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Plan B

by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

trade paperback edition

Once upon a time, Del Rey published three novels by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee. These books, collectively known as the Liaden series, were full of shooting, being shot at, running away, suddenly pulling new psychic powers out of one's ear to avoid being shot, and lots of whimsical dialog and passionate kissing in between the shooting bits. And giant turtles.

This sort of thing is a great deal of fun to read about (especially the giant turtles), so the books began to collect a following. That following was very enthusiastic, but not very large, so Del Rey dropped the series. And so the Liaden books went out of print, and grew more and more difficult to find, and periodically people would pop into rec.arts.sf.written and ask whatever happened to Miller & Lee. Now the series has at last been resurrected with the publication of the long-awaited sequel, Plan B. It's not the ideal book to introduce new readers to the series, but existing fans will love it.

In Agent of Change, Terran ex-mercenary Miri Robertson, on the run from organized crime, teams up with Liaden agent provocateur Val Con, who is on the run from the Terran government. In Conflict of Honor, down-and-out Terran spacer Priscilla Mendoza, abandoned and then chased by a dishonest employer, teams up with Val Con's brother Shan, who really doesn't have any life-threatening problems until he meets Priscilla. In the third book, Carpe Diem, a wide assortment of bad guys from the first book are pursuing the good guys from both books, but nobody can find anyone, largely because Miri and Val Con have crashlanded on a low-technology planet.

Plan B opens with Miri and Val Con back in space and headed to the planet Lytaxin, for lack of any more sensible destination. They've put the word out to Val Con's clan to rendezvous there, so most of their family and allies, along with the more perspicacious of their enemies, converge on Lytaxin. Unfortunately, the whole joyful reunion thing is going to have to wait, because an invading force of bloodthirsty alien warriors is converging right along with them.

There are some disorienting gaps in the story, where a lack of context makes events confusing. It's hard to tell if this happened because the book was trimmed for length, or because the authors are fond of starting scenes in mid-crisis. Too much of the plot relies on shameless coincidence, and a few characters have begun to acquire that tell-tale halo that indicates the authors have fallen in love with their own creations.

Still, Plan B is full of widescale destruction and ironic humor and justified paranoia, which is to say, it has all the elements that made the series so much fun in the first place. If you haven't read the foregoing books, you won't have too much trouble following the events of Plan B, but you may not see what all the fuss is about. Fortunately, Meisha Merlin will be publishing an omnibus edition of the first three books under the title Partners In Necessity. If you enjoy romantic space opera, don't miss it.

-- Christina Schulman.
Reviewed in
March 1999

trade paperback edition
Publisher: Meisha Merlin
Date: February 1999
ISBN: 1-892065-00-2
Binding: trade paperback
Pages: 336
Price: US $14.00

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Nov 2000 / CMS