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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?

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  • 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
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 21:44
  • This question, and the answers to it, was written quite a while ago. If anyone is starting on the Liaden universe today, a bunch has changed. A whole bunch! So you have a lot more options now on reading order. So, for example, while 'Agent of Change' is still a very interesting place to start, there is a whole other 'branch' as it were that will eventually merge with this line, and gives a very different feel. That branch would start with 'Fledgling'. Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 12:52

3 Answers 3

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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.

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  • 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
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 13:13
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Here's what the authors themselves say about this question: Correct Reading Order.

Novels that may be read with no prior reading in the Universe:

Agent of Change, Conflict of Honors, Local Custom, Scout’s Progress, Balance of Trade, Fledgling, Crystal Soldier, Necessity’s Child, Dragon in Exile, Alliance of Equals

Novels that are direct sequels:

Agent of Change, Carpe Diem, Plan B, I Dare, Dragon in Exile, Alliance of Equals, Neogenesis, Accepting the Lance, Trader’s Leap

Fledgling, Saltation, Ghost Ship, Dragon Ship, The Gathering Edge, Neogenesis, Accepting the Lance

Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon

Balance of Trade, Trade Secret, Fair Trade

Neogenesis, Salvage Right

Novels that may benefit from being read in a particular order:

Carpe Diem may benefit from reader familiarity with Agent of Change

Mouse and Dragon may be more accessible to those who have previously read Scout’s Progress

Dragon in Exile may be more accessible to those who have previously read the Agent of Change Sequence (Agent of Change, Conflict of Honors, Carpe Diem, Plan B, I Dare)

The Gathering Edge may make more sense to those who have followed Theo Waitley through Fledgling, Saltation, Ghost Ship, and Dragon Ship

You may want to read Alliance of Equals before Trader’s Leap. Leap begins mere days after the ending of Equals

The internal arcs:

For those who do not want to commit to dozens of books, there are internal story arcs within the over-arc of the Liaden Universe®

Theo Waitley: Fledgling, Saltation, Ghost Ship, Dragon Ship, The Gathering Edge, rejoining the rest of the characters in Neogenesis

Jethri Gobelyn: Balance of Trade, Trade Secret, Fair Trade

Prehistory: Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon

Space Regencies: Local Custom, Scout’s Progress, Mouse and Dragon, joins the Theo Waitley arc in Fledgling

The Dutiful Passage: Conflict of Honors, Alliance of Equals, Trader’s Leap

Agent of Change: Agent of Change, Carpe Diem, Plan B, I Dare

Korval in Exile: Dragon in Exile, Neogenesis, Accepting the Lance, Salvage Right

Standalone within the series: Necessity’s Child

The order in which the books were written:

Agent of Change, Conflict of Honors, Carpe Diem, Plan B, Local Custom, Scout’s Progress, I Dare, Balance of Trade, Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon, Fledgling, Saltation, Mouse and Dragon, Ghost Ship, Dragon Ship, Necessity’s Child, Trade Secret, Dragon in Exile, Alliance of Equals, The Gathering Edge, Neogenesis, Accepting the Lance, Trader’s Leap, Fair Trade, Salvage Right

Internal Chronology:

Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon, Balance of Trade, Trade Secret, Fair Trade, Local Custom, Scout’s Progress, Mouse and Dragon, Conflict of Honors, Agent of Change, Carpe Diem, Plan B, Fledgling, I Dare, Saltation, Ghost Ship, Necessity’s Child*, Dragon Ship*, Dragon in Exile*, The Gathering Edge*, Alliance of Equals*, Neogenesis*, Accepting the Lance*, Trader’s Leap*, Salvage Right

*Portions of these novels occur simultaneously. This was done to give readers a 365º view of the action taking place on different fronts.

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The answer from the authors that there is no one right order to read Liaden in is obviously canonical. However I think there are some ‘right’ orders depending on who you are, and what you like to read. So, for example, if you are someone obsessed with history, and always want to know the entire backstory of everything from the beginning, then you can read them in their historical order, beginning with ‘Crystal Solider’. (Not my idea of fun, but whatever floats your boat.)

If, on the other hand, you are a young adult, or like reading YA stuff, then an obvious place to begin is with ‘Fledgling’… which has a female YA heroin, or ‘Balance of Trade’, which has a male YA hero; both of whom go through some normal (well, normal for Sci-Fi) travails of their youth, like visiting strange new planets and getting in trouble in all sorts of new cultures.

If you like Action books… a little Tom Clancy ish... then ‘Agent of Change’ is the best place to start. (It is arguably the best book as well). If, on the other hand, you prefer Psycho drama type literature, with abuse and secrets etc., then ‘Local Custom’ or ‘Scouts Progress’ might be the right place to begin.

And thinking outside the box, there is nothing wrong, if you are a short story kind of person, with reading the numerous collections of short stories in whatever order you happen to be able to get ahold of them.

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