|This was the first of
two books that Miller and Lee published online in first draft as
serials, chapter by chapter, one a week, to raise money when their
former publisher went out of business. (A very sad occasion for the SF
community as a whole; Meisha Merlin Press published a lot of
stuff that might otherwise have never seen print.)
People who read that serialisation may well think that they needn't
re-read the book, now that it's out in dead tree form - but, in my
opinion, they'd be thinking wrongly.
Some of the original draft's plot shifts seemed a tad confusing; there
have been re-writes that clear up most of that.
(For those who have read other Liaden Universe books, Theo Waitley is
the young woman in a pilot's jacket who turns up on the last page of Plan B...)
Kamele Waitley is a Professor at the University of Delgado, Theo is her
fourteen-year-old daughter. (Theo is fourteen in Delgado years; i
suspct that the Delgado year may be longer than we're used to, since
young women are considered adults at age fifteen there.) Delgado's
culture seems weighted in favour of women - there is apparently no
institution of marriage, with couples forming and breaking up at the
whim of the woman; the male apparently has no voice in the end of the
Professor Waitley has just received a promotion and has decided to
move, with Theo, back into the Wall, the monolithic ceramic structure
that makes up most or all of the University. In doing so, she is
leaving Jen Sar Kiladi, her "onagrata" of many years (and the only
father Theo has ever known, whether or not he is her biological
father). The promotion has come to her because a superior in her
Department has been detected in the one unforgivable academic offense -
faking data. Theo is heartbroken that she and her mother will no longer
be living in Jen Sar's house on the outskirts of the University.
Worse - it appears that the miscreant may actually have managed to
alter documents considered as primary sources; at least the documents
in the Archives do not match copies held by one scholar's family and
handed down for years. The only way to determine whether or not this is
true is to send a delegation to the worlds from whence the documents
came, Melchiza, to research and compare.
Meanwhile, Theo is getting into trouble. The society of Delgado frowns
on individuality and Theo is an individual. This is not helped by the
fact that Theo is unusually physically inept, even for a
fourteen-year-old, and is involved in incidents that are interpreted as
dangerous to society. Her mentor (therapist/academic
advisor/surveillance operator) recommends drug therapy that will help;
Kamele and Jen Sar, having researched the drugs involved years ago when
the suggestion was first made, reject it.
Instead Jen Sar arranges for Theo to join a dance class ... and she
discovers that she is good at the dance.
Kamele is selected as second-in-command of the delegation to Melchiza,
and decides to take Theo along.
On the ship, Theo falls in with a group of pilots. (In Miller and Lee's
Liaden universe, pilots must be possessed of reflexes and mathematical
abilities just short of superhuman, and are regarded in many circles
with a large degree of awe and respect.) She begins to learn "normal"
social interaction - though, since the two main pilots are Liaden
Scouts, just how "normal" this may be is open to question by some...
Meanwhile, back on Delgado, Jen Sar has begun to suspect that some sort
of Dastardly Plot may be afoot.
So we have three separate plotlines - Theo's coming of age and her
discovery that she is far from "average" or "normal", Kamele and the
delegation's problems and suspicions among the paranoid and xenophobic
society of Melchiza, and Jen Sar's investigations back on Delgado.
And the new material added since the serialisation makes up the
majority of those three threads, literally introducing important new
subplots and going more deeply into what was originally there.
A fun book; if you read Plan B
and wondered what was up at the end - Fledgling won't tell you, nor (unless it's been
expanded and revised
even more than has Fledgling
from *its* online serial version) will
its sequel (coming in 2010), Saltation
they'll get you part way there.