Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Why You Should Get A Visa to the Liaden Universe

I was introduced to the Liaden Universe by some kind soul on the AOL Bookworms folder who read of my predelection for science fiction and fantasy with strong characters and meaningful plots that move along. I read "Local Custom" 3 years ago and I was hooked. I've since read everything in the Liaden Universe that is available, and enjoyed them tremendously. Here are characters who inhabit a universe in which one's manners are deeply important, and one's "face" is even more so. Clan Korval, as we soon learn, are the rarest of the rare, a clan full of noble and fascinating souls who have the intestinal fortitude, wit and charm to change their world. I heartily recommend these works. The following is from Wikipedia, and is a nice run down of the books and some of the important concepts/characters. I am a big fan of Shan and Pricilla, personally, but I also hold deep fondness for Anthora and Nova, and the tree, of course!

All books and stories are available in electronic form from Embiid Publishing (http://www.embiid.net/). The novels have been published by Meisha Merlin (http://www.meishamerlin.com/), who have also anthologised the earlier novels, and re-issued by Ace Publishing (http://us.penguingroup.com/).

The "Agent of Change" sequence (sorted by internal chronology, not publication date):
Local Custom (2002, ISBN 0-441-00911-5)
Scout's Progress (2002, ISBN 0-441-00927-1)
Conflict of Honors (1988, ISBN 0-441-00964-6)
Agent of Change (1988, ISBN 0-441-00991-3)
Carpe Diem (1989, ISBN 0-441-01022-9)
Plan B (1999, ISBN 0-441-01053-9)
I Dare (2002, ISBN 0-441-01085-7)
Further books:
Balance of Trade (2004, ISBN 1-59222-020-7)
The Great Migration Duology
Crystal Soldier (February 2005, ISBN 1-59222-083-5)
Crystal Dragon (scheduled for 2006)

Partners in Necessity (2000, ISBN 1-892065-01-0 trade paperback)
Contains Conflict of Honors, Agent of Change, and Carpe Diem
Pilots Choice (2001, ISBN 1-892065-02-9 trade paperback)
Contains Local Custom and Scout's Progress

Short Stories
These also include stories about Lute and Moonhawk, the earlier incarnations of two major characters in the books.
To Cut An Edge - Val Con meets Edger
A Day at the Races - Shan and Val Con outrage Aunt Kareen
A Matter of Dreams
Moonphase - the 55th tale of Lute and Moonhawk
Where the Goddess Sends - the first tale of Lute and Moonhawk
A Spell for the Lost - the second tale of Lute and Moonhawk
Balance of Trade (expanded for the novel)
A Choice of Weapons - Daav has a bad time at a party
Pilot of Korval - Daav and Er Thom must take up their responsibilities
Breath's Duty - Daav must take up a painful task
Naratha's Shadow - a Scout must control an ancient artefact
Changeling - How Ren Zel became a pilot and what befell him thereafter
The Wine of Memory - Lute and Moonhawk must save one of his oldest friends
Certain Symmetry - Pat Rin must execute a friend's will — at considerable risk to himself
Veil of the Dancer
Sweet Waters
Heirloom - Pat Rin must play a perfect game — without rules
This House
The King of the Cats (non-canon, cross-over with other stories by Steve Miller)
These are available from SRM, Publisher (http://www.korval.com/) in chapbooks. Most are also available from Embiid. The Liaden chapbooks are:
Two Tales of Korval: To Cut An Edge, A Day at the Races
Fellow Travellers: Moonphase, Where the Goddess Sends, A Spell for the Lost
Duty Bound: Pilot of Korval, Breath's Duty
Certain Symmetry: Certain Symmetry, The Wine of Memory
Changeling: Changeling
Trading in Futures: Balance of Trade (the short story), A Choice of Weapons
Loose Cannon: A Matter of Dreams, Phoenix
Shadows and Shades: Heirloom, Naratha's Shadow
Quiet Knives: Veil of the Dancer, Quiet Knives

As mentioned above, there are three main divisions of the human race which appear in the stories. There are some notable non-humans also.

