Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. Saltation.

NY: Baen Books, 2010.

“Saltation,” the authors tell us, is “that which proceeds by leaps rather than by smooth and orderly progression.” That describes Theo Waitley, certainly. The “space academy” is a science fiction trope that goes back at least to Robert Heinlein’s classic Space Cadet, but Lee and Miller ring a number of new changes on it.

In this sequel to Fledgling, Theo is admitted to the Anlingdin Piloting Academy on the not entirely stable world of Eylot — in the middle of the academic year, which immediately puts her off-balance. But, as she will eventually figure out, Theo was literally born to be a pilot and she quickly makes her mark, and the friends and enemies to go with it. Delgado, where she was born and grew up, is a strict “safe” world so the necessary adjustment to the occasional controlled violence of the piloting life is considerable. But she’s also the focus of special sympathetic attention from several of the Academy’s senior instructors and administrators, who make sure she’s prepared when politics and peer pressure result in her being ejected before graduation. Still, she has her 2nd-class license now, and a co-pilot’s berth on a small trading vessel, and she’s not at all the person she was only a few years before. But then Jen Sar Kiladi, her father, disappears abruptly from Delgado and Theo begins to get a glimpse of who he really is. And so she finds herself being drawn into the Korval clan’s orbit on Liad, as well as trying to help her stricken friend/lover, Scout Pilot Win Ton.

As readers will already have suspected, Theo is a nexus, destined to play a major role in interstellar politics, whether she likes it or not. And I have the next two volumes of her story standing by. Terrific stuff – as almost always from Lee and Miller.

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