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Liaden Universe® Companion Volume Two by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Cover Artist: Thomas Peters
Review by Gayle Surrette
SRM Publisher Ltd Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780977663965
Date: Undefined 2007 / Show Official Info /

This collection of ten short stories in the Liaden Universe is a compilation of stories that were previously published in SRM Publisher chapbooks. So, if you're a fan of the Liaden series and you've heard of the chapbooks, but haven't been able to find them -- this volume gives you a chance to learn more about the universe and the people who roam it.

I should state up front that I've been a fan of the Liaden books since I read Carpe Diem and then had to scramble to find the previous books, and then patiently search out the following books as the authors changed publishers. Until recently, it was much harder to find the chapbooks and now with the Liaden Universe Companion, I'll be able to fill in the blanks.

What I've enjoyed about the books is the richness of the universe, the characters, the various political and social groups, and the fact that I can actually imagine that this universe works. I feel that I'm reading about real people. Lee and Miller manage to make characters that you can imagine being just on the other side of the universe and sending across their diaries to be fictionalized. But, the problem with such characters is that you want to know more about them. What happened to them before they first walked across the pages of the novel? What events in their lives shaped them to become the person they were when you read about them?

In these short stories you get some of those questions answered, or partially answered. You also meet some new characters and see other parts of the universe and how events play out elsewhere -- off Broadway so to speak.

In "Sweet Waters", a scout, Slade, has crash landed and has joined the Sanilithe. It's been long enough that he doubts anyone will come and pick him up. But necessity requires that he do all he must to survive. However, there are consequences to his actions. This planet, and the people, are very similar to the one that Dav was on during his scout career. The ending is very bitter-sweet and not easily forgotten.

We first meet Inas Bhar in Plan B, but we don't actually learn her name until I Dare. "Veil of the Dancer" take place on her home planet. We get a better understanding of her and her background. What I find hard to believe is how long it took me to put 2 and 2 together and realize who the story was about. Never-the-less you get a better understanding of this character who later becomes so important within the series.

My favorite of this volume was "Changeling". In Plan B, Shan mentions how he found Ren Zel injured and foretelling and brought him on as crew. "Changeling" tells us the story of how this happened. Once you read this story, you'll know what type of person Ren Zel was and what his life was like before boarding the Dutiful Passage. This one made me wish it was all real so I could go give someone a piece of my mind. That's just how good the story is -- you forget it's a story.

The last story in the book is "Lord of the Dance". Clan Korval is now on Miri's home planet of Surebleak. Pat Rin is still the head Boss but, with the help of Korval and the Scouts, things are changing on the planet. Audrey is giving a Winter Dance for all the movers and shakers that have helped to make Surebleak much less bleak. We now get a peek at what might be happening and where these changes might lead. We see the interactions between the old and new and how something more might come of it. Since I'd been reading so many holiday books this month, this story seemed like a great end to the volume.

If you wondering if you have all the stories already in your chapbook collection, here is a list of all the stories: Sweet Waters, Naratha's Shadow, A Matter of Dreams, Phoenix, Veil of the Dancer, This House, Changeling, Heirloom, Quiet Knives, and Lord of the Dance.

The book also includes: a letter from the authors, Acknowledgments, Recent Liaden Universe Awards, Lee & Miller Bibliography through February 2007, Reading Order for Liaden Universe Novels (as suggested by the Friends of Liad), and A Partial Liaden Universe Dictionary.

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