the Little Red Reviewer

Conflict of Honors, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Posted on: December 22, 2012

SAM_2392Conflict of Honors (Liaden Universe), by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

published in 1988

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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I happened to mention to a friend that I enjoyed space opera, and she thrust Conflict of Honors into my hands and said “if you like space opera, you’ll love this!”.   Knowing nothing other than that the first few books in the series can be read in any order and that this ongoing series has a massive following, I dove in.

Far in the future, humanity lives side by side with the Liaden, a humanoid race (are they related to humans? I’m not sure).  While the Liadens might look humanoid, their culture and cultural taboos are nothing like ours. Humans often work on Liaden trading ships, although they are often treated as second class citizens.

The Liaden have empathic abilities, and reminded me a little bit of a cross between the Minbari of Babylon5 and Deanna Troi from Star Trek.  They easily read the emotions of humans and their fellow Liadens, and emotional sensitivity isn’t a taboo in their culture. No Liaden would ever say something like “suck it up!” or “quit being so dramatic!”. Instead, should someone be feeling emotional strife, a Liaden healer is assigned to them to help them return to a more joyous state of being.

And Priscilla Delacroix Mendoza has certainly been through a lot. Declared dead by her family, she’s worked on various Liaden transport ships for most of her life.  When the story opens, Priscilla is a miserable cargo master on the Liaden trading ship Daxflan.   The crew of the ship aren’t treated very well, and when Priscilla is left behind on a planet, her relief with having escaped an increasingly horrific situation is equal to her concern about the damage done to her record.


Thanks to the kindness of strangers, Priscilla is able to secure employment on the Dutiful Passage, a Liaden ship captained by Shan yos’Galen.   She’s completely flabbergasted by the her change in environs – this ship is clean, well maintained, spacious, even the food tastes like actual food.  Captain yos’Galen is already embroiled in one revenge scheme, and he offers to help Priscilla gain some sly revenge against her old employer.  Revenge is a big thing in Laiden culture; something that must be done properly and correctly, and Shan isn’t just the Captain of the Dutiful Passage, he’s also a crown prince of the Liaden homeworld.

For the first time in her life, Priscilla’s life is beginning turn around. Shan is handsome and helpful, her new friend Lina is everything a best friend could be.  But Priscilla still blames herself for the darkness in her past.  With Lina and Shan’s help, can she find happiness again?

The blurb on the back of the book purports the book to be primarily about revenge, hinting at interesting characters and witty dialog.  Well, there is plenty of witty and entertaining dialog, and Shan is fairly interesting. The vast majority of the plot follows Priscilla and her burgeoning romantic entanglements with Shan and Lina, with revenge taking a backseat. For folks who want a huge dose of romance with their scifi, this might be the perfect book for them.

Although this isn’t the kind of book I usually read, the story moves along at a nice pace, and the tensions between the characters kept my attention.  Conflict of Honors is a pretty quick read, I was able to finish it in just a couple of days. There was nothing wrong with this book, but ultimately, it didn’t work for me.  It was far more romance than I’m interested in, and far less science fiction than I was hoping for. Actually there was no reason to even set this story in the future, or on a space ship.  Along with the romance centered plot, the formal language patterns of the Liaden gave the delivery of the story more a feel of a medieval romance  novel than a story that takes place in the future.  Priscilla didn’t do much for me either. For a woman who has been on her own since she was a teenager, she doesn’t act very independent or street smart. She’s far too trusting, which gets her into lots of trouble, and the handsome and always perfect Shan always rescues her. Again, making the story feel more old fashioned than futuristic.

Anyone read any other titles in this series? Is it a romance series that takes place in outer space, or a space opera series that happens to have one book (the one I read!) that’s super romance-y?

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not part of the review, but do you ever have an internal monologue when you read a book? Things you’d like to shout at one of the characters, such as “don’t leave your gun behind!” or “idiot, can’t you see he’s flirting with you?”. My internal monologue while reading this book mostly consisted of “Just go to his quarters and jump him already!”

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9 Responses to "Conflict of Honors, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller"

I have had this book recommended to me several times.. Still haven’t read it… My friend is obsessed, though…

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It’s funny, you may have picked up on a genre akin to today’s YA paranormal. Back in the 70s and 80s, sci-fi was the hot genre. And some of the romance authors dabbled in sci-fi. The same thing’s happening today in YA. Much of what is written is paranormal, but the underlying themes are romance. It’s my opinion it has to do with the Twilight influence, just like back then, the influence of the romance in Star Wars took hold. I more or less like a book for the genre it represent. If the genre is a zombie horror, I expect the story to revolve around that. It’s hard to find books written in pure genres…unless it’s Stephen King.

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Internal dialogue, yep, and often not so damn internal, since I’m often by myself when I read, I may say it right out loud, and why not? I’ve not read any of this series, and it sounds both interesting and not urgent enough to search out a copy of the first book. But then there are so darn many books here already…

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That kind of internal monologue is usually a bad sign, meaning that the book suffers from an Idiot Plot. :(

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MERRY CHRISTMAS, Red!

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Far more romance and far less science fiction sounds a lot like the first Vorkosigan book, but I liked it very much for all that. I have a friend who is starting to get into the Miller collaborations, I’ll have to ask him if he’s read this, although it doesn’t sound like he would enjoy it if it is romance heavy.

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I recently read the first Vorkosigan novel, and now that I think about it, it was the same person who lent me both books. Lois McMaster Bujold puts much more into characterization and development, so the romance feels like a natural part of a much larger plot.

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I suspect as the Bujold series goes on that the romance may still be there but that it is less heavily emphasized, or at least that is the impression I get from those who rave about the other books. I know I’m looking forward to reading more of them. Sad to admit that this one sounds less appealing to me only in that they sound like similar ideas and if I’m going to take the time now I’d much rather continue on with the Vorkosigan series which seem to gather a wide and varied fan base given the discussions I’ve read in the book club and on SF Signal.

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Hello redhead…nice blog. Glad I found you.

Interaction between characters is aways the stuff of stories…and when women and men meet, things usually get interesting. The early Liaden Universe stories are more romantic. However, the latest one, Dragon Ship is about a young female captain’s interaction with the artificial intelligence that runs her old lost tech ship…and there’s very little romance…but an interesting story that includes aware artificial intelligence and nanites that can rebuild a dying body.

Bujold is also a favorite of mine and her most recent story Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is heavily romantic, but I consider it one of her best because it highlights how crazy humans can be when it comes to interaction with other humans, especially between a man and woman. She’s won the Hugo and Nebula probably more than any science fiction writer and that should say something about her work. What’s any kind of story, science fiction or otherwise, without the human element…or aliens that say something about the human condition?

See what I have to say further about both of these series on http://www.scifibookreview.com

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