Sword of Orion (Beneath Strange Skies) Paperback – 30 Oct 2005
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About the Author
Maine-based writersSharon Lee and Steve Miller teamed up in the late '80s to bring the world the story of Kinzel, a inept wizard with a love of cats, a thirst for justice, and a staff of true power. Since then, the husband-and-wife have written dozens of short stories, and eighteen novels, most set in their star-spanning Liaden Universe?. ?Before settling down to the serene and stable life of a science fiction and fantasy writer, Steve was a traveling poet, a rock-band reviewer, reporter, and editor of a string of community newspapers. Sharon, less adventurous, has been an advertising copywriter, copy editor on night-side news at a small city newspaper, reporter, photographer, and book reviewer. Both credit their newspaper experiences with teaching them the finer points of collaboration. Sharon and Steve passionately believe that reading fiction ought to be fun, and that stories are entertainment. Steve and Sharon maintain a web presence at -->www.korval.com
Steve Miller is the author of Freaks! How to Draw Fantastic Fantasy Creatures (0-8230-1662-5); Scared! How to Draw Fantastic Horror Comic Characters (0-8230-1664-1); and the forthcoming Thunder Lizards! How to Draw Fantastic Dinosaurs. Miller has designed toys, comics, RPGs, and commercials for more than twelve years. He lives in Canal Winchester, OH.
Top Customer Reviews
The story - from what I can tell - is supposed to be the first part of a trilogy in which an evil oligarchy try to retake power after a succesful coup.
This plot lacks feel, and the story-telling is pretty second-rate. You do not get the impression that anything is really happening, even in the most action-packed pages.
The characters are ineffective, unbelievable, and poorly-developed. The authors fail to to give any more than a passing impression of who they are, what the do, why they do it. The relationships between the characters are almost non-existent, although there is the odd glimpse here and there.
The technology is mostly unimaginative - one thing in particular, what sounds like a hoverboard, is taken directly from Back to the Future. In other places it is sparse, and unlikely. There is one aspect of the technology that is marginaly more interesting than the rest: some wormhole or "gate" technology. But no effort is made to give the reader a real impression of what happens, what the traveler experiences, how the techology is supposed to work: I don't expect detailed plans on wormhole technology, but I am not satisfied in simply being expected to accept that "it works".
The story itself is made up of mini-plots that give the impression they were written seperately and cobbled together afterwards. There is no real cliffhanger to the ending, it just... stops. One is not left begging for more, or even interested in what happens next.
Suffice to say I will not be reading the next book.
For some reason it came across as a fairly weak start to a new series. It might get better, but it is quite old now, so I am not sure if they are still planning to write more.
Buy the new cheap "Dragon Variant's" compilation and get into the Korval universe instead, all three novels in it are great and pretty much standalone. Or start the Korval agents of change series in "Partners In Necessity" which is a compilation of the first three books. I think new compilations are meant to be coming out this year if you can't get the old one.
The Dragon Variation (Liaden)
Partners In Necessity
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If they had ever stopped running long enough to start doing anything else, a few of the characters showed some potential to be interesting. The book is written in tight-focus third person, following the viewpoint of an orphaned teenage girl who is talented, somewhat street-wise, but still mostly innocent. She is also the only daughter of famous revolutionaries and possibly the key to resolving an interrupted revolution one way or another. But for all of that, she never seems to be more than an archetype. She's a role, not a person. A plot mechanism.
Her best friend and proto love interest (who happens to be the son of the leaders who the revolution was fighting against) is actually a more interesting person. We don't actually see much of his character, but he does have a "real" feeling to him that the central heroine is lacking.
Her (young) uncle is both a parent-figure and a sibling-replacement. He's also the most interesting character in the book, but since his neice doesn't understand him all that well, we don't get to do so either.
And the final member of their quartet is an alien, but one of those annoying aliens who is alien just for color, not because his alienness plays any role in the story (so far). Another reviewer mentioned Star Wars, and it does kind of have the feel of that movie, where it seemed that the only purpose of the aliens was to show off the abilities of the costume designers.
The book is smoothly written and it flows well. I picked it up while I was making dinner and didn't stop reading it until I had finished it early in the morning. And at the time I liked it a lot. But now, just a few hours later, it seems much less satisfying. Rather like eating a chocolate truffle -- very tasty but leaving you with a sense of transient fulfillment.
I can't shake the idea that this would have worked much better if it had been a third the length and only the introduction to a complete novel. As it is, it reminded me more of reading a comic book, where the characters have all sorts of wild adventures but by the end nothing much has actually happened.
Perhaps because of the age of the central figure this could be called adolescent fiction, but to excuse its lack of depth by saying it is written for teens is an insult to young readers. Instead, it feels to me more like Lee and Miller were concentrating so much on coming up with a new series that they forgot to make the first installment into an actual novel.
I've read all of their Liaden books, starting in 1988 with Conflict of Honors, one of the best. Take it from me, the Liaden books are in a class of their own. An exalted class.
At first I struggled to get into the book. We've seen the rebellious teen angst heroine with a super-secret past thing before. The writing is strictly of the Trekno-babble "word replacement" variety (skate board == slide board, etc.). Then things got interesting. These writers *can* write...
Alas, the characters never really develop and things get bogged down again. The aliens aren't very alien, just there for color and the plot is pure Heinlein juvenile--think Podkayne--only it ain't Heinlein. There are echoes/borrowings (not really homage per se) from other great books or series of the past. For example, the castle bit in the middle is reminiscent to me of Zelazny's Amber series; and those books that share the rapid shifting of worlds amid constant peril theme.
Frankly (and when was the last time anyone said this about an SF book?!?) this book would have been better if it were twice as long. But there is talent on display here: its use in the service of this tired vehicle makes me sad. Perhaps the follow-on volumes will be better. In the meantime, wait for the regular paperback.
I'll keep plugging away on this in hopes that it gets better further in, but I'm wishing I had waited until a few more of the sequels were published. I read most of the Liaden books in one big gulp starting with I Dare and Plan B and the universe was so rich, the characters so compelling and interesting, that I didn't mind that the quality of some of the other Liaden books taken individually was uneven.
As an after-thought, I wonder if the new publisher and editor are to blame for this? Were they aiming for a J K Rowling style? Seems like, but Rowling's writing style is not the best model. Her stories work for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with her writing style which is not that riveting... a review waiting for another day and a different book.