And now on to this week's book review:
I first stumbled across the Liaden Universe books quite by accident. I was on some other author's website (Anne McCaffrey's, I think?) and there was mention of these books. And then later, I saw a blip about them somewhere else and it just kept going like that with these maddening little hints about how fantastic this series was and how all the SF/F writers were raving about it, but I couldn't find the books in the bookstore.
Thank goodness for Amazon.com because once I got the first book in my hands, I could see what all the buzz was about and I wanted more, more, MORE! I gobbled up every book in the series until I got to the very last page of "I Dare" and went "what do you mean there's no MORE?"
Like a junkie hunting for her next fix I went on the internet, found the authors' website and blogs and discovered what a total mess the failing publishing industry had made of my opportunity to get more of these books. If you want the whole story, you can sleuth around like I did on the website, but basically a publisher went out of business before the newer books could be contracted for and/or published.
Whereupon the authors took a rather remarkable risk and decided to write the next book, "Fledgling", live (without a net) on the internet where the fans could read it for free (although donations via Paypal were graciously accepted). This turned out to be such a success that the next book, "Saltation", was done the same way. Finally, enough interest was garnered that Baen Books picked the series back up again, published "Fledgling" and "Saltation" and now, at long last, "Ghost Ship."
All that was a really long-winded way of saying that while this is a great book, I don't recommend you start here. There are a few different potential entry points into the Liaden Universe:
1. "Local Custom" is my preferred entry point. I think it does the best job of setting up the family lines that are followed in the later books. This is also the best entry point for those who like a little more love story in their books
2. "Crystal Soldier" would be the entry point for those who like to REALLY start at the beginning of things i.e. the complete back story behind the origin of Clan Korval, the Tree, etc. However, in my personal opinion, this book and its sequel, "Crystal Dragon", are much richer and, frankly, make more sense, if you've already read all the later books. But that's just me...your mileage may vary.
3. Finally, I've heard that a lot of people start the series with "Agent of Change" which is the beginning of the plotline that ultimately takes the reader up through the book I just finished, "Ghost Ship." This would be the best entry point for those who want their books to tilt more towards the action/thriller end of things. There's still romance...it just happens on the run.
Now that you know a bit more about the series, its history, etc., on to "Ghost Ship" itself. It has all the normal hallmarks of a Liaden Universe book: romance, action, humor, spaceships, magic, etc. And, after sticking with her through three books (and the years it took to get them from internet to actual publication), it's great to see Theo kind of grow up and come into her own as a pilot and as a member of Clan Korval. Not that she doesn't have problems...I mean how would you like it if a sentient (and potentially deadly) spaceship was following you around the galaxy like a stray puppy?
Meanwhile, back on planet Surebleak, Clan Korval and its new delm (leaders) are trying to get themselves sorted out after the events at the end of "I Dare."
If the book has one flaw, it's that it has SO many plotlines to tie up from the old series and launch for the books going forward that it gets a little bit snippy and short-handed in places. In fact, I know I would have been much more confused by some of the goings-on had I not been keeping up with the short stories (out-takes) that fill in some of the missing bits. Still, I enjoyed it more than both of its predecessors and besides, another hallmark of these books is that the authors really make you WORK for it as a reader. I've often had to go back and re-read certain bits or entire books before I finally figured out "oh, THAT's how that worked."
Truthfully, I can't say anything bad about this book or the whole series. The worst book Lee & Miller have written is still LIGHT YEARS better than just about anything else. You can't go wrong with this series...wherever you start to pick up the storyline.
Next week's review will be "Crossroads" by Jeanne C. Stein.