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cover Expanded; those who read it online should probably read it again.
Steve Miller & Sharon Lee
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 good 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 relationship.

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 ... but they'll get you part way there.
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