I read Low Port by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller and liked it a lot. Now I want to read the novels. The English Wikipedia gives the correct order as Agent of Change < Conflict of Honors < Carpe Diem < Plan B < Local Custom < Scout's Progress < I dare < Mouse and Dragon. However, the publisher (АСТ, in Russia) published them in a different order: Conflict of Honors < Agent of Change < Carpe Diem < Local Custom < Scout's Progress < Plan B < I dare < "Trade balance" (I backtranslated the last title from Russian, it could be that they just retitled Mouse and Dragon).

Wikipedia shows clearly that the internal order doesn't coincide with any of the two. However, I don't think the internal order so important. Especially if there is a character who has a smaller role in the book where he is introduced and then there is a whole book to explain his past, I find it more pleasant to read in the writing order than in the order of internal chronology.

So do you think that the АСТ order makes more sense somehow? Is there some deep logic behind it, or did they just fail their deadlines for some of the books, maybe just didn't care and published in some semi-random order? Which one would you recommend for reading, the original one or the Russian one, and why?

As a small side question, is this a book which loses much in translation? I haven't bought the Russian books yet, maybe I should get the English ones if they are of the sensitive kind?

  • Tip: ISFDB has a pretty comprehensive list of written SF publications. “Trade balance” is probably Balance of Trade, which is set in the Liaden universe but not part of the Agent of Change series. Do you have any reason to suspect the Russian publication order was deliberate, as opposed to just not caring to do and publish the translations in order? – user56 Apr 15 '11 at 21:44

I believe the Meisha Merlin omnibus edition Partners in Necessity was first to re-order the original three books. It had Conflict of Honors first, then Agent of Change, then Carpe Diem. And they published Local Custom and Scout's Progress as an omnibus, Pilot's Choice, in its first run. What order the Ace editions were released in and/or listed in the front matter, I don't know. And now the Baen editions are grouping them a little differently in their electronic and print editions.

In short, the Russian publisher is probably following one of the above. Their choice is very similar to what a Meisha Merlin reader might have experienced circa 2001--optionally reading Plan B before or after the second omnibus, since it was out--and it's an order that makes complete sense.

However, I read these in publication order--what you call the correct order--and that's the order they hooked me in, so naturally I recommend it. Agent of Change has some weaknesses, but it's also terrific in some parts. Conflict of Honors felt different to me--nice, but lighter--and I was eager to get back to the action in Carpe Diem. If I had read Conflict of Honors first, I am not sure I would have been hooked.

Whether the story loses something in translation is an interesting question. These books pack a lot of emotion into the restrained manners the characters exhibit: manners that are sometimes shown through careful word choice. If you don't feel that by the end of the first three books, then try the English editions for Local Custom and Scout's Progress. Those two are essentially romances, where it might matter more.

  • Thank you. I read Agent of Change, it was good. The translation was OK, I think I'll continue the AST edition in the original order. – rumtscho Apr 28 '11 at 13:13

Here's what the authors themselves say about this question: Correct Reading Order.

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