The Dragon Variation (2010) is an SF omnibus in the Liaden Universe series, including Local Custom, Scout's Progress and Conflict of Honors. These volumes track two personages in the Korval Clan and their offspring.
Local Custom (2000) is the first novel in this series by internal chronology, but the fourth novel published. Er Thom yos'Galan is caught in an emotional and moral bind: Liaden law requires him to provide children to the clan, yet he is infatuated with a Terran woman that he had met several years before on Proziski. After a whirlwind affair, the two had parted, with Er Thom returning to his ship and trade route.
Now that his clan has demanded his child, Er Thom finds himself unable to become interested in any other woman. In a spirit of desperation, he borrows a ship from his foster brother and tracks down Anne Davis at her university. Their affair resumes immediately, as if no time has passed.
But then Anne introduces Er Thom to their son, Shan yos'Galan. Suddenly their love affair runs afoul of a difference in customs. To Er Thom, the boy is a child of Clan Korval and Line yos'Galen and must be presented to the delm and thodelm to be accepted into the clan and line. Anne doesn't see him quite that way.
Anne considers Shan as her child, with Er Thom only the sperm donor. She refuses his offer of a contract marriage, seeing it as only another temporary fling.
Scout's Progress (2000) is the fifth SF novel in this series. Aelliana Caylon is a Scholar in Subrational Mathematics at Chonselta Technical College. She teaches a course in Practical Mathematics -- Math for Survival -- to Scout Academy students and is well liked by her classes.
Aelliana makes the mistake of disagreeing with a financial issue with Ran Eld. He challenges her, but their mother -- the Delm of Mizel -- thinks that there is some truth to her arguments. She orders Ran Eld to allow Aelliana to invest her quarter share as she wishes and to track the progress.
Aelliana presents the student Scouts with a practical problem with parameters defined by themselves and requires them to document the solution by the next class. Later she encounters two of her students while she is wandering the streets in thought. They invite her to their table, wine and dine her, and then take her into the new casino.
Aelliana observes the play of hands at a Pikit table. When the holder of the table invites her to sit and play, she seats herself. When the matter of stakes is raised, she puts forth her quarter share, but he is persuaded to risk his ship.
Aelliana plays skillfully and wins. The ship is docked at the Binjali Garage. It is soon registered in her name and she can take possession the following day. She drops by to see her ship and gets a personal tour by the owner of the facility.
She is pleased to see that Ride the Luck is a jump ship. Now she has to get a Second Class Pilot license and to learn Terran so that she can become independent. First she takes the test for a Second Class license and passes.
Her license will be Provisional until she has acquired sufficient hours of piloting a ship. When she comes to ask Jon to tutor her on ship handling, Daav is on duty by himself. He has a package to deliver on Outyard Eight, so he acts as her copilot as they fly to the station.
Conflict of Honors (1988) is the second SF novel in this series. Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza is a Terran, a native of the planet Sintia. She became a spacer at age sixteen. She is now Cargo Master of the Liaden ship Daxflan.
The Terrans on the Daxflan are very disgruntled by the conditions. They are treated as nonpersons and eat disgusting food in an impromptu messhall away from the Liaden crew. Priscilla's friend Shelly has just bought out her contract to get off the Daxflan.
After Shelly leaves, Priscilla saves the file containing her suspicions of contraband in the sealed cargo. Then she is unexpectedly assigned to go down to Jankalin. Since the planet is only a dropoff point, she is puzzled about being in the landing party.
On the world, Dagmar takes her aside to help carry something. Once they get through the recalcitrant door, Priscilla is knocked out and left in the locked room. When she awakes, Priscilla discovers that she has been stranded on Jankalin.
Priscilla gains employment on the Dutiful Passage to overtake her ship. The captain requires her to take a battery of strange tests before hiring her under personal contract. Then he assigns her to Lina as Pet Librarian, with additional duties as needed.
Priscilla does many and varied tasks on the Dutiful Passage. The pet library is one of the most pleasant, but she really enjoys the piloting lessons. These are required in her contract, but are not charged to her account.
When the Dutiful Passage next encounters the Daxflan, someone tries to murder Shan. Priscilla saves the Captain, but he does not allow her to reveal their suspicions of Dagmar's involvement. Shan does tell her of Dutiful Passage's outstanding complaint against Daxflan. Shan even mentions the conflict between his sister and Sav Rid.
These tales involves Clan Korval in various issues between the clans. Telempathic talents also lead Korval clansmen to their lifemates. Sometimes such talents are a blessing and other times not.
The stories reveal much about the history of Clan Korval and Liaden. Indeed, the history of Liaden is closely related to Clan Korval. The Delm of Korval is the Clan Captain. Always remember that Korval means ships, pilots and responsibilities.
The tales have a degree of similarity, but follow three different males within Clan Korval. Although Conflict of Honors was published first, this omnibus has the tales in internal chronological order. Read and enjoy!
Highly recommended for Lee & Miller fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of alien cultures, social conflicts, and paranormal talents. If anyone is not familiar with this series, the initial volume is Agent of Change.
-Arthur W. Jordin