Tag Archives: Theo Waitley

Review of Ghost Ship – A New Liaden novel by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller


If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this long-running space opera series, then this isn’t the best place to dive in, as Ghost Ship is well into the story arc of young pilot Theo Waitley. The beginning of this part of the series is Fledgling – see my review here, and the next slice of the adventure is Saltation – see my review here.

ghostshipTheo Waitley’s not a kid anymore. She now wears a First Class pilot’s jacket, has a job offer from Korval, carries multiple weapons, and may wear a Tree-and-Dragon pin, if she dares. Everyone she meets thinks she’s dangerous, and most of them approve…

As the back cover blurb then continues in spoiler mode, I’m leaving it at that. But what this smart, enjoyable space opera manages to do is give a real slice of the gaps opening up in humanity when the diaspora are now scattered across planets. Theo is more conscious of this than most as she has a Liaden, ex-pilot for a father and a high-ranking academic mother from the risk-averse planet of Delgado, where she was brought up and in constant trouble for her clumsy, apparently reckless behaviour. She has negotiated her tricky upbringing, and successfully trained as a pilot.

Now she is confronted with making her own way in the world, but rapidly is sucked into the machinations of her father’s family whose sudden banishment from one planet and resettlement on another also impacts on her. Though she has other concerns… like the fact that an Old Technology fully sentient warship has imprinted her has part of its crew and is stalking her.

Lee and Miller plunge you into the heart of the story with the minimum of exposition and allow their characters to do the talking for them – it’s a far harder trick than they make it look. Witness all the promising science fiction tales silted up with pages and pages of description. You won’t be getting that with Lee and Miller.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty going on to keep the little grey cells ticking over though. While there is a fair amount of humour in the tussles between Theo and Bechimo, the sentient ship, Theo is also scaldingly conscious she is dealing with a scarily dangerous entity capable of creating havoc. Apart from anything else, this ghost ship appears to have mastered the knack of moving outside the recognised routes and jump waypoints…

Any grizzles? Nope. I’m really enjoying this series and think it should be far better known than it is. Anyone who enjoys Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series is likely to find the Liaden Universe world an engrossing read. Baen have now thoughtfully released the earlier novels in omnibus editions – and once I’ve completed Theo Waitley’s journey to date, I’m going to hunt these down. This world is addictive.

Review of EBOOK Kindle edition Saltation – A Liaden Universe novel by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller


Saltation : That which proceeds by leaps rather than by smooth and orderly progression.

saltationI 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.

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


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.