The Crystal Variation Paperback – Sep 6 2011
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About the Author
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller live in the rolling hills of Central Maine with two insistent muses in the form of cats and a large cast of characters. The husband-and-wife team's collaborative work in science fiction and fantasy include twelve novels and numerous short stories in their award-winning Liaden Universe®. In addition to their collaborative work, Steve has seen short stories, nonfiction, and reviews published under his name, while Sharon has published short stories, newspaper pieces, and two mystery novels, and, most recently, Carousel Tides, from Baen.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As the others have been republished, I've bought them, and the same for the newer Fledgling/Saltation/Ghost Ship series. But until now, I haven't had a chance to revisit Crystal Soldier or Crystal Dragon. And when the new omnibus arrived yesterday, I sat down and started reading. While I liked the books well enough first time through, this time -- having read the others -- there was so much more. If you also read these books out of order, or many years ago, you may similarly find richness and depth and background that makes far more sense today. It was a deeply enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, an evening, and most of the next day. Some day, I hope Lee & Miller come back and write about the early days of Liad.
I've been fortunate enough to have Balance of Trade in a trade edition for a while now, so this is just a bonus copy in the omnibus. It is a fabulous story, and one of my favorites in the Liaden Universe.
My only issue with the omnibus is that I wish they had issued in in hardcover. I'll take good care of it, but that big a book, with that kind of binding is inherently a little fragile. But, the price is tough to beat, and the stories within will probably keep you up just as they did me.
Then there is the spin off series featuring Theo Waitley, Fledgling, Saltation, Ghost Ship and the to be released in Sept. 2012 Dragon Ship. You get a hint of the characters for this series in Plan B.
Psionic Elves in Space! Psionic cats! Trees that transcend space and time and influence elf genetics! All this and more await you in this awesome series of space opera. Did I mention the Elves in Space?
OK, based on my last contentious experience of trying to order the books, here is my reading order
by book, not story (I read a book at a time):
1, 2, 3: _The Crystal Variation_ omnibus of _The Crytal Soldier_, _The Crystal Dragon_ and
_Balance of Trade_
4: _Trade Secret_
5, 6, 7: _The Dragon Variation_ omnibus of _Local Custom_, _Scout's Progress_ and _Conflict of Honors_:
8: _Mouse and Dragon_:
9, 10: _The Agent Gambit_ omnibus of _Agent of Change_ and _Carpe Diem_:
11, 12: _Korval's Game_ omnibus of _Plan B_ and _I Dare_:
15: _Ghost Ship_
16: _Dragon Ship_
17: _Necessity's Child_
I have read books 1-2-3, 5-6-7, 8, 9-10, 11-12, 13 and 14 now.
From Jessica, "for what it's worth, here is the authors' own commentary on reading order":
On to _Ghost Ship_ !
The Laiden universe series is compelling reading, hard to put down occasionally interrupting
There is a reccomended reading order list on the Laiden Universe website. A good idea
to follow it but not manditory. Also, I think short stories are better read after the novels since many of them contain the characters we've come to admire and embellish events we've
previously read about
Crystal Soldier (2004) is the first SF novel in the Great Migration duology and the earliest work in the sequence. It is set millennia before the events within Agent of Change.
In this volume, humanity lives in a different universe within the multiverse. The inhabitants of Sherieka have transcended into a higher state. Unfortunately, they did not lose their emotions during their evolution.
The Sheriekas felt that other humans were hindering their progress and decided to purge them from the universe. They constructed many large and powerful machines and biological entities to destroy lower humans. These other humans have been fighting the Sheriekas for millennia.
In this story, Jela is stranded on a desert world. He had attacked an enemy vessel to protect the Trident. His light-duty vehicle has been holed multiple times in the battle.
The Trident and the enemy vessel had fled the system while his craft landed on the planet. His craft is damaged enough that it cannot make orbit, so he has to wait for rescue. Meanwhile, he is exploring the planet with a rescue beacon in his pocket.
The world obviously contains something of interest to the Sheriekas. It had been a normal planet with a pleasant environment, but the enemy had turned it into desert. Only the remains of giant trees are left of the original biosphere.
The giant trees grew in the foothills, but a line of dead trees extends toward the seacoast. Each tree had fallen toward the coastline and deposited a single seed for the next tree. The tree remains grow smaller as the line approaches the coast.
As Jela follows the tree line, he gradually realizes that the trees have displayed intelligence in their effort to survive. Furthermore, he decides that the trees have somehow held back the Sheriekas. He begins to think of them as allies.
When Jela reached the last dead tree, he discovers that a sapling is still alive. He waters it from his dwindling supplies and provides it with shade. As he sleeps near it, Jela begins to have dreams.
Jela is finally rescued and insists on taking the sapling with him. His stubbornness is resented by the other soldiers, but he doesn't relent. When he gets back to the Trident, Jela finds that he is the senior survivor of his wing.
Many of his fellow soldiers resent -- and are envious of -- Jela. Then he gains an ally in Do Gayda. She offers him choices for his future and he takes the most demanding one.
