Saltation : That which proceeds by leaps rather than by smooth and orderly progression.
I thought I’d start this review with the definition of the word saltation – and once you get hold of this book, you realise the title is actually apt and rather cool… But if you haven’t yet encountered the Liaden Universe books before, track down at least the first book about Theo Waitley, which is Fledgling – see my review here – or one of the other eight books in the Liaden series. Lee and Miller don’t do any form of reprise and their world is so layered and complex with a raft of rather daunting invented names bristling with vowels and apostrophes, it would be a real shame to spend time flailing around trying to work out what is going on rather than appreciating the verve and fun going on in this enjoyable book.
Theo Waitley is a Nexus of Violence. Thrust mid-year into a school for pilots far from the safe haven of her birth home on scholarly Delgado, young Theo Waitley excels in hands-on flying while finding that she’s behind the curve in social intricacies as well as in math. Her mentors try to guide her studies and training into the channels best suited to her special abilities and inclinations, including suggesting that she should join in the off-world student association, a plan resulting in mixed success…
I loved Fledgling. Already a fan of Lee’s Archer’s Beach series – see my review of Carousel Sun here – I was delighted to see that she had co-written the Liaden Universe series with her husband. So, did Saltation continue to excite and intrigue me? Yep. I really enjoy the way humanity has splintered off into societies with not only different languages, but significantly different customs and profoundly differing views on what constitutes acceptable behaviour. Theo’s heritage as a pilot is hampered by her upbringing on a planet which doesn’t even recognise her father’s input as important.
This book starts charting the next slice of Theo’s training – and then suddenly shoots off on another tangent, whisking Theo along with a turn of events all the more shocking because to date, this book has been dealing with her everyday doings. I became engrossed in the daily details of her routine and her struggles to succeed at mastering the craft of becoming a pilot. For me, the pull of this genre is to escape into a future world where I become immersed in the character and her aims and ambitions – and Saltation completely achieves this.
While there were rumblings of discontent portrayed throughout the book, the ending and cliffhanger climax came as a complete surprise – and I was delighted that the sequel was already in a pile by my bedside, so that as I put down Saltation, I was immediately able to turn to Ghost Ship and pick up where the story left off – something I generally rarely do.
Any grizzles? Well… it’s more of an observation, really. But I think I’ll echo Himself’s grumble at having space-going ships routinely hacking through a planet’s atmosphere to land and take off, which I think would be highly unlikely. But it’s a minor quibble, rather than any kind of dealbreaker in a book and series packed with all sorts of pleasing worldbuilding details. If you, too, love intelligent, well depicted space opera and enjoyable protagonists then seek out this series – it’s a joy.