Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
***** (5 out of 6 stars)
A Liaden Universe novel
an Omnibus edition - The Agent's Gambit
originally published 1989
cover - I don't like this one. She looks odd, he looks very old and he's supposed to be a young man....it's odd. They look like they belong on the Star Trek series. The only good thing about this cover is the sky, the background and the spaceship pictured. Thank goodness for multiple cover releases. :) (I do realize it's an old cover)
Carpe Diem takes place right where Agent of Change ended. At the end of Agent of Change, Val Con yos'Phelium and Miri Robertson had just taken a huge gamble on surviving a last chance jump with a ship that some pace pirates wanted after having first abandoned it post-pirating/murder of the crew. The ship has damaged parts, and the closest planet they can get to is an interdicted planet. Interdicted (I just learned this while reading) means that since the planet hasn't achieved space travel yet, star-ships aren't allowed to make contact. Unfortunately Val and Miri have to land here, so they do. Crash-landing in a remote area, they walk to a farm and manage to pass as refugees, working for an older widow while learning the language of the area.
Since Val has gone missing from his spy masters, he's being searched for by a super agent, and pretty much is wanted with or without his health. Both Miri and Val are at first being chased by the mob, then being searched for by the family (the Korval clan family). This is bad in the case of the dept, his employers and could be great if his family finds him.
Carpe Diem tells the story of Miri and Val learning how to be regular people, building a relationship and making friends on a planet that knows nothing about space travel or other species of planets. The society is the type where women wear dresses most of the time, tight clothes are unseemly, and yet - though it isn't outright, I had the impression that women had a little more say in things then men did. Kind of like our nineteen-fifties, only where women are definitely either equal or just a bit more than equal. Miri and Val happen to land in a country that hasn't been at war for a very, very long time. There have been rumblings about refugees and vague fears of people coming from another country to invade - even though this country isn't at war, another country has been having problems, which is why it's so believable to the townspeople that Miri and Val are refugees. Which works for them, if you haven't any frame of reference, why would you think space aliens?
Miri and Val not only have to learn how to assimilate into this culture, but they have to hide their high tech knowledge. They end up staying with a cranky widow and her goofy dog. They make friends and build a relationship, biding their time, while planning to eventually be able to send some sort of radio-transmission message that they hope will be heard by the right people. It the planned message is heard by the wrong people, then they're going to have a lot of trouble...
The lives of the characters flow along - Miri and Val each learning more about each other and themselves. This particular novel almost reads like regular fiction, except for the occasional reminder of tech, the intervals with Val's family or the 'super-agent' sent after Val. Miri finds herself communicating with Val's sister in law through dreaming when she didn't even know she had the talent, and Val finds himself almost losing his humanity after a fight he couldn't avoid. Then, when things seem to finally be going right, when they're kind of thinking they might be stuck on this planet for good....BLAM!! there is the run-in of all run-ins. What a fight!
Good story. The widow's character - so cranky, yet caring. The dog is pretty cool as is Val's reaction and relationship to the dog. The friends they make are fun and the friendship itself is a little bittersweet, since Val and Miri end up enjoying their time on this planet, even while they are planning and hoping to be able to get away from the planet and go home. But it's so tempting just to forget about leaving, to just settle in...
While reading Ghost Ship I found myself wondering about Miri and Val. Fledgling and Ghost Ship were the first two novels I read by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, the first I heard of this Liaden Universe. It was good to read about the lives of leaders of the clan before they were the leaders.