walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Agent of Change_, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller SPOILERS

This is, I believe, the first book published (written?) in the Liaden universe. I have been not reading any of this constellation (?) of books since basically when they first came out, by which I mean, I was aware of them and largely not interested. This is especially weird, given that I was active enough on rec.arts.sf.written and rec.arts.books in the 1990s to get a "So _you're_ [my name at the time]" from Vernor Vinge when I was in line for a book signing at a con. (Did I cringe? Yes, I cringed. Worse, I think I've lost the copy of Tatja Grimm's World that I had him sign. Sad face. But he was really nice about it and we did get to chat later.)

But when the Smart Bitches produced a positive review of one or more elements of the Liaden universe, I went, oh, sure, what the heck. Altho figuring out where I wanted to start was tricky, I figured I might as well start where the authors started and go from there.

First, I was warned, and you should know: these books really do have a tendency to end on cliffhangers.

Second, this is decades old science fiction. Presumably my readers are old enough and experienced enough to be aware of the issues associated with historical visions of tomorrow. The really grating ones here, for me, were "booktapes" piled all over the place and the conspicuous absence of portable communications. Lee and Miller have a Telzey-universe (James Schmitz) type autovalet, which is pretty fun!

Third: do I really have to say this? SPOILERS RUN RUN RUN if you haven't already read this come on it was published quite a while ago now.

Onto what might pass for a review. I expected a substantial romance subplot and one was delivered. I felt mild affection for both members of the proto-dyad and found their mutual attraction and skittishness to be believable. They have significant violence in their chosen careers and their backstory, and that was all good, too, even tho there was potentially trigger-y stuff in Miri's backstory (she flashes back to an attempted rape) so watch out for that.

This book contains an Oops We Got Married By Accident. I used to totally love these. There is usually (and there is one here) a really developed other culture/species/wtf and then one of the humans somehow is adopted into it and then the human does this thing which has one meaning to humans and another meaning (Getting Married) to the other culture and shenanigans. Basically, Val Con gives Miri a knife to wear in her hair when they go out to eat and dance at The Grotto (OH COULD THIS BE MORE OF A CLICHE) because a gun is too conspicuous and giving a knife = getting married. (PRETTY SURE I MENTIONED SPOILERS)

I don't totally love these any more. Now, I actually feel sort of offended on behalf of the non-existent, entirely the product of the authors' cultural group for being vultured into a pair of people who can't own their own desire enough to say, hey, wanna? Yeah, wanna! Okee, that was super nice. Wanna do it on the reg? Sure! Paperwork? Absolutes! Maybe some of the wee ones? Yeah, but we gotta work on how many . . . (IT IS NOT THAT HARD. SHOULD NOT TAKE MORE THAN 3 CONVOS. TOTAL MINUTES DEVOTED ON THE ORDER OF A HALF HOUR.)

Here's my theory on why I don't love these any more. Because I've actually done this. I loved the Oops Married By Accident when I hadn't done this. YMMV.

Next: this book is actually a romantic suspense novel that happens to involve space drive and some aliens. Specifically, it is that kind of Romantic Suspense novel that I think of as "On the Run" (many of these books actually work the word Run into the title -- sometimes _as_ the title, which is profoundly unimaginative). For reasons that are basically not that important, one or both of the proto-dyad are running, usually interspersed with downtime hiding out somewhere, patching themselves up, figuring out who is chasing them, trying to create a new identity for a new, quieter life, etc. which downtime is always interrupted by more chasing. These novels typically end somewhat abruptly, when something makes it possible for them to quit running (either everyone chasing them is dead and/or called off, or they finally convince everyone they are really dead, no, really, nothing to see here, and then they have to hide, at least until the next book in the series).

This novel is an unexceptional entry in this category of Romantic Suspense.

Here's what Lee and Miller did well: the Liaden universe is actually pretty cool, especially when the characters -- good guys and bad guys -- are Doing Research. Whenever they get a few minutes to read up on the other people in the book, Awesomeness Occurs. Like when the Juntavas guy notices that the Yxtrang avoid the turtles. Cue suspenseful music. Scary race of pirates avoids encounters with the Turtles!!! Turtles Must Be Terrifying!!!! Auuugh. Call off the enforcers. Who are out of contact. Ah, shucky darn.

Highlight of the book: the Juntavas army which is chasing Miri is led by Miri into the Police army which has cornered Val Con. Antics ensue.

Second highlight of the book: when Watcher gets told to go think about what he did by Edger.

Will I read more? Almost inevitably. However, there is a new Kris Longknife entry and a new series starter by Ilona Andrews sitting on my kindle so probably not today.

ETA: _Agent of Change_ was free on Amazon for kindle when I got it.
Tags: book review, sf
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