Sep 10 2012 6:00pm

“Will she explode?” “Wouldn’t surprise me in the least, given the lineage.” Dragon Ship by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

A review of the latest Liaden Universe book Dragon Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve MillerLook, you guys. If you've read any of Lee & Miller's previous Liaden Universe books, most likely you already know whether or not you want to read this one.* Me, I'm a confirmed fan of the series, and Dragon Ship is definitely a series book. Direct sequel to 2011's Ghost Ship, Dragon Ship continues the adventures of Theo Waitley, child of Clan Korval, and now First Pilot of the old, mysterious, self-willed and self-aware ship Bechimo.

*Let me go out on a limb here and bet on a yes. No? Oh, well. Tastes differ.

Theo has a ship to shake down and a trade route to prove while under contract to Clan Korval. But as the events of Ghost Ship showed, Korval's old enemies, the Department of the Interior, are not incapable of regrouping—and in addition to their vendetta against Korval, they want Bechimo. With her sometime lover Win Ton yo'Vala buried in a medical compartment in Bechimo's heart to recover from a nano-virus that no other technology has a hope of curing, and with an ex-underworld boss for a Second Pilot, Theo has a lot of learning to do and not that much time in which to do it.

Dragon Ship is a meandering sort of book, a loosely linked series of incidents connected by Theo's growth into a leader, Korval, and the threat posed by the Department of the Interior. The lack of especial focus and urgency may detract from the novel's high points for some readers, but speaking personally, I found Theo, her ship, and her crew a delight to spend time with. And pace and urgency picks up noticeably from the halfway mark, beginning with an incident at Codrescu Station, the space station above the planet Eylot, where Theo did her pilot training—and where she was identified as a nexus of violence. Theo is first on scene to respond to a crisis, and in doing her bit to help its resolution, acquires both honour and notoriety. And another crewmember, her old friend and former schoolmate Kara ven'Arith.** But Codrescu has raised Theo's profile—and Bechimo's—and the Department of the Interior has taken notice. To keep her ship and crew safe, Theo will need a good helping of Korval's famous luck.

Which she seems to have in full measure.

**Another lover. Bisexual protagonists, they are good things. I approve.

Theo's story is not the only strand to Dragon Ship. We don't lose touch with Kamele Waitley, Theo's mother, who's taken leave from her professorship to find her missing lover, Theo's father, whom she does not know is Daav yos'Phelium, part of Clan Korval. The Uncle, mysterious and ancient figure that he is, also makes an appearance, as do our old friends Val Con yos'Phelium and Miri Robertson.

Dragon Ship is a novel which gathers its strands together, and sets the stage for the next act of the play that is the Liaden universe. It feels very much a novel of transitions, as sometimes occur in the middle acts of series. Normally that can be relied upon to annoy me, but not here.

If you ask me to put my finger on what, exactly, it is that I enjoyed so much about Dragon Ship, I find it hard to express specifics. There's some peculiar alchemy about Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden novels, a gift of characterisation and mood and tone that makes reading each new installment feel like coming home. There's something to be said for a certain degree of comfortable familiarity alongside one's Cool Shit™ and sensawunda, in my opinion. Not always, but sometimes. And that's what we have here: a comfortably entertaining installment in a solidly engaging series.

In conclusion, Dragon Ship: Not a good place to enter the series, but if you enjoyed its predecessors, I'll lay good odds that you'll like this one, too.

Liz Bourke spent the month of August running around Greece telling lies to undergraduates. Now that she's home, she and her books have a lot of catching up to do...

1. RobinM
The Liaden Universe series is one of my all time favorite space operas. I can't wait to read the next installment if my autographed copy ever gets here. I have important questions to be answered . Like what's the name of Val Con and Miri's baby? and What happens when Daav's first and second wife are introduced.
2. saj14saj
I agree, I love the Liaden novels, and couldn't point to the specifics. Its the characters, they way they talk to each other, the comeuppance that always comes down on the villians in the end--the whole experience. I won't call them high literature, but they are a true delight.
Scott Jenkins
It took me four tries to pass captcha on an adhoc comment above.
That is too hard, for a mere human. I am not as good as a bot.
i couldn't do it twice to post this complaint--I had to log in to the site.
Please lower the barrier to participation for mere humans.
Estara Swanberg
4. Estara
This! The entire post. Yup. I can only say ditto.
Sean Arthur
5. wsean
"There's some peculiar alchemy about Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden novels, a gift of characterisation and mood and tone that makes reading each new installment feel like coming home."

Yep, this is it exactly. There's just an ambience, an atmosphere of familiarity and hominess. Love it.

