10 May 2013

The Last Word: The Liaden Universe Series Review, Sharon Lee & Stephen Miller

Warning, this post will subject you to yet another discussion regarding the Liaden universe series. Sensitive to the backlash, I have been contemplating how best or not to document all these books that have been distracting me so completely.    While tempted to just blitz it out and put you all through endless posts I have smartly decided that that would be the worst idea ever.  I know when enough is enough.  Or do I,  as this is an epic post documenting my journey through the universe hence really dragging things out even more.  

So why I am bothering knowing you are bored out of your gourd? Moving past the obvious, fixation and obsession issues, the reason is quite simple.  I have discovered something unique.  While never claiming to be an SF expert, I am a fan who has read a few (shitload would also work here) books from a variety of sub-genres (except Steampunk, gag) thus enabling me to talk about things with a slight bit of confidence.  Slight is the key word.  I am sure it will be revealed to me that what I find so alluring in The Great Migration Duology is yet one of a similar theme running through the genre.  If you know what those others books are, by all means enlighten me.  

To be honest, the Liaden Universe does not ring my bells as Bujold's Vorkisagan Series or Kage Baker's Company Series does.  Those are stand alone wicked awesome.  That being said, the Liaden Universe is pretty darn good, even great at times.  

My adventure began with The Dragon Variation Omnibus:  Local Custom, Scott's Progress, Conflict of Honors.  Because of my abhorrence of dust-jacket synopses I was completely unaware of what to expect and hence took time to get into Local Custom.  There is nothing like a little bit of romance (shitload would also work here) to push a reader along.  Did I just type romance to describe a SF book?   Romance, love, lust, whatever, these books have them in spades or should I type hearts.   While the romance is hot what keeps fans coming back in my estimation, is character development.  Lee and Miller have a knack for creating really (really) likable characters.

From these three books I moved further into the series. The point from having read 3 to 6 books, a pattern started to become more noticeable.  The ever seemingly popular formula "girl in trouble, won't ask for help, needs help, guy wants to help, saves the day, girl/guy fall in love" runs throughout the series which is a big bummer. I can handle one, okay two (Scott's Progress was addicting) but 6 "guy saves girl" plots is annoying as shit.  Why do women always need to be saved?  Why don't we save some ass for once?  The point is, and I do have one, there is a formulaic quality to the series.  However this does not disqualify the Liaden books as a good read; there are parts to the series that showcase brilliance.  

The Great Migration Duology:  Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon were delayed in writing by Lee and Miller until they felt they were grown-up enough to do them justice.  Fascinating and completely understandable because these two books are masterpieces of control.  The authors successfully take us back 1000s of years to the ancient drama that resulted in the formation of the Liaden universe of today, and by today I mean the vague future time that most of the series is based in.  So what is the big deal of going back in time you ask. Simply put, these are the first books in SF that I have read that managed to stay within the confines of a universe order while showcasing believable antiquity.  I am reminded of  Shakespearean plays, all extremely believable, but most definitely subjected to vastly different cultural norms.   It befuddles me how Miller and Lee managed to make science fiction seem historically biographical.  

There are numerous more books in the Liaden Series that I have yet to read and I am sure one day I will get to them.  For now though, it is time to move on and find a new set of authors to gorge on.


  1. I like your description of "girl in trouble" stories. I do think that can get tiresome as well. Sounds like a good series, though. I need to check that out

  2. Hi Nigel, Love your blog, thanks for the comments, always appreciate comments from another self-proclaimed geek!


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