Home planet "Liad". Liaden (singular and plural are the same) are usually shorter than the Terran norm, often with golden skin. They are deeply concerned with their melant'i which roughly corresponds to the concern with "face" for which Japanese Samurai are famous. Some are almost rabidly isolationist; it is not uncommon for Liaden to refer to those of other races as "it" likening them to animals. Several characters are part- or even half-Terran: this does not endear them to the isolationists.
Liaden society is clan-based, each Clan being made up of one or more families ("lines"). The Head of a Clan is the "Delm", the head of a line is the "Thodelm"; either might be male or female as circumstances dictate.
Some Liaden are trained as explorers: the Scouts. They are regarded with distaste by the more isolationist within Liaden society.
Most of the stories thus far centre around members of Clan Korval, made up of the yos'Phelium and yos'Galan lines. Scouts also appear often.
Val Con yos'Phelium - ex-Scout
Miri Robertson - ex-mercenary, wife to Val Con
Shan yos'Galan - Master Trader, foster-brother to Val Con (current incarnation of Lute)
Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza - wife to Shan (current incarnation of Moonhawk)
Daav yos'Phelium - Scout, father to Val Con
Aelliana Caylon - wife to Daav, mother to Val Con
Er Thom yos'Galan - Master Trader, father to Shan
Anne Davis - wife to Er Thom, mother to Shan
Pat Rin yos'Phelium - cousin to Val Con
Kareen yos'Phelium - sister to Daav, mother to Pat Rin, expert on "proper conduct"
Anthora yos'Galan - sister to Shan, with preternatural abilities
Ren Zel dea'Judan - husband to Anthora
Nova yos'Galan - sister to Anthora and Val Con

Home planet known as "Terra". However as remarked above, there is a brief reference to the possibility that this planet is not our planet Earth but possibly the fourth of that name, previous planets having been abandoned. There appears to be some resentment that the "younger" races (usually Liaden) hold more power in the realm of shipping and commerce than Terra; there is reference to at least one political party involved in less-than-legal operations.

Home planet unknown at this time. Usually much larger than the Terran norm, they are a war-like people who live for conquest. They are almost universally prone to thinking of the other human races as animals. It is not known whether they can interbreed with Liaden or Terrans: the likely lifespan of such offspring is short, not for merely biological reasons.
Nelirikk - ex-Explorer (equivalent to Scout), subsequently sworn to Line yos'Phelium, becomes Miri's bodyguard; aka "Beautiful"

Clutch Turtles
These non-humans are even larger than Yxtrang and very long-lived; they appear much like turtles walking upright, hence the name. Their names are correspondingly long: Edger's full name apparently takes some hours to recite. They are usually slow to act but are very dangerous when angered.
Those encountered in the story thus far make up a "market research" team on behalf of their clan, who manufacture knives of a very particular sort.

There are many cats which appear in the stories, usually by name, often taking an active part in the proceedings.

An unusual participant in proceedings is Jelaza Kazone (possible translation "Jela's Promise") and the seedlings thereof (of which only one has thus far appeared in narrative). This very large tree of unknown species lives in the grounds of Clan Korval's primary residence and is in the habit of communicating its likes and dislikes to senior members of that clan; it has particularly been noted to have an interest in the likely parents of future children of the Clan.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Wierd Books I've Read

If you don't mind being creeped out, you will love these books:

The Prestige by Christopher Priest
This book had my flesh crawling by the 5th chapter, and the ending had me reeling with discomfort, disorientation and a tinge of disgust. Eek!

The Light Ages by Ian MacLeod
This book has an odd premise to begin with, and is part of the unusual wave of "Victorian" science fiction that I've been seeing lately. However, this author manages to make you care about the odd main character, though we never really find out how he triumphs in the end. It's got some very wierd characters and situations.

Felicity Savage's books, Humility Garden and Delta City are extremely creative, in that I could never have concieved of a world like this...it's just too bizarre. Reading her books is like walking into someone's drug or fever-induced dream, and you leave feeling queasy.

Mockingbird by Sean Stewart
This book is very superstitious and odd, a magic realism mixed with Latina chick lit work that kept me going, though I found the main character and her "riders" extremely creepy. But then, possession has always given me chills.

The Bone Dolls Twin by Lyn Flewelling
This book is by turns grotesque and fascinating, until the end, which is just plan horrifying and nasty. I couldn't bring myself to read the sequel. Dark fantasy involving children should carry a warning label, in my opinion.

