Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

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Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Postby DavidTate on Tuesday, 06 January 2009, 12:39 am

I'm not quite sure how to describe my love affair with the works of Lee and Miller. I know they're not perfect; indeed, I can discuss their flaws in great detail. Nevertheless, I read everything by them that I can get my hands on, and the main sequence of Liaden Universe stories are among my most prized "comfort books" that I re-read repeatedly. I certainly don't consider them in the class of "guilty pleasures" like David Weber or Anne McCaffery or Christopher Anvil; perhaps "flawed gems" is more apt -- like the ring that figures so prominently in the stories.

So what have they written?

Nearly all of their works fall into the "Liaden Universe", a complex future-history in a universe forcibly severed from our own. The main sequence of novels is the "Agent of Change" sequence:

Agent of Change
Conflict of Honors
Carpe Diem
Plan B
I Dare


with its two prequels

Local Custom
Scout's Progress


and its extreme prequel duology
Crystal Soldier
Crystal Dragon


And ~20 short stories published in annual chapbooks, now collected in The Liaden Universe Companion, vols 1 and 2

Two forthcoming paired novels, Fledgling and Saltation, published in draft online using the "storyteller's bowl" model of patronage.

And the expanded novella Balance of Trade

Mostly, these tell the story of Clan Korval, the foremost trading clan of Liad, where they are both the highest of high society and the despair of society. I love the nuances of the mannered society in which the books are set, and the subtleties of language, and the way Liaden-Terran interactions work (and don't work). I like the pilots' subculture, and the language of bows. I love the characters -- each distinctive, each interesting, each real. I like the interpersonal relationships. And, of course, I love the 9-foot ancient wise turtles, though that's a bit indulgent. The combination of flagrant SF (space ships, interstellar trade, unobtainium-powered death robots) and magic (yes, magic) and True Romance and swashbuckling makes these genre-defying, or perhaps all-genre-encompassing.

The plots are fun in a Rafael Sabatini kind of way, if you don't look too closely and can tolerate the occasional ridiculous coincidence. The dialog is superb. I read them to be with the characters and share their experiences, as much as to find out what happens next. The main sequence books and the first 2 prequels are considerably stronger than the farther-afield prequels, though each book has its moments. Balance of Trade feels incomplete; the original novella stopped at a reasonable spot, but the novelization stops in the middle, unresolved.

Let me be clear -- these are desert island books for me. If I could only take 5 series to my island, this would be one of them, warts and all. Perhaps that says more about me than about the books.

I generally recommend that new readers start with Conflict of Honors. If you don't like it, you probably won't like the rest of the series either. If you do like it, you are somewhat insulated against the atypical opening of Agent of Change, having met Clan Korval "at home" as it were, and been insulated to the magical aspects of the plot. If Shan yos'Galan doesn't charm you, you aren't the right reader.
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Re: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Postby DavidTate on Sunday, 02 January 2011, 12:43 am

A quick update on Lee and Miller (edited for detail):

After the fiasco associated with the failure of Meisha Merlin press, Lee and Miller have been picked up by Baen Books. It's a pretty good match; Baen knows what to do with authors who have a cult following in a niche market. They have released some omnibus editions of the earlier Korval novels, real editions (hardcover and mass-market ppb) of Fledgling and Saltation, a new prequel Mouse and Dragon, and have contracted for (I believe) 3 additional books. I'm looking forward to them. One of them will be a continuation of Balance of Trade, which is long overdue. One of them (I believe Ghost Ship, forthcoming next August according to the Baen website) will continue the story of Theo Waitley from Fledgling and Saltation. I'm not certain whether that counts as the long-requested "what happens next after I Dare" book, or if that will be the third new book.

Lee and Miller have also now published a fantasy duology (Duainfeyand Longeye), and an our-world fantasy (Carousel Tides), which I have not yet read.

As mentioned before, I usually suggest the novel Conflict of Honors to anyone wondering whether they would like these books. It's a semi-standalone at the beginning of the main Korval sequence, and shares both the excellences and weaknesses of the series overall.
Last edited by DavidTate on Friday, 07 January 2011, 9:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
David Tate
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Re: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Postby owlcroft on Monday, 03 January 2011, 7:48 pm

I foolishly thought that when the 2010 baseball season ended, I would be released (so to speak) to work on this site, and a number of other projects. Hah. So I am still miles and miles behind in my reading lists. But I must say that the collapse of Meisha Merlin really was a kick in the painful parts for not a few good authors (and now-despairing readers)--for example, pity poor Phyllis Eisenstein and her third Cray Ormoru book City in Stone, for which it is literally years now that some of us have been waiting.
Cordially,
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Re: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Postby DavidTate on Wednesday, 06 February 2013, 2:27 pm

I'm happy to say that it looks like I was right about Baen being a good fit for Lee and Miller. They have recently announced that not only are all 16 of their 25 years' worth of Liaden Universe novels now simultaneously in print, but they have contract for 5 (!) additional Liaden Universe novels, to be written between now and May 2017.

For someone who came to the series during the 10-year hiatus between novels #3 and #4, wondering if #4 would ever happen, this is awesome news. I am very happy for them.

Of course, 'series' is a topologically incorrect term for how these books are related. The plot has branched and interwoven to the point where it would be impossible to impose a linear order on the story, except arbitrarily by internal chronology. Then there are the prequels, one set following the parents of Our Original Heroes and one their distant ancestors. And then there's Jethri, who got a book of his own set at some indeterminate point in the past, and will be getting another shortly.

To quote the last line of one of the books: "It's kind of complicated..."
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Re: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Postby DavidTate on Friday, 26 September 2014, 4:34 pm

More updates on the Liaden Universe(tm)...

Since I last posted on this topic, five new novels have been published (at least as e-ARCs) or submitted:
Trade Secret is an immediate sequel to Balance of Trade, continuing the story of Jethri Gobelyn ven'Deelin. Though Balance of Trade can be considered a Young Adult book, the sequel should not.
Ghost Ship is the immediate sequel to both I Dare and Saltation, and brings together the main Korval plot line and the Theo Waitley plot line.
Dragon Ship is an immediate sequel to Ghost Ship.
Necessity's Child is a side book, sharing time and (partly) place with Ghost Ship and Dragon Ship, centered on a heretofore minor character.
Dragon in Exile has been submitted to Baen in manuscript. From what I've heard, I suspect it continues the main plot line.

I believe there may also be a third volume of the Liaden Universe Constellation forthcoming. As noted above, those volumes collect the various short stories and novellas that were (mostly) originally self-published by the authors in annual chapbooks that were bought by mail by loyal fans like me. A few of the stories were published in magazines or anthologies that no longer exist and/or are out of print.
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