Monthly Archives: October 2015

A Suggested Reading Order

The issue of a reading order for the Liaden Universe is a complicated one, because the Liaden Universe is not a single series but a setting in which many stories take place, some widely separated and some so close together they overlap. There are many possible ways to approach it, and which is best depends as much on the reader and the situation as anything else.

(The authors have some wise things to say on the subject on the Reading Order page of their own site, which are worth reading.)

Of all the possible approaches to take, I’m only going to address internal chronological order here, since that’s the one I can speak on with some confidence, having just read all the stories in that order, more or less. “More or less” is inevitable: as I’ve already said, some of the stories overlap, and sometimes you just have to make a judgement call about what order to read two things that occur more or less simultaneously.

With that in mind, here is my suggested internal-chronology-based reading order for all the Liaden novels, and then, in case the fancy should some day take you as it took me, for all the stories set in the Liaden universe.

Liaden Novels by Internal Chronology (More or Less)

Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon, Balance of Trade, Trade Secret, Fair Trade, Local Custom, Scout’s Progress, Mouse and Dragon, Conflict of Honors, Fledgling, Agent of Change, Carpe Diem, Plan B, I Dare, Saltation, Ghost Ship, Dragon Ship, Necessity’s Child, Dragon in Exile, Alliance of Equals, The Gathering Edge, Neogenesis, Accepting the Lance, Trader’s Leap, Salvage Right

All Liaden Stories by Internal Chronology (More or Less)

“Dragon Tide” ², “Necessary Evils” ², Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon, “Eleutherios” ³, “Where the Goddess Sends” ¹, “The Wine of Memory” ¹, “A Spell for the Lost” ¹, “Standing Orders” ⁶, “Preferred Seating” ⁵, “Ambient Conditions” ⁵, Balance of Trade, Trade Secret, “Out of True” ³, “Dead Men Dream” ⁵, Fair Trade, “Excerpts from Two Lives” ⁴, “Naratha’s Shadow” ¹, “Sweet Waters” ¹, “The Space at Tinsori Light” ³, “Moon’s Honor” ³, “Phoenix” ¹, “Due Diligence” ⁴, “Dark Secrets” ⁵, “Pilot of Korval” ¹, “A Choice of Weapons” ¹, “The Beggar King” ², Local Custom, Scout’s Progress, Mouse and Dragon, “Guaranteed Delivery” ³, “From Every Storm a Rainbow” ⁶, “Veil of the Dancer” ², “Heirloom” ¹, “Intelligent Design” ³, “A Matter of Dreams” ¹, “Moonphase” ¹, “Cutting Corners” ⁴, “Command Decision” ⁵, “Fighting Chance” ², “To Cut an Edge” ¹, “A Day at the Races” ¹, “Shadow Partner” ², “Certain Symmetry” ¹, “This House” ², Conflict of Honors, “Changeling” ¹, “Degrees of Separation” ⁴, “Fortune’s Favors” ⁵, Fledgling, Agent of Change, Carpe Diem, “Quiet Knives” ², Plan B, “Breath’s Duty” ¹, “Daughter of Dragons” ², “Persistence” ², I Dare, “Misfits” ², Saltation, “Landed Alien” ³, “Moon on the Hills” ², “Code of Honor” ³, “Hidden Resources” ², “Kin Ties” ³, Ghost Ship, “Prodigal Son” ², “Songs of the Fathers” ⁶, Dragon Ship, “Wise Child” ⁶, “Skyblaze” ², Necessity’s Child, “Roving Gambler” ³, “The Rifle’s First Wife” ³, Dragon in Exile, “Chimera” ⁶, Alliance of Equals, The Gathering Edge, “Shout of Honor” ⁵, “A Visit to the Galaxy Ballroom” ⁵, Neogenesis, “Opportunity to Seize” ⁵, Accepting the Lance, Trader’s Leap, “The Gate That Locks the Tree” ⁵, “Block Party” ⁴, “Our Lady of Benevolence” ⁶, “Revolutionists” ⁴

¹ can be found in A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 1
² can be found in A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 2
³ can be found in A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 3
⁴ can be found in A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 4
⁵ can be found in A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 5
⁶ not yet collected in a Constellation: From Every Storm a Rainbow, Wise Child, Chimera, Our Lady of Benevolence, Standing Orders, Songs of the Fathers


Things I Have Learned

First of all, I have some people to thank:

  • The authors of the Liaden Universe, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, without whom there would be nothing for this blog to do, and more importantly for the joy their work has given many readers around the world.
  • Everybody whose work has gone into making WordPress such a powerful and easy-to-use blogging platform, with particular thanks to those who worked on the Akismet spam filter and the Editorial Calendar scheduling tool; this project would have been much more difficult and painful without you.
  • Every single person who commented on any of the posts.

And now, we’re near the end, which is the traditional time to look back and think about what one has learned. So here are some of the things I have learned doing this re-read:

  • Reading one chapter per day works well for a book where all the chapters are about the same length, but not so well for a book where the chapters vary according to the pace of the story and may be anything from one page to fifty pages long.
  • An ebook reader is not bad for reading a book straight through, but can be a pain when you want to flip back a couple of chapters to check on something you think you remember being mentioned but you’re not sure exactly where it was. (And worse yet when checking on the thing you think you remember requires flipping back and forth between two different books on the same device.)
  • Sharon Lee was right when she told me at the start of this that authors arrange chapters and scenes the way they do for a reason, and to split or rearrange them is to damage the story. Of course she was, but being me I had to try it the other way to realise it. And, all things considered, I’m glad I paid her enough attention to rein things in as much as I did.
  • This was a pretty ambitious project, especially since it’s the first time I’ve done anything like this. Eighteen novels is definitely jumping in the deep end. There’s a perfectly good four-novel series that ticks most of the boxes for why I wanted to do this project; if I’d thought of it, I could have done it first as a warm-up. (Part of me still wants to do it next; another part of me is horrified at the thought of ever trying anything like this again.) But the Liaden Universe had one particular appeal that the other options didn’t, which was that there was a new novel due out that was a sequel to one I hadn’t re-read, and I wanted to make time to re-read it before the sequel. Which brings us to the next point:
  • It can be tricky to read a series in chronological order when it’s still in the process of being written. I thought I was safe because all the upcoming novels were progressing the story, so I could just stick them on the end, but I didn’t account for all the additional short stories that weren’t so accommodating. As it was, I still got it wrong in places. Not just with the new stories I hadn’t read yet, but also sometimes with older stories that I’d misunderstood or misremembered when they were set. So I can’t, even now, claim with entire honesty to have read the whole series in chronological order. But I am in a good position to advise the next person who wants to give it a go. That’s tomorrow’s post.

Dragon in Exile – Epilogue

In which the Road Boss comes home.

I spent the entire epilogue waiting for Theo to show up, or Daav and Aelliana, or all of them together, but it didn’t happen. Perhaps Daav’s homecoming, like the downfall of the Department, is a large enough thing to require the length of an entire book to tell it.

Maybe Daav and Aelliana are even home already and the narrator’s just not mentioning it, to avoid being distracting. Or they may be just about to arrive; the hint of the seed pods could go either way. Theo’s definitely not back yet, judging by Miri’s reaction to the vision of her with the seedling from Spiral Dancer; Miri doesn’t know it’s a thing that’s actually happened. (It has to be a thing that’s happened, because the business with Admiral Bunter shows that this is after Dragon Ship – so it’s interesting that it’s in among a bunch of visions of things that haven’t happened yet. I wonder if the young woman in Scout leathers is who Lizzie will grow up to be.)

Another thing that’s happened is “The Rifle’s First Wife”, since there she is among Korval’s other guests. I suppose that means the events of that story have been happening alongside the events of this one (or perhaps in the gap between the last chapter and this epilogue, if it’s large enough, although I seem to recall “The Rifle’s First Wife” begins when Hazenthull is still on Surebleak and Kareen is still guesting at Jelaza Kazone).

And that’s it. Nothing left to read. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow: A few retrospective posts.

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 40

Sherman’s Shootout
Expert Round

In which the people make their feelings known.

Nelirikk has a new surname: nor’Phelium. I wonder whose idea that was, and what it signifies. I tried to see what could be gleaned from seeing who else has had a surname with the nor’ prefix, but there hasn’t been anyone – which might be significant in itself.

I like the bit about Nelirikk feeling under-equipped with only four handguns, six knives, explosives, arm-chains, and zhang-wire. (We’ve seen zhang-wire before, only romanised slightly differently: “jang-wire” was the name of the weapon Sed Ric the pirate carried for self-defence in Scout’s Progress.)

I was surprised to see Yulie. Makes sense a man with his shooting ability might want to come along to an event like this – but this is Yulie, who doesn’t do well with strangers and has been actively avoiding the city for as long as we’ve known him and longer. That he’s in the city now, having trusted somebody else to watch his farm and his cats (a Scout, he says, perhaps Tan Ort?) says a lot about how much he’s benefited from the changes on Surebleak.

For the final chapter of the book, we return to the main theme. Pat Rin’s making a deliberate point by standing unarmed in the middle of the argument: he could have shot quite a few people if he’d wanted to, but he wants people to understand that his leadership isn’t just about who can shoot who the fastest.

I may have got a bit sniffly at the bit about the people opening the road that they own.

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 39

Sherman’s Shootout
Novice Round

In which there’s shooting at the shootout.

I still want to know who thought it would be a good idea to attack a group of people who have specifically gathered to demonstrate their skill with firearms.

On the journey by which Pat Rin first came to Surebleak, he met a young woman who believed that the universe was formed by the interplay between the forces of Ignorance and Persistence, and was worried that Ignorance seemed to be winning. It looks like this round is going to be a win for Persistence.

Kamele’s changed quite a bit since she came to Surebleak; I think both Daav and Theo are going to be surprised when they see her again. (Although not, perhaps, by precisely the same things.) And at one point she refers to Surebleak as “home”; I think in context she means that it’s Theo’s home now, not that she’s accepted it as her own, but even that’s a significant development.

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 38

Boss Conrad’s House
Blair Road

In which Penn Kalhoon has something to say.

I was wrong about the meeting Pat Rin sent Quin to, which I might have known if I’d thought; on further consideration, if it had been something other than an ordinary sort of meeting Pat Rin would have said so. This is not the first time I’ve been wrong in this novel about an upcoming meeting going to be the occasion for excitement; my persistent mistake has been to misunderstand what kind of story this is. I kept assuming that if a meeting got mentioned it was probably going to be important to the plot, and that if trouble was brewing it would come to a head quickly, but this is a more slow-burn story than that, and meetings of the Council of Bosses are important to the plot even if nothing dramatic happens at them simply because it matters to the characters that there is a Council of Bosses and that it’s holding regular meetings.

And that brings us around to what Pat Rin tells Penn, which is another thread of the ongoing thing about how the new ways are going to survive: if Pat Rin and Val Con and Miri get killed, that isn’t the end of the new Surebleak. Korval might have shown the way, but they couldn’t have made it happen without Surebleakeans, and now the way has been shown the Surebleakeans can make it happen without Korval if they have to.

I suspect it speaks to how much Surebleak has improved already that Pat Rin is able to compare its port to Solcintra’s Mid Port instead of its Low Port. For that matter, the state Surebleak Port was in when Pat Rin arrived was so run-down and uninhabited it might not even have stood a comparison to the Low Port, which whatever it may not be at least has an active population.

It hadn’t occurred to me how useful a scholar of the history of education might be in a city trying to develop a proper education system. I wonder how long the authors have been planning that one.

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 37

Jelaza Kazone

In which Val Con sees his brother off.

I had wondered what became of Quick Passage. Now I wonder if the hidden control centre it’s become is the same one Miri used to oversee the Captain’s Emergency.

I like how Miri says “Now all we do is wait” as if that’s going to be easy for them.

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 36

Warehouse District

In which the Bedel are far from defenceless.

That’s a neat trick with the meteor shielding. (And probably implies something about how meteor shielding actually works in this universe, if you’re a reader who’s interested in that kind of technical thing.)

After all the ways they’ve been thwarted, the Syndicate are probably going to make one big serious attempt to make their presence felt before the end of the book. Which reminds me that we haven’t had the shooting match yet.

I wonder if the shooting match is the meeting of Bosses that Pat Rin’s asked Quin to represent him at. Even leaving aside the excuse that the Emerald needs his presence, which has the virtue of probably being true, sending his heir to shoot in his place is a neat way of supporting his consequence without giving away anything about just how good with a gun he personally is.