Saturday, November 10, 2012

Agent of Change by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller - review

Agent of Change
Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
***** (5 out of 6 stars)
A Liaden Universe Novel
from the Agent's Gambit Omnibus edition
Sci/Fi  originally published 1988

Cover - it's okay - for a SciFi cover, a SciFi with a touch of romance. Except neither character resembles these pictured here.  At least the background is very Science/Fiction-y.  It's also important to realize that these books have been around forever, and have probably had numerous covers.  I've seen a couple and just randomly selected this one because I don't know any better.  At all.

Ever since reading Fledgling, I've been suffering from a Science Fiction craving - actually this craving has been hitting me off and on for a few years, it gets very strong, then wanes, then comes back with a vengeance - kind of like bad habit cravings (snicker).  Anyway, at least this habit is reading, which can't be consider bad unless you read total SMUT...and even then, it's all relative, right?  One man's Smut is another man's literary masterpiece and all that....

I've been getting as many of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's novels as I can.  Some I enjoy way more than others....either way - these two can sure put together a story.

In Agent of Change we meet Theo's half brother (Theo is the main character of Fledgling)  - a relative she didn't even know she had until she was grown.  This novel takes place before Fledgling does and is the story of Val Con yos'Phelium (I am NEVER sure just how to pronounce these names, so I end up using the vowel sounds used in the Spanish language)  and his last mission as a spy.  He's been altered in a non-specified way, giving him the capability of continuously running percentages and odds of survival and mission success.  It can be very distracting and part of his training is a type of brainwashing away of family ties. This isn't the greatest thing, because Val is part of a very close knit clan of a family, a people whose society is built on family ties, clan ties and responsibilities to clan and family.

Part of Val's story intersects with Miri Robertson - a former mercenary soldier who has quite a past, growing up on a planet filled with poor and desperate people.  Miri is on the run from a mob-like sect of people - this mob has far reaching fingers - reaching across the universe to many planets and they are ruthless.  Val accidentally comes across Miri during an attempt on her life very soon after he has escaped his own deadly mission; people involved on the other side of this mission are, of course after Val.  They're not quite sure who, at first, he is or even what he looks like since the tech he uses on his spy missions are so advanced. Think futuristic Mission Impossible disguises.  Very cool.

Even though they at first don't really want to be around each other - for differing reasons - the two have to rely on each other at first for survival because suddenly there are more than one enemy after them, and then it seems that circumstances have them working together against many enemies.  Fortunately for them, they come across allies here and there who help them on their way.

I think that Agent of Change is one of Lee's & Miller's more action packed novels.  Though not full of gore, some of their side characters go through some intense and wicked deaths - they just aren't very graphic about these fights and deaths.  The dialogue between characters is natural, some teasing, some snark and some plain old good conversations.  There are a few characters that have a completely different outlook on everything from time to the length and importance of names and life actions.  A certain turtle like species of people who are very large, live for hundreds of years and therefore ponder and think for some time before making decisions.  Val is an honorary brother of one of these clans, knife growers (seriously they grow some wicked chrystal knives) and by extension, Miri becomes part of their family/clutch (like a clan) - which at first she's not sure is such a good thing.  One of this T'Carais men - young leader has been on a discovery tour for his clutch - has been for 7 years, which is lucky for Val, as this brought them in the same vicinity just when Val and Miri need some help.  His visa name is "Twelfth Shell Fifth hatched knife Clane of Middle River's Spring Spawn of Farmer Greentrees of the Spear-makers Den, The Edger"; being rather young by T'Carais standards at 900plus years, his real name takes three hours to tell, but for the sake of his 'hasty human' brother/friend, he goes by the name Edger.  His clan name for Val is "Val Con yos'Phelium Scout, Artist of the Ephemeral, Slayer of the Eldest Dragon, Knife Clan of the Middle River's Spring Spawn of Farmer Greentrees of the Spearmaker's Den, Tough Guy" (The 'Tough Guy' was added because Miri called Val tough guy, and in the custom of the Clutch, this was added to their version of Val's name - I love this detail of names and naming, adding to your name as your life progresses - just think what some of our names would be...."Mardel, Hasty Human, Mother of Four, Grandmother of Two, Friend to Dogs, Reader of Books, keeper of Library, Herder of Children, of One Working Lung{haha}, Daughter of Many, Player of Castleville"  It would be great, lots of fun, though possibly giving a bit too much info about ourselves, yeah?)  And Miri's Clutch name ended up to be "Miri Robertson Mercenary Soldier, Retired, Personal Bodyguard, Retired, Have Weapon Will Travel" - this is how she introduced herself to Edger, after listening to a long list of names of the turtle Clutch Brothers.

Agent of Change was a fun, satisfying read with adventure, danger, slowly growing romance and a bit of angst - not too much - as well as suspense and a fun array of science fiction gadgets - space ships, thin armor that is like a second skin, lots of planets and a very dangerous enemy to all --the Yx-strange (I might have the spelling wrong).  These guys scare even the mob-like gang of outlaws.  And they are part of a cliff hanger ending which leads to the book titled Carpe Diem - which I read as soon as I finished Agent of Change-  thanks to having the omnibus edition containing both novels in one huge book.

I thing this is good reading for people who enjoy SciFi, a bit of romance, a good story, suspense and danger without lots of gore, and interesting varied characters and worlds.  Though these novels by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller might be tamer than many others, there's a lot to recommend them and you will end up with a good solid story to read.

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