Review of Fledgling – A Liaden Universe novel by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

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After having thoroughly enjoyed reading Sharon Lee’s Carousel Sun – see my review here – Himself scooped up anything else he could get together that she’d written. And came up with this science fiction space opera that she has co-written with her husband, Steve Miller.

fledglingDelgado is a Safe World. That means the population is monitored – for its own good – and behaviour dangerous to society is quickly corrected. Delgado is also the home of one of the galaxy’s premier institutions of higher learning, producing both impeccable research and scholars of flair and genius.

On Safe Delgado, then, Theo Waitley, daughter of Professor Kamele Waitley, latest in a long line of Waitley scholars, is “physically challenged” and on a course to being declared a Danger to Society. Theo’s clumsiness didn’t matter so much when she and her mother lived out in the suburbs with her mother’s lover, Jen Sar Kiladi. But, suddenly, Kamele leaves Jen Sar and moves herself and Theo into faculty housing, immediately becoming sucked into faculty politics. Leaving Theo adrift and shocked – and vulnerable…

This coming-of-age novel is largely in fourteen-year-old Theo’s viewpoint. But it isn’t particularly aimed at the YA market – although I’d have no problem with any teenager reading it. The world is deftly realised and it took me a few pages just to absorb the strangeness and different customs, as Lee and Miller don’t hold up the pace with pages of explanation. So readers need to keep alert. However, this book is a delight. My very favourite sub-genre is accessible, enjoyable science fiction and when I read a cracking example of it – I realise it is the one sub-genre that I never tire of. Mostly, because it is also in relatively short supply…

There is an interesting backstory to this book. Apparently there are some seventeen novels set in this particular world, though some of them have had a bumpy ride after one of their publishers went bankrupt. Fledgling was written and released in 2007 online as a chap-book and eventually taken up by Baen and published after its popularity with readers.

Theo is clearly a major protagonist, whose story arc is going to extend over a number of books – and that’s fine with me. Lee and Miller manage to pack a great deal of everyday, routine details into this book without any of it dragging, as it is all enmeshed within the evolving plot. And those who claim genre fiction has to be all about constant breathless action that whisks protagonists from one major emergency to another, should sit down with a Lee and Miller book.

I also am delighted to report that the book is fairly upbeat most of the time. Of course there are times of tension and some danger – but it is of the subtle, utterly believable kind. I read this book in one greedy gulp, literally unable to put it down until I’d finished. And hours later, I’m still fizzing with pleasure and excitement… If you like family-based science fiction with a wonderfully described world and plenty of enjoyable characters, then give yourself a treat.
10/10

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