I found out yesterday morning that the latest Liaden Universe book, Dragon Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller was released by Baen as an ebook yesterday, several days in advance of its release in hardback, and I followed the link and snapped it up.  It is the latest installment in the “Theo Waitley” story arc.  Snarfed it down in one sitting (Yeah, it’s that good).  Lee and Miller write in a genre that is referred to as “space opera” (a blend of adventure, romance and humor)which is technically SciFi– but don’t let that put you off.  What Lee and Miller write are character driven stories that happen to be set in the Liaden Universe, where three cultures are competing for space — The Liaden, the Terrans, and the Yxstrang. The SciFi bit is pretty much just part of the scenery.  Each book in the collection is a stand alone novel, and you don’t have to read them in order, but there is a chronology involved, and reading the books in order, I think, gives a richer, deeper experience.  The first Liaden book was published in 1988 and the first couple of them were out of print,  but Baen has been reissuing them.  I just discovered them not long ago, tried one, liked it, and I’ve been playing catch-up over the summer.

If you want to get in on the ground floor of the Liaden Universe, then start with Crystal Variation, which is an omnibus edition of Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon, and Balance of Trade.  Crystal Soldier introduces the soldier M. Jela, the pilot Cantra yos’Phelium and fills you in on why the Universe is coming apart at the seams and what the deal is with the tree.  In Crystal Dragon, we add wizards, mathematicians, Tor An yos’Galan, and Mr. dea’Gauss to the mix, and a sleeper ship full of folks all frantically trying to escape as the universe literally falls apart around them.  Cantra yos’Phelium makes a contract with the Clans to pilot them to safety and to their new home, the planet Liad.   It is Cantra yos’Phelium, her child by M. Jela, and Tor An yos’Galan who become the founders of Clan Korval, and the dea’Gauss family become their allies.  The third book in the omnibus is Balance of Trade.  It takes place some centuries after the first two books. While it does not involve Clan Korval, it is a great story, and provides an interesting juxtaposition between Terran and Liaden cultures.

Skip ahead several more centuries to the “Agent of Change” story arc which begins with Local Custom (which was actually the first of the Liaden Universe books to be published and was out of print for a while).  It concerns Clan Korval scion Er Thom yos’Galan and a Terran scholar named Anne Davis, some very controversial ideas about language and genetics, and a love affair that had an unexpected consequence.  Scout’s Progress is the second book of this arc, which concern’s Er Thom’s foster brother Daav yos’Philium, the leader of Clan Korval,  a brilliant mathematician named Aelliana Caylon, and Aelliana’s desperate bid to escape a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her brother and her former husband.  Chronologically, the third book in the series is Mouse and Dragon, which is the rest of Daav and Aelliana’s story. (This is the book that actually sets up the Theo Waitley arc.)  Conflict of Honors is the story of Priscilla Delacroix, an outcast on the run, and Shan yos’Galan, starship captain, Korval’s master trader, and Er Thom and Anne’s son.  The three novels, Local Custom, Scouts Progress and Conflict of Honors are available in the omnibus edition:  The Dragon Variation  The next four books deal with Daav and Aelliana’s son Val Con yos’ Phelium, agent of change, and Miri Robertson, mercenary, and the mysterious and deadly “Department of the Interior’s” plan to exterminate Clan Korval, and take control of Liad.

Here are the Liaden books in chronological order:

Crystal Soldier + ———+in the (3 books) omnibus Crystal Variation
Crystal Dragon +
Balance of Trade +

The books in the “Agent of Change” story arc are:

Local Custom* ————* in the (3 books) Omnibus edition, Dragon Variation
Scouts Progress*
Mouse and Dragon (single volume)
Conflict of Honors*
Agent of Change**——**in the (2 books) Omnibus edition, The Agent’s Gambit
Carpe Diem**
Plan B***——————***In the (2 books) Omnibus edition, Korval’s Game
I Dare***

The books in the “Theo Waitley” arc (a character introduced at the end of I Dare) are:

Ghost Ship
Dragon Ship (out now in ebook, not out in hardback until Sept 4, 2012)

There are a slew of Lee’s and Miller’s “chapbooks” available here, not all of which are about Clan Korval, or are set in the Liaden Universe.

Also in the queue are:

The first of Patricia Brigg’s Sianim books, Where Demons Walk, plus the sequel to her book Masques, which is Wolfsbane, whichinvolves magic and werewolves.

Enemy of the Fey, the third book in India Drummond’s Caledonia Fey series (Blood Fey, and Azuri FeyAn entertainingand fast paced urban fantasy series about a young Fey named Eilidh and a Scottish cop named Quinton Munro.  She’s under a death sentence, and he has no idea he’s a for-real druid.

The Stainless Steel Rat by the late (August 15, 2012) Harry Harrison — somehow I’ve missed reading any of his books — I’m starting with this one.

Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal, which is Jane Austen crossed with magic. Every girl of marriageable age should be proficient in the womanly arts of music, drawing, and casting glamour spells.  Proving to be an interesting combination.

The Complete Compleate Enchanter by L. Sprague de Camp, which I am assured is a rolicking good read.

Now if you’re like me and are an avid reader, and the above is not enough to keep you busy, I heartily recommend the Foreigner books by C. J. Cherryh.  There will eventually be 15 of them.  The first 13 are in print, the 14th is being written now, and the 15th is on the drawing board.  You’ve got plenty of time to get up to speed before Peacemaker comes out.