June 6th, 2013


The Yellow Admiral, by Patrick O'Brian, and Local Custom, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

The Yellow Admiral: Patrick O'Brian continues to entertain, eighteen books in. This has some wonderful scenes with Diana; I think POB's characterization of females has improved over the course of the series. Not going to say much specific about it, but I'll rate it an 8.

Local Custom is a book in Lee and Miller's "Liaden" universe. I read the first Liaden book they wrote, Agent of Change, when I was in high school and remember nothing about it except that I didn't like it much. tuftears, Lut, and some others have been recommending the series to me for ages, though, so I finally decided to give it another try. Lut has all of them in e-book form and recommended starting with Local Custom , which is the first book in the current time frame based on internal chronology.

It is a science fiction romance, and the first that I can recall reading and identifying as such. Setting is clearly sf, plot is clearly romance. There is a little bit of intrigue subplot but it is only a very little bit. The novel is all about the two protagonists trying to make their relationship work against the various internal and external forces working against them.

I enjoyed it! There is a lot to like in the book. Liaden culture is clan-based, rigidly codified, and genteel in the sense of 'elaborate code of conduct with regards to speech and manners from which deviation is easily construed as insult'. Tradition and obedience to one's superiors in the clan as a powerful force. Despite this, it doesn't come off as a rip-off of Regency England or any specific Earth culture, and it has some interesting quirks on convention: arranged marriages are common, but they're all short-term. There are no gender roles, which is very rare in a story about such a steeped-in-tradition culture, but the lack of gender roles seems to work just fine. The female protagonist, Anne, is Terran and her culture (as much as it's detailed -- most of the story is on Liad) has an America-in-space feel to it. One thing that struck me is that, while Terrans and Liadens are obviously both human, there's been a long separation of the two races and they've diverged genetically to a degree. The Terrans are all very tall -- Anne, at about 6', is just a little tall for her people. The Liadens are all on the short side -- I don't recall any exact heights given, but the male Liaden protagonist -- who is tall for a Liaden! -- is described as being a full head shorter than an average-height Terran. The Liadens have something of a space-elf feel to them: Anne thinks of them as Sidhe more than once. For all that, they're fully believable as humans with an unusual culture.

The personalities of the protagonists and the reasons why they cared about each other could've been a bit better developed, I felt -- the reader gets a good sense of the physical attraction and emotional bond between them, but not so much the 'why' of it. Still, I enjoyed spending time with them. I'll give it an 8, and I plan to read the next.