Incidentally, for those who haven't heard, the *entire* series is now available in audiobook form on
Alan Brown
6. AlanBrown
SAJ14SAJ, sign up for a user account with the site, and you won't have to do captcha's any more!
Alan Brown
7. AlanBrown
I have fallen behind in my Liaden reading, but I love this series, and look forward to catching up and reading a whole pile of the novels at once. A good idea for my next vacation. Miller and Lee do a great job, and those who enjoy SF adventure and enjoy romance will find plenty of both in these books.
8. CindyW
That's ok, the other books are available. Either grab them and read first or hop in with this one. If you want to read just the ones about Theo, then Fledgling, Saltation and Ghost Ship give you that. GO FOR IT. These authors are worth reading!
9. Just Syd
I didn't finish reading your review cause I just got my copy of Dragon Ship and I'm on chapter ten. I don't know if there are any spoilers in this review but I felt like there might be some so I'll come back and finish it when I'm done with the book. If you , by chance, were to label sed spoilers, I could finish the review now. Just saying.
10. OtterB
Joining the chorus of enjoyment here. I liked this book as I read it. I expect I will like it even more when this sequence is complete and I can reread from beginning to end.

As it happens, Sharon Lee just posted on her LJ this morning that they have a deal for an additional 5 Liaden books (beyond Necessity's Child and the sequel to Balance of Trade, both of which are already in the works but are not sequels to Dragon Ship.
Pamela Adams
11. PamAdams
I picked up my copy at Worldcon and had it read before Monday. I agree, this is a wonderful world to relax into.

I was glad to see Val and Miri's baby, and also glad that their roles were relatively small- they do tend to take over when not watched.

I'm expecting Kamele to start Surebleak University when she gets a free moment.
Liz Bourke
12. hawkwing-lb
Audiobooks and five new books under contract? Yikes, I need to be wealthier than I am...
les kaye
13. hapax
Agreed, this was a pleasure to read because *anything* Liaden is a pleasure to read; but this was very much an episodic "series extender" type of book; it began in the middle of the action, and ended there, too.

@Pam Adams -- I have to say that the cameos by Val Con and Miri (and Lizzie!!!!) were the high points of the book for me, along with Kamele's unexpected turn into Action Scholar. But Daav drives me up the wall with his ability to make it All About Him, even when (ROT13 for slight spoiler) zbfgyl qrnq.
14. AwesomeAud
I must say I haven't read a Liaden novel since...about....Plan B. I'd love to catch up, but I don't know what order to read them in!

Any suggestions for reading order?
15. hapax
@AwesomeAud: Here's the Word of God on the subject:

However, I can't imagine reading Plan B and not going on immediately to I Dare. (Of course, I Dare is probably my favorite in the whole series).
16. OtterB
AwesomeAud, see the reading order suggestions on the Korval website.

In my opinion, you want to follow Plan B with I Dare, which is its immediate sequel and closes the arc that ran through Agent of Change, Conflict of Honors, and Carpe Diem.

Then you have a choice. To continue in more-or-less present time Liad, shift to the Theo Waitley sequence, which includes Fledgling, Saltation, Ghost Ship, and the newly-published Dragon Ship.

There are two books that go back to the founding of Liad and Cantra yos'Phelium ... Crystal Soldier and Crystal Dragon.

And there are three books with stronger romance subplots, Local Custom, Scout's Progress, and Mouse and Dragon (which is a direct sequel to Scout's Progress).

Oh, and don't forget Balance of Trade, which has a more YA-ish feel to it and is about a Terran learning about Liaden culture and trading. It doesn't fit neatly in the sequence but it's one of my favorites.
Terence Tidler
17. libertariansoldier
"The lack of especial focus and urgency may detract from the novel's high points for some readers,..."
That would be me. I love the series--I have both the paper and ebook versions of all of it--but this book reminded me of WoT around book 9, which is not a good thing.
18. Char
Nodding at your statement: "Dragon Ship is a meandering sort of book, a loosely linked series of incidents connected by Theo's growth into a leader, Korval, and the threat posed by the Department of the Interior. The lack of especial focus and urgency may detract from the novel's high points for some readers..."

Yup. I am one of those readers. Felt a bit miffed, like I wasted my money, given that this book went almost nowhere in terms of the Daav-shaped cliffhanger we left off at the end of Ghost Ship.

I did somewhat enjoy Dragon Ship, but Theo is not my favorite Korval character, and I don't care to ever see Kamele again. She is boring, in my view. I did like Clarence and Bechimo.

Best section of the book for me was the sequence of events at the Jumbleshop, with the attack from Donahue's Docent.

Loved the ending, with the blast-from-the-past in Teapot space. Lots of possibilities around that little surprise...

Intrigued with the new possibilities that surround Daav.

Wasn't crazy about how Theo constantly blamed Win Ton, at least in her thoughts.

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