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Meetcute gunbattle!

Agent of Change  (Agent of Change, book 1)

By Sharon Lee & Steve Miller 

27 Jan, 2016

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Agentof Change is the first volume of Steve Miller and Sharon Lee’s Liaden series. 

Terransbitterly resent their lowly position in the galactic statushierarchy. The off-world humans are richer and look down on theirhick cousins; aliens possess advanced technology that Terra cannotmatch. Off-worlders, human and alien alike, sneer at Terrans andviolate their laws with impunity. As a result, Terrans tend tooverreact to provocation. Terra is a dangerous place.

Miriis an ex-mercenary. Val Con, of the clannish Liaden, is a spy.Neither should have come to Terra at this moment in time. Both ofthem did. 

Aftera meet-cute gun battle that leaves the street covered in bodies, Miriand Val Con form an alliance. Miri’s last employer left her in thegun sights of a vast criminal cartel. Off-worlder spy and occasionalassassin Val Con is by definition an enemy of the state. They findthemselves targeted by both mob and government. There is no place tohide. 

ValCon, a man with a talent for calculating the odds, knows that thisalliance must be temporary at best, and most likely will end inMiri’s death at his hands. He himself expects to be cut down by someenemy who is just that slight bit faster than Val. The logic isutterly clear. Death is inevitable.

Andyet …

Somehowthey survive every battle. Somehow, Val Con can never quite bringhimself to kill Miri, although she sees death in his eyes over andover. Somehow what was supposed to be a momentary alliance ofconvenience is turning into something else. 


Fromthe founding of the Del Rey publishing house, up until the GreatPurge of the mid-1990s, I was a reliable customer for Del Rey books.It‘s surprising, then, that I somehow avoided reading the bookunder review. Of which fact I was reminded when someone sent me acopy of the 1988 Del Rey edition ofAgent of Change .This is even more surprising given that the first three Liaden books(1988’s Agentof Change and Conflictof Honors and 1989’s CarpeDiem )were avidly discussed on USENET, then my online home. Wikipediaclaims that discussion of the Liaden books took place on rec.arts.sf.written; I think it might have takenplace even earlier, in the long-ago times of rec.arts.sf-lovers. Ofblessed memory. 

USENET.Ah, the days of my youth. 

Agentof Change andthe series of which it is a part have a long and complicated history,in large part thanks to that online buzz. I won’t go intomind-numbing detail. I will only say that had fans not convincedpublishers like Ace, Meisha Merlin, Embiid Publishing, and others toembrace the series, then Agentof Change would have been the first book in a three-book series. Instead, it isthe first book of a nine book series, within a larger narrativeuniverse containing seventeen novels and at least twenty-one shorterworks. All that thanks to online buzz back when computers werecoal-fired.

Sadly,this kind of story isn’t really my thing. I blame James Bond ->the movie GoldenEye -> the scene where Bond kills a bunch of Russian soldiers (whoseonly fault was being on duty on the wrong day) before carelesslycrushing innocent bystanders [1] by stealing a tank and racing it athigh speed through Russian streets. I permanently lost my taste forworks in which redshirts are mown down like cut grass. Too bad that alot of this novel shows the two leads chewing through mooks like agoat in clover.

(Ido admit that there is some nuance in Miri and Val Con’srelationship with their opponents. The dangerous duo do commitcarnage in job lots, but for Miri, her opponents are just workingfolk who happen to work for the other side. Val Con considers hisopponents bitter enemies. Miri could possibly reconcile with herenemies; Val Con could not and will not.)

IfI set aside my distaste for mass murder. I can see why people lovedthe original so much. There’s a lot to like: the byplay between thetwo leads, the fast-paced plot, the gripping action scenes. It’s notmy kind of novel but it could be yours.

1:Oh, the film makers showed a few people getting out of their carsbefore the cars were crushed, but consider that these were crowdedstreets and that it would be hard to escape a vehicle when it washemmed in by other cars.