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Crystal Soldier
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Meisha Merlin, 400 pages

Crystal Soldier
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller were born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. They now live in Central Maine. Steve Miller is the founding curator of the University of Maryland's Kuhn Library Science Fiction Research Collection. In 1997, Sharon Lee was hired by SFWA as the organization's first full-time executive director.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Sharon Lee
ISFDB Bibliography: Steve Miller
SF Site Review: Balance of Trade
SF Site Review: Balance of Trade
SF Site Review: The Tomorrow Log
SF Site Review: Pilot's Choice
SF Site Review: Partners In Necessity

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sherwood Smith

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This review is not aimed at fans of the Liaden books. They are already going to want to buy this one, sight unseen, for here, at last, we have the ur-story.

What I'm going to try to do is focus on why new readers who like space opera might want to give this one a try.

It does begin slowly. M. Jela Granthor's Guard (yes, that is one of the protagonists' names, and yes, there is a reason behind each name) is alone on a planet after a crash landing, with enough supplies to survive a short time. As he follows a line of dead trees down toward what once was an ocean, he reviews his situation: shot down in the on-going war against the sherieka, who were once human, but who redesigned themselves so radically that they now consider themselves perfect, and in order to make the universe sublime enough for them to live in, they must eradicate all traces of their human past. Oh, and the human worlds as well.

A battle the humans are losing.

Jela discovers as he reaches the shoreline that the trees are getting smaller, and at last he realizes that the line of trees was deliberate, that is, accomplished by the trees themselves, dropping pods that rolled a ways downhill to grow on the banks of the diminishing water, a desperate tactic to survive. Just before he's picked up he finds one remaining tree, still barely alive, and he decides to take it with him.

His superiors send him for further training, despite the fact that his series of genetic warriors, the M. series, has been superceded; they appreciate a survivor. Along with his training comes advanced mathematics, theories about the crystallization -- and decrystalization -- of the universe. Don't lose sight of any of these threads -- genetic development of people bred to a specific purpose, mathematical theories, or the tree -- because everything begins to add up about the time Jela meets another Pilot, named Cantra, who walks into a restaurant randomly seeking companionship of another pilot over a meal.

The two share a pleasant meal, begin to depart, and their lives promptly get wrenched into resistance to the will of rapidly multiplying forces. The pacing becomes the headlong run that is a signature of a Sharon Lee/Steve Miller adventure. Cantra is more than she seems. Jela is more than he seems. The Batcher serving woman they rescue is more than she seems, and again, do not forget the tree.

Crystal Soldier does end on a cliff-hanger -- we are told on the cover that this book is part one of the Great Migration Duology -- but before it there is a nifty bit of resolution that gives enough satisfaction to make that ending anticipatory, and not a let-down. In the meantime, we learn a great deal about the characters, as layers unfold like petals, and there is plenty of exciting action. Pay attention to everything: names, places, even phrases. I was delighted by the buried references to titles in the series, always in context, acting like flavor-bursts, bringing memory of what is to come.

In short: these authors just keep getting better. If you want to get a taste of Liaden, here's a good place to start.

Copyright © 2005 Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is a writer by vocation and reader by avocation. Her webpage is at www.sff.net/people/sherwood/.


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