The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman
This book seemed an obvious ploy for the author to use some serious research she'd done on Cholera. While I appreciate people who like to delve into historical epidemics and their causes, I just can't respect an author who writes a book surrounding that research and doesn't do justice to the hard work of storytelling. There is also a trend I've seen in historically-based novels of this kind to be as descriptive of the gross bodily fluids and symptoms of the dread disease as possible, thereby making the reader squirm (or laugh, depending on how sick you are).

The Best Book of 2004, and my TBR stack

By far the best book that I read in 2004 was "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It was brilliant in every way, from the juicy prose that stuffed each page with rich, satisfying paragraphs to the fascinating characters and the plot that zipped along at a proper brisk pace. This book had me from the first mention of the "Cemetery of Forgotten Books" which is a book-lovers wet dream. Stephen King, whom I respect as an author, though I have only read one of his books ("The Shining," which terrified me and made me realize that I should not read horror fiction. I also read "The Reincarnation of Peter Proud" and "The Exorcist" in the same week, and had to have the light on in my room for the next 3 weeks, though I was 17 at the time!) called "Shadow of the Wind" "...one gorgeous read." WAPO called it "Scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling..." and rightfully so! There's a "win a trip to Spain" contest that coincides with the release of the book in paperback, at www.penguin.com, for those interested. I am just in awe of the fact that this book was translated from Spanish, and yet it's still rife with glorious prose, so obviously not much was 'lost in translation' as one would assume might happen. Now, as to my TBR stack, at the moment I am reading "Sylvia's Farm" by Sylvia Jorrin, which has lots of interesting nature descriptions, but is told at a definite remove, or distance from the author, whose feelings and life are not really revealed herein, much to my chagrin. Books in line to be read are: "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See"March" by Geraldine Brooks, author of the sublime "Year of Wonders," "Little Earthquakes" by Jennifer Weiner, author of "Good In Bed" which I liked, and "In Her Shoes" which I didn't, "My Dream of You" by Nuala O'Faolain"Accidental Happiness" by Jean Reynolds Page, signed and procured after interviewing the author for the Mercer Island Reporter, "Younger By the Day," by Victoria Moran,"The Acorn Principle" by Jim Cathcart"Corrrelli's Mandolin" by De Bernieres and "Speak, Memory" by Vladmir Nabokov. I will receive a copy of Sharon Lee and Steve Millers "Crystal Soldier" this month from Misha Merlin publishing, and I am looking forward to reading it, as Lee and Miller never fail to exult the reader with their marvelous, well-fleshed characters and their exacting, exciting Liaden Universe. Even their chapbooks, which are compliations of short stories, are wonderful. Once you've indulged in the Lee-Miller nexus of prose, you will be hooked, trust me. I will write more about why you should read up on Clan Korval in my next post. Til then, gentle reader, take care.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Welcome to my library!

Hi there!
Welcome to my library of books I've read, books I am going to read, and books I yearn for...come on in, grab a comfy chair by the fireplace and lets talk books.
I've been an avid reader since age 4, 40 years ago, and I've read every genre there is, and some that defy description.
Science Fiction and Fantasy are my favorite pleasure reads, along with literature, classics, general fiction, non fiction and some poetry.
I'll read anything written by the following authors: (not in any particular order)
John Steinbeck (classics)
Patricia McKillip (fantasy)
Lois McMaster Bujold (science fiction and fantasy)
Steve Miller and Sharon Lee (science fiction/space opera)
Ray Bradbury (science fiction, especially sf short stories)
Diane Ackerman (creative non fiction)
Jane Yolen (fantasy, young adult lit)
William Kennedy (literary fiction)
May Sarton (fiction, poetry)
Syne Mitchell (science fiction)
Arthur C. Clarke (science fiction/ non fiction)
Isak Dinesen {Baroness Karen Von Blixen} (classics)

That's my top twelve best of the best, and I hope to add to that number by finding more authors whose prose sparkles with lush imagery and intelligent, well-drawn characters. I also can't abide authors who have no sense of plot movement, or who are unable to actually tell a riveting story that has believable, interesting characters.
I also dislike authors that adhere to stereotypes and cliches instead of doing the real work of creating something fresh and new.

I plan to add several reviews to this blog soon. Right now, I must get ready for the Super Bowl party my dearly beloved Jim and I are hosting.
See you later, sweet potater!