And Drop Them in a Teacup

Carpe Diem — Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Liaden, book 3

Carpe Diem

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s 1989 Carpe Diem is the third novel published in their long-running Liaden series.

Set upon by the predatory Yxtrang, Val Con yos’Phelium makes a desperate bid to escape into faster-than-light drive. It’s successful in the sense that Val Con and his companion Miri Robertson escape horrific deaths at the hands of the Yxtrang. It’s unsuccessful in that their badly damaged ship ends up in the back of beyond, orbiting the interdicted world of Vandar.

Briefly orbiting. A forced descent follows.

The pair make it to the surface of Vandar. It seems likely that they will remain there for the rest of their lives. The ship doesn’t carry the parts needed for repairs and an underdeveloped world like Vandar can’t make them. Since the world is off-limits to the interstellar community, no convenient traders will arrive give the pair a lift.

The planet may be backward and balkanized into feuding kingdoms, but it’s cosmopolitan enough to welcome the outworld strangers. Zhena Trelu of Springbreeze farm offers them a place to stay while they learn the language and culture.

Miri is a fighter (specializing in shooting and stabbing). Ditto Val Con, but with a minor in subterfuge. One might expect them to chafe at farm life. In fact, they find that their holiday in a bucolic backwater is just what they need. They’re both suffering from PTSD, thanks to a backstory we know only from glancing comments. They’re also turning into a couple rather than oddly assorted traveling companions.

Their old skills do come in handy from time to time, when they help fend off raiding parties from rival kingdoms. All in a day’s work.

Meanwhile, Val Con’s relatives, Clan Korval, are turning all their psychic resources toward tracking down the missing pair. Val Con and Miri’s skills are needed if Clan Korval is to avoid extinction at the hands of enemies.


This novel and the one before didn’t give me enough hints as to backstory that I could work out how this peculiar setting evolved. Either it’s far enough in the future that a myriad of worlds have been settled, some of which have been isolated and have regressed to pre-industrial tech OR some alien race like the Clutch Turtles has scattered humans of various cultural and technical backgrounds across the galaxy. There’s evidence for either scenario.

I was reminded a long-forgotten novel by Andrew J. Offutt, The Galactic Rejects, in which castaways are marooned on backwater worlds before being plunged back into the conflicts that marooned them in the first place. I’m fairly sure that authors Lee and Miller wouldn’t have read the Offutt novel. They’re probably just dipping from the same story pot that most human cultures share. Or it’s zeitgeist.

The characters are well sketched. The romance between leads of different cultures and temperaments develops in satisfying fashion (not too quickly to be unbelievable, not too slowly to be boring, not so inevitable that there’s no suspense). But … there’s something about this book (and the Liaden books in general) that just does not click with me. I know the series has avid fans, so it’s clear there’s something attractive there. What that might be I cannot say.


  • Ross Presser

    The Galactic Rejects is not completely forgotten.

    0 votes
  • Ross Presser

    Sigh. Link got removed: https:

    0 votes
  • Travis Butler

    The Galactic Rejects isn't forgotten here, either. :) Granted, it's been probably 20+ years since my last re-read, but maybe it's time...

    0 votes
  • Scott Raun

    Are you counting "the one before it" as Agent of Change or Conflict of Honors? Publication order implies the second, internal chronology would be the first. It makes something of a difference.

    The origin of the universe is ... neither? of your scenarios. It's kind of your first, but only from a long-away view. Crystal Soldier & Crystal Dragon explain that bit of backstory.

    0 votes
  • Kristina Forsyth

    It is possible that the books will "click" with you, or not, depending on your entry point. FWIW this is not my favorite - Miri is a remarkable character, but not my cup of tea. Other books in the series contain some nice comedy of manners elements, and the universe building is very satisfying. The interpersonal relationships are front and center, but vary from book to book, with different character types in different life situations dealing with the things the authors throw at them.

    0 votes
  • Ryk Spoor

    The Liadenverse is pretty much unique in its origins. The big backstory is really quite odd; basically most of the books take place in a SECOND universe, where refugees from the first escaped to and settled. Clan Korval's founder, Cantra Yos'Phelium, was one of those actual refugees, and the main Clans of Liad were transported there by her ship. This is a hugely important backstory for the whole battle/clash between Korval, Liaden society in general, and the Department of the Interior.

    I love this series, and when I read it I did so in "The order in which the books were written" on Sharon Lee's page.

    0 votes

Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

Review Categories

By Author/Editor

Reviews by Date