Cantra has loaded cargo on Faldaiza and will leave port in the morning. Her recent voyage was long for a solo pilot and she yearns for food, company and rest. She books a room in a good hotel and goes out for a decent meal.
She tries several restaurants, but none are quite right. Then she finds The Alcoves and likes the look of it. She asks the host if any pilots have registered a wish for a tablemate.
Jela has made such a request and she is taken to his alcove. The server informs him that a pilot would like to dine with him and he agrees. Cantra is introduced and is seated by Jela.
After the meal, Jela accompanies Cantra on a walk. They are attacked, but destroy the attackers. Then they discover that the attackers had visited The Alcoves before confronting them.
Everyone in the restaurant seems to be dead. Then Cantra hears a thump and finds Dulsey within a hide. Afterward, Dulsey accompanies them to the Dancer. Nothing they say to Dulsey dissuades her from traveling with them.
Crystal Dragon (2005) is the second SF novel in the duology. It starts within Sherieka space, where a young aspiring dominant is watching the zaliata flying within an aetherium. They travel along the ley lines feeding on the energy. She moves closer and closer until the containment forces flare.
These zaliata display power and grace. They have been captured at the height of their abilities, contained, and exploited by the Iloheen. While it is theoretically impossible for her to perceive the zaliata, she enjoys watching them.
She and her sisters have survived two Dooms. Now they are facing the third -- and last -- Doom. She prepares a vessel for her submissive. When she is called, she steps into the darkness and is told to download a tumzaliat -- a tamer version of the zaliata -- into the vessel.
She carefully restrains the vessel on the tile floor. Then she enters the lesser aetherium and herds a tumzaliat down into the vessel. Unlike other birthings that she has witnessed, the downloaded tumzaliat does not scream. She names it Rool Tiazan.
Cantra, Jela and the tree transit to Landomist. She prepares false papers for all, takes Jela to bed with her, and then wakes early to prepare herself. The tree gives her a seed pod, which helps her go into trance.
When she awakes, Maelyn tay'Nordif is eager to present her request for a seat in Osabel Tower. She has her kobold Jela carry the tree as they present themselves to the portmaster. He provides them permission for a short-term visit.
Then Maelyn goes to the tower and faces the admissions committee. She states her name and specialty. Then she states that she was a student of Liad dea'Syl. Her proof is accepted and she is welcomed to a seat in the tower.
Tor An is returning home to the Ring Stars. He sets up the navigation computer and enters transition. The Light Wing stutters and drops back into normal space with an error message. After several attempts and tests over several hours, Tor An accepts the unavailability of the target coordinates and reports the problem to the nearest authorities.
Tor An gets no aid from the authorities. The soldiers even shoot him. Bandaging himself, he sets the controls for transit to Landomist.
Balance of Trade (2004) is set later than the Crystal duology, but prior to Agent of Change. The Liaden have been in this universe for centuries. They have found Terrans traveling between the stars.
Jethri Gobelyn is a shipborn adolescent just short of manhood. He is the youngest aboard the Gobelyn's Market. His mother -- the Captain -- has decided to transfer him to another ship belonging to the family.
Iza had borne two children by her husband Arin, but Jethri had never been accepted by her. Her antagonism has only gotten worse over the ten years since Arin died while rescuing strangers from a warehouse fire.
Jethri has been given the responsibility by his Uncle Paitor for trading a lot of textiles. He approaches the Liaden trader Sir bin'Flora with his merchandise. With the payment for the sample bolt, Jethri decides to loan the money to a fellow trader with a shortage of available cash. The trader has a firm guarantee of a four-for-one payment on previous merchandise from the Liaden Master Trader Norn ven'Deelin.
Since the man has the Master Trader's card as warrantee on the deal, Jethri doesn't see how he can lose. However, the man fails to show with the payment and Jethri finds out from Norn ven'Deelin that the card was counterfeit. The Liaden sense of balance insists that ven'Deelin owes Jethri for bringing this situation to her attention.
When the attempt to restore balance goes badly, she offers to take on Jethri as an apprentice. Iza Gobelyn reluctantly agrees and Jethri relocates his few goods to the Liaden ship. Jethri soon finds that being Norn ven'Deelin's apprentice is hard work. He also discovers that some Liadens don't like Terrans.
Meanwhile, the Gobelyn's Market lands in a shipyard for refitting and the Captain soon finds herself in trouble with the shipyard boss and the police. Since her eldest son is temporarily on a long haul pending completion of the refit, her daughter Seeli takes over supervision of the refit and Iza finds herself another long haul. Grig has also stayed behind to help Seeli and he has an unwelcome reunion with his uncle and sister.
These tales provide some more background on the Liadens. Cantra, Jela and the tree are the founders of Clan Korval. Jethri is an early example of the merging of the two cultures.
Highly recommended for Lee & Miller fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of the origins of the Liadens and the relationships between human and Liaden cultures. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin