Category Archives: Discussion

Two Things

At this point, as someone once said in a different context, there are two things which must without fail be said.

First, that the depiction of the Bedel in Necessity’s Child is based on gypsy stereotypes. (This is pretty obvious even had the authors not said so in interviews.)

Second, that I am not comfortable about this, and wish it were not so.

I’m still going to cover Necessity’s Child for the project, because doing the whole series means doing the whole series, but I wouldn’t have felt right to go into it without saying that up front.

Looking back on Balance of Trade

And so we reach the end of Balance of Trade. I find I like it better on re-reading than I did the first time through. (A result that, I’m pleased to say, has so far been the case for all the novels I’ve re-read for the first time in this project.)

Part of why I didn’t like it so much the first time was that it didn’t feel to me like the story had concluded, so much as it reached a point where the authors had just stopped telling it. Sharon Lee has said she was surprised how many readers assumed there would be a sequel, but I know for me it seemed obvious; I got to the end of the novel, and it didn’t feel like the story was over.

One aspect of the problem was that so many things happened that felt like they ended up going nowhere. Jethri runs around town looking for depilatory cream, and still doesn’t have any when the novel ends. Bar Jan chel’Gaibin threatens Khat, prompting Jethri’s family and friends to spend chapters considering how best to guard against further action from him, and then he’s never heard from again. And there’s all that backstory about Arin’s family we’re loaded down with, and how much difference does it make to the plot in the end?

On this re-read, knowing where the story ends up, I could see how each of those things contributes to carrying the story along. (Jethri’s search doesn’t produce any depilatory cream, but it does produce Tan Sim. The chel’Gaibin incident results in Grig being on hand when the cargo pod is opened, and his family history results in him having something useful to say about its contents.) But I still feel as if there’s some kind of problem of emphasis, like maybe they’re made to feel too interesting in their own right, so that when they’re dropped after serving their purpose it feels like something useful is being thrown away.

Another aspect of the problem was that usually you can tell where the ending of a story is because it builds to some kind of dramatic climax, and Balance of Trade doesn’t do that. Jethri gets called to be evaluated for his Guild card at about the point in the novel where the stakes would usually start rising, but by that point he’s got enough experience both as a trader and as a Liaden fosterling that it’s – not a formality, quite, but not a major source of tension. Jethri is “on his mettle, but not concerned”, and the reader is not concerned, either. The event that occupies the spot where the climax would usually be is the opening of the cargo pod, which isn’t without interest, but it doesn’t carry the stakes appropriate for the dramatic high point of an entire novel. (Yes, somebody does mention something about the planet blowing up – briefly, in passing, without any lead-in, after the situation has already been resolved. Nobody seems very worried about it, and it goes past so quickly it doesn’t really register.)

I have no idea, now, what to expect from Trade Secret. The first time around, I thought there were some obvious loose ends ready to be picked up in the sequel that was surely coming. Now I’m not sure how many of them the authors see the same way, so I don’t know whether any of them will be picked up or not. I would like, though, to see Jethri meet his family again, and see what they make of the new him. (And it would be interesting, though perhaps not cheering, to see what happens next time Jethri and Iza meet.)

Tagging

Something I’ve noticed come up in online discussions of the Liaden stories is the problem of finding details when one needs them: details of character backstory or appearance, useful quotations, whatever.

And it occurs to me that, since I’m going to be blogging my way through all the stories anyway, it might be an opportunity to make notes that could help someone, some other time, faced with having to comb through them in search of information.

(I know I’d have been grateful if somebody had ever compiled an index of all the places where specific dates are given. Just for instance.)

Creating an index could just be a matter of tagging each entry with relevant information about the story or chapter in question. (Names of all the relevant characters, for an obvious possibility.)

Does this seem like a useful thing to do? What sorts of things might I look for, either specifically or in general?

(There will in any case be things I’ll be looking out for, just for my own interest. Just when the scions of Solcintra started displaying knowledge of Bach and Shakespeare, for one thing.)

Reading Order – Draft 2

Based on all the feedback I’ve received about the various options I’ve posted over the last few weeks, this is the reading order I’m currently planning to use.

If you’re considering joining in for some or all of the re-read, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this reading order.

That goes double if you were considering joining in but find this reading order off-putting. I don’t want to frighten people away; I don’t think it would be nearly as much fun to do the re-read alone.

General overview

The basic organizing principle is chronological order, the internal order of events.

There are places where I have split up novels to fit in stories that take place between chapters. If I hear from people that this is a problem for them, I’ll reconsider, but for me I see finding out how things fit together as part of the point of doing it chronological.

(For myself, I don’t have any particular problem with re-reading a Liaden novel piecemeal. Many’s the time I’ve taken one up to re-read just a particular scene or a chapter or two.)

I have resisted any urge to split individual chapters or short stories. I have mostly avoided scheduling lots of back-and-forth between novels that overlap chronologically, and attempted to keep each novel’s chapters in the same order as printed (though I Dare is a law unto itself).

I have attempted to place the splits where there’s a natural break in the flow of the story, even when that means fudging the chronology a bit. (Interestingly, in practice there turn out to be places where respecting the flow of the story means that I would rather break between chapters of a novel than between novels. For instance, I would hate to put anything between the end of Scout’s Progress and the beginning of Mouse and Dragon, while the multi-year-gap between two late chapters of Mouse and Dragon feels like fair game, the more so since it follows what might easily have been the ending point of the novel.)

Draft Reading Order

  • “Dragon Tide”
  • “Necessary Evils”
  • Crystal Soldier
  • Crystal Dragon
  • “Eleutherios”
  • “Where the Goddess Sends”
  • “A Spell for the Lost”
  • “The Wine of Memory”
  • Balance of Trade
  • Trade Secret
  • “Naratha’s Shadow”
  • “The Space at Tinsori Light”
  • “Sweet Waters”
  • “Phoenix”
  • “Pilot of Korval”
  • “A Choice of Weapons”
  • “The Beggar King”
  • Local Custom
  • Scout’s Progress ch.1-38
  • Mouse and Dragon ch.1-36
  • “Guaranteed Delivery”
  • Mouse and Dragon ch.37-41
  • “Veil of the Dancer”
  • “Heirloom”
  • “Intelligent Design”
  • “A Matter of Dreams”
  • “Moonphase”
  • Conflict of Honors ch.1
  • “Fighting Chance”
  • “To Cut an Edge”
  • “Shadow Partner”
  • “A Day at the Races”
  • “Certain Symmetry”
  • “This House”
  • Conflict of Honors ch.2-50
  • “Changeling”
  • Fledgling
  • Saltation ch.1-32
  • “Landed Alien”
  • Agent of Change
  • Carpe Diem ch.2-35
  • “Quiet Knives”
  • Carpe Diem ch.36-71
  • I Dare ch.1-4,10-12
  • “Daughter of Dragons”
  • “Persistence”
  • I Dare ch.18,20,22-23,25-27,29-30,35-36
  • Plan B ch.1-3
  • “Breath’s Duty”
  • I Dare ch.40-42
  • Plan B ch.4-30
  • I Dare ch.46-48,50
  • Plan B ch.31-35
  • I Dare ch.5-9,13-17,19,21,24,28,31-34,37-39,43-44,53
  • I Dare ch.45,49,51-52,54-57
  • “Misfits”
  • Saltation ch.33-41
  • Saltation ch.42 & I Dare ch.58
  • Ghost Ship ch.1-5
  • “Moon on the Hills”
  • Ghost Ship ch.6-23
  • “Hidden Resources”
  • “Kin Ties”
  • Ghost Ship ch.24-epilogue
  • “Prodigal Son”
  • Necessity’s Child
  • Dragon Ship
  • “Skyblaze”

Reading Order – Draft 1c

And yet a third possible reading order, with chapters arranged as close as possible to when the events occur.

Draft Reading Order

  • “Dragon Tide”
  • “Necessary Evils”
  • Crystal Soldier
  • Crystal Dragon
  • “Eleutherios”
  • “Where the Goddess Sends”
  • “A Spell for the Lost”
  • “The Wine of Memory”
  • Balance of Trade
  • Trade Secret
  • “Naratha’s Shadow”
  • “The Space at Tinsori Light”
  • “Sweet Waters”
  • “Phoenix”
  • “Pilot of Korval”
  • “A Choice of Weapons”
  • “The Beggar King”
  • Local Custom
  • Scout’s Progress
  • Mouse and Dragon ch.1-36
  • “Guaranteed Delivery”
  • Mouse and Dragon ch.37-41
  • “Veil of the Dancer”
  • “Heirloom”
  • “Intelligent Design”
  • “A Matter of Dreams”
  • “Moonphase”
  • Conflict of Honors ch.1
  • “Fighting Chance”
  • “To Cut an Edge”
  • “Misfits”, ch.2
  • “Shadow Partner”
  • “A Day at the Races”
  • “Certain Symmetry”
  • “This House”
  • Conflict of Honors ch.2-50
  • Fledgling
  • “Changeling”
  • Saltation ch.1-32
  • “Landed Alien”
  • Agent of Change
  • Carpe Diem ch.2-35
  • “Quiet Knives”
  • Carpe Diem ch.36-50,52,58
  • I Dare ch.1-4,10-12
  • “Daughter of Dragons”
  • “Persistence”
  • I Dare ch.18,20,22-23,25-27,29-30,35-36
  • Carpe Diem ch.51,53-57,59-71
  • Plan B ch.1-3
  • “Breath’s Duty”
  • Plan B ch.4-9
  • I Dare ch.40-41
  • Plan B ch.10-16
  • I Dare ch.42
  • Plan B ch.17-34
  • I Dare ch.46-48,50
  • Plan B ch.35
  • I Dare ch.5-9,13-17,19,21,24,28,31-34,37-39,43-44,53,45,49,51-52,54-55
  • “Skyblaze”, ch.1
  • “Misfits”, ch.1
  • I Dare ch.56-57
  • “Misfits”, ch.3
  • Saltation ch.33-40
  • I Dare ch.58
  • Saltation ch.41-42
  • Ghost Ship ch.1-5
  • “Moon on the Hills”
  • Ghost Ship ch.6-23
  • “Hidden Resources”
  • “Kin Ties”
  • Ghost Ship ch.24-34
  • Necessity’s Child ch.1-2
  • Ghost Ship ch.35-36
  • Necessity’s Child ch.3-4
  • Ghost Ship ch.37-38
  • Dragon Ship prologue
  • Ghost Ship ch.39
  • Necessity’s Child ch.5-8
  • Ghost Ship ch.40-41
  • “Prodigal Son”
  • Ghost Ship ch.42,epilogue
  • Necessity’s Child ch.9-13
  • Ghost Ship ch.43
  • Necessity’s Child ch.14-38
  • Dragon Ship ch.1-43
  • “Skyblaze”, ch.2

Again, not a final order, offered as something to react to. What are your thoughts?

Reading Order – Draft 1b

Here’s an alternative possible reading order, with short stories fitting in between chapters of novels, but the novels not otherwise overlapping or rearranged.

Draft Reading Order

  • “Dragon Tide”
  • “Necessary Evils”
  • Crystal Soldier
  • Crystal Dragon
  • “Eleutherios”
  • “Where the Goddess Sends”
  • “A Spell for the Lost”
  • “The Wine of Memory”
  • Balance of Trade
  • Trade Secret
  • “Naratha’s Shadow”
  • “The Space at Tinsori Light”
  • “Sweet Waters”
  • “Phoenix”
  • “Pilot of Korval”
  • “A Choice of Weapons”
  • “The Beggar King”
  • Local Custom
  • Scout’s Progress
  • Mouse and Dragon ch.1-36
  • “Guaranteed Delivery”
  • Mouse and Dragon ch.37-41
  • “Veil of the Dancer”
  • “Heirloom”
  • “Intelligent Design”
  • “A Matter of Dreams”
  • “Moonphase”
  • “Fighting Chance”
  • “To Cut an Edge”
  • “Shadow Partner”
  • “A Day at the Races”
  • “Certain Symmetry”
  • “This House”
  • Conflict of Honors
  • “Changeling”
  • Agent of Change
  • Carpe Diem ch.2-34
  • “Quiet Knives”
  • Carpe Diem ch.35-71
  • Fledgling
  • Plan B ch.1-3
  • “Breath’s Duty”
  • Plan B ch.4-35
  • I Dare ch.1-12
  • “Daughter of Dragons”
  • “Persistence”
  • I Dare ch.13-57
  • “Misfits”
  • I Dare ch.58
  • Saltation
  • “Landed Alien”
  • Ghost Ship ch.1-5
  • “Moon on the Hills”
  • Ghost Ship ch.6-12
  • “Hidden Resources”
  • “Kin Ties”
  • Ghost Ship ch.13-41
  • “Prodigal Son”
  • Ghost Ship ch.42-44
  • Necessity’s Child
  • Dragon Ship
  • “Skyblaze”

Again, not a final order, offered as something to react to. What are your thoughts?

Reading Order – Draft 1

The responses I’ve got so far have been strongly in favour of reading each novel in one go, without stepping out between chapters to read short stories or any other such business.

That collapses the problem space down to the point that I can do this:

Draft Reading Order

  • “Dragon Tide”
  • “Necessary Evils”
  • Crystal Soldier
  • Crystal Dragon
  • “Eleutherios”
  • “Where the Goddess Sends”
  • “A Spell for the Lost”
  • “The Wine of Memory”
  • Balance of Trade
  • Trade Secret
  • “Naratha’s Shadow”
  • “The Space at Tinsori Light”
  • “Sweet Waters”
  • “Phoenix”
  • “Pilot of Korval”
  • “A Choice of Weapons”
  • “The Beggar King”
  • Local Custom
  • Scout’s Progress
  • Mouse and Dragon
  • “Guaranteed Delivery”
  • “Veil of the Dancer”
  • “Heirloom”
  • “Intelligent Design”
  • “A Matter of Dreams”
  • “Moonphase”
  • “Fighting Chance”
  • “To Cut an Edge”
  • “Shadow Partner”
  • “A Day at the Races”
  • “Certain Symmetry”
  • “This House”
  • Conflict of Honors
  • “Changeling”
  • Agent of Change
  • Carpe Diem
  • “Quiet Knives”
  • “Daughter of Dragons”
  • Fledgling
  • Plan B
  • “Breath’s Duty”
  • I Dare
  • “Persistence”
  • “Misfits”
  • Saltation
  • “Landed Alien”
  • “Moon on the Hills”
  • “Hidden Resources”
  • “Kin Ties”
  • Ghost Ship
  • “Prodigal Son”
  • Necessity’s Child
  • Dragon Ship
  • “Skyblaze”

This is, of course, not the final order, but it gives us something to react to. How does it look? Can you see any problems with it?

Chronology

When you say you’ll be reading the stories in chronological order, what exactly do you mean?

Good question, hypothetical reader!

There are two problems that must be faced when attempting to put the Liaden stories in chronological order. The first is that not all of them are clearly dated, and the second is that some of them overlap.

Unclear dates

Eight of the short stories, and two of the novels, don’t have any clear indication of when they’re set. Some of them can be dated approximately (by the ages of recurring characters, for instance), while others could be set at any point within a span of several centuries.

If necessary, I’m not above arbitrarily assigning them positions (if all else fails, I’ve got positions picked out based on grouping with stories concerning similar themes), but if there is any useful dating information about any of these stories that I’ve overlooked, I’d appreciate hearing about it.

The stories are: “Eleutherios”, “Intelligent Design”, “Landed Alien”, “The Space at Tinsori Light”, “A Spell for the Lost”, “This House”, “Where the Goddess Sends”, and “The Wine of Memory”.

The novels are Fledgling and Saltation.

Overlaps

A not-insignificant number of the short stories are set inside novels, between chapters or addressing chapters from an alternative viewpoint. For that matter, some of the novels overlap other novels; there’s at least one place where three different novels are occurring simultaneously.

The question here is: How do I deal with this? Should I treat novels as indivisible, read them straight through from beginning to end, and fit in the overlapping stories before or after as seems appropriate? Or should I feel free to chop them up and shuffle chapters into whatever order is most chronological?

Your thoughts on this are invited.