on Thank the Maker. From one geek to another, I salute you.  

No sharp corners in Steampunk
Fine and dandy, but honestly, what should I read?   Steampunk? Images of punk rock bands of teens rolling through apocalyptic 25th century sub-burbs pop into my brain. (too much cyberpunk in my past)  While the Apocalypse is not far off, Wikepedia informs me that  Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western Civilization during the 19th century.  Therefore, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.   

What the crap?
Finding myself at a decision crossroad, I ponder, do I want to venture down this steam-inspired fantasy world or find something, how shall I express this, less weird.  Rather rich coming from the one who has recommended books with a homicidal vampiric crew member, and cyborg, time travelling immortals.  In my own defence, we all have our own built in weirdness scale, mine happens to freak out at Victorian alternative history with too many gears, gas masks and goggles lying about.  

And suddenly, (it so happens it was very sudden) I arrived at the answer:  The Liaden Universe.  A year ago I spent a lovely month being introduced to this series and then was thoroughly distracted by teen angst.  My neglect has turned fortuitous as now I have my mission and you have months of prose regarding this series ahead of you.  Lucky bastards.   The Liaden Universe, written by Sharron Lee and Steve Miller is, you guessed, space opera.  Do you take comfort in my predictability? The universe is complex, spanning eons with three major divisions of the human race represented:  Liadens, Terrans and Yxtrangs.  Rammed with every type of emotion and plot development, these books will be taking me on a mission of pure kick-ass reading fun. 


  1. The Liaden universe RULES! It's been years since I read them, but the thought of the turtles still makes me grin.

    Once you've read the initial series about Clan Korval, I highly suggest you search out the series of 19 chapbooks that add additional background about both major and minor characters. I got mine as actual paper chapbooks, ages ago, but it looks like they're now available from the Baen eBook library - for a MUCH better price than what I paid! But I consider them well worth every penny.

    And when you're done with the Liaden universe...ever read Catherine Asaro's Skolian Empire saga?

  2. Thank you, I will do just what you recommend. I loved the omnibus, The Dragon Variation, so bound to have a very good time reading through them all. Will follow-up with The Empire Saga, never read them. Love the recommendations!

  3. I am not really into sciece that much but I must tell you this looks like an interesting list.

  4. Carol Ford, jump in Science Fiction is so vast, there is bound to be something up your alley.

  5. I understand your reluctance towards steampunk. I will say that I love it. What I like most is when it tries to capture the wide eyed innocence of pulp fiction, and is unabashedly unscientific. It says, "yes, there are computers and robots and cyborgs in the year 1889. Yes, they are powered by steam. Yes, that's impossible. Your point being?" Once you've done that, you can do anything without fear of being attacked for not getting the chemical makeup of your alien planet's atmosphere right.

  6. Nigel, you are swaying me to the dark side of Steampunk, happen to have a decent recommend? I am willing to jump into this steam inspired weirdness and give it a go....after all summer approaches and nothing says summer like steampunk.

  7. About two years ago I read a lot of Steampunk - mostly the early stuff that got the genre started, from Verne on to Blaylock, Moorcock, Jeter, and Powers. I so WANTED to like it, but I can't say I thought most of it was very good. Out of what I've read, what I WOULD recommend are the Girl Genius graphic novels (which are available free at http://tinyurl.com/yno95o) and Scott Westerfeld's YA trilogy (Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath, which I haven't read yet but am looking forward to). Both series are just darn good fun. :)

    (FWIW, all my steampunk reviews - two pages worth - are at http://www.emepps.com/search/label/steampunk - if you want to see me trash Jules Verne...)



Thanks for taking the time to reading, and commenting on this post! Thank the Maker, thanks you.