Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. A Liaden Universe Constellation, Volume 1.

NY: Baen, 2013.

Lee and Miller started writing their highly original brand of space opera two decades ago, now. The first few volumes set in the “Liaden” universe were self-published, then picked up by a small specialty house, but eventually they were discovered and made the Big Time.

Some twenty novels are out now, but the authors also, between 1995 and 2011, produced a series of chapbooks, each consisting of one or two short stories or novelettes, which they sold to their fans directly. Most bookstores didn’t carry them and almost no libraries purchased them, so they remained unknown to most readers. Now they’re being reissued in two volumes, of which this is the first, consisting of seventeen stories featuring the characters Liaden fans have come to love. There are quite a few lead characters, actually, scattered through the authors’ books, and the action spreads over a number of generations, which means there are lots of interesting personal histories to delve into. Those who have read all the novels will therefore enjoy these pieces much more, I think, than readers new to the series.

Read them and you’ll discover how and why Pat Rin yos’Phelium got into the gambling profession, and the urgent circumstances under which his uncle, Daav yos’Phelium, the sometime Delm of Korval, left the university world of Delgado. You’ll meet Terran trader-trainee Jethri Gobelyn, whose earnestness is matched by his naiveté, and Ren Zel dea’Judan, a born Pilot — the only one Clan Obrelt has ever produced among its many generations of natural and talented shopkeepers. (“Changeling” is probably the best story in the book, in my opinion.) You’ll witness the discovery of unexpected dramliza talents in Nova, Daav’s daughter, and you’ll sympathize with the young Er Thom yos’Galan as he suffers through his own early Pilot training.

There are also several stories about Moonhawk, a young witch-priestess of The Circle, and her traveling companion, Master Lute the magician (well, sleight-of-hand artist — mostly). These are off the main thematic track of the Liaden novels and while they’re not particularly to my taste, they’re as well written as anything in the volume. The second compilation volume is out now, I believe, and I’m already poised to grab it.

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