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Publisher's Summary

Centuries in the past, mankind fought a seemingly unbeatable adversary from sector to sector across the Spiral Arm until the war ground to a standstill and the Enemy withdrew. Believing that they had won, the citizens of the galaxy rebuilt. The Inner Worlds, which had escaped the worst of the war's ravages, became even more insular, while the Rim worlds adopted a free and easy way with law and order. Now, hundreds of years after their withdrawal, the Enemy is back - and this time they'll be satisfied with nothing less than the extinction of the galaxy.

©2004 Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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The original Cantra

The Liaden Universe is a full and complex one. This tale starts with the original Cantra yos Phelium, and M Jela and his Tree. Yes, the tree is a character in this story as much as any other character. I will say that I enjoyed this book much more in audio than in print, which I don't often say! The narration is excellent, because it isn't over-dramatic, but is just enough to differentiate between characters.

This download also has a conversation between the narrator and Steve Miller. Don't skip it! It gives a lot of insight into what goes into narrating an audiobook, as well as learning a bit about how Steve and Sharon write their books. As well as the good news that a sequel to Balance of Trade is coming!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Beginning of a big sprawling classic space opera

I want to say either I liked this book or I disliked it, but really, it was a bit bland, and had neither any Big Ideas nor characters memorable enough to leave an impression. Filled the time but left me with no desire to read the rest of the 11+ book series. Evidently, this book introduces plots and characters who recur throughout the series and is something of a prequel.

The Shereika want to wipe out all life in the universe, and humanity is fighting a losing war against them. Humankind has bred people to be soldiers, slaves, and assassins, creating a fairly traditional aliens-light space opera universe. Even the Shereika are actually genetically engineered humans. Humans are losing the war and falling back from the spiral arm. The Shereika are mostly an off-stage threat in this book, intergalactic bogeymen who have listening devices and agents everywhere, but don't show up in their planet-killing ships... yet.

The POV alternates between two main characters. M. Jela Granthor's Guard is a genetically-engineered soldier who, while fighting the Shereika on a distant uninhabited planet, happened upon a group of sentient trees and deduced that they had somehow fended off the Shereika. So he carts a tree around for the rest of the book. On a special assignment from the military, he runs across Cantra yos'Phelium, a generically-engineered assassin who's now the solo captain of a "dark trader" - i.e., a smuggler. The two of them end up rescuing a genetically-engineered slave, Dulsey, and taking her to a mysterious man known as the Uncle who runs some sort of free colony for other slaves like Dulsey, out in the beyond.

Crystal Soldier has a bit of a Firefly vibe to it, and also reminded me of "The Phoenix in Flight" by Sherwood Smith and Dave Trowbridge, another first novel by an authorial duo in a sprawling epic space saga, and another one I found moderately entertaining but just too paint-by-numbers to really get invested in what happens next. I don't know what it says about my reading tastes that star-destroying mega-battlecruisers no longer intrigue me. I loved Niven and Saberhagen back in the day, but 11 books of this just make me think of better or more interesting books on my TBR list.

So, this was good SF, not great SF, and if you are looking for a long series maybe it will grab you more than it grabbed me.

There is a long interview at the end of this audiobook between the author and the narrator which I found pretty interesting, since the narrator, Kevin T. Collins, answers lots of questions you might have about how audiobooks (particularly SF audiobooks) are put together.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Charlie
  • Madeira Park, BC, Canada
  • 09-05-12

Finally, Liaden on Audible

Crystal Soldier is the chronologically first book in the Liaden Universe series from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. It was, however, written several years after the first published volume (Agent of Change) and is thus on Audible as part of the "Books of Before" sequence.

Crystal Soldier tells the story of M. Jela and Cantra yos'Phelium, as well as the original Tree of Korval's Tree and Dragon. This is very much a prequel to the later events of Clan Korval, and leads naturally to the next book, Crystal Dragon and the migration to Liad to escape the total destruction of the universe.

If you're new to the Liaden Universe, you have a choice of how best to read the books. Personally, I prefer strict chronological order, but a valid argument can be made for published order as well, since that is how others have discovered this fascinating universe. If you're inclined that way, then start with the Agent of Change sequence first, and loop back to the earlier books when you're ready.

The narrator for this three book set of Before books is Kevin T. Collins, and he does an excellent job. Each character has a distinctive voice, but the distinction is subtle and doesn't interfere with the narrative. This was my first book with Mr. Collins as narrator, but I'll be searching out more. Well done.

25 of 31 people found this review helpful

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5 stars if you have read other Liaden books

I previously reviewed this as a 4 star book, and said that I had mixed feelings about reading number 2 after finishing, but was happy when I did. This was my first experience with the Liaden books. Having now read the Agent of Change sequence, I'm now giving this one a 5, since it really brings the whole universe to an entirely different level. On it's own, still a good book, but personally, I'd start with Agent of Change then come back to these later.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Shawn
  • Barrie, Ontario, Canada
  • 05-13-13

A good introduction to Lianden

I've never a Liaden book or a book from the authors. This far future sci-fi tale was interesting, the pace was constant, and the universe interesting. While this novel didn't excite me terribly, but it kept my attention and there are some interesting ideas that are in the background that will clearly be major elements of future books as this book was written after but takes place before the main series of books. I will look forward to reading them.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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50/50 I'm not sure yet!

The first book was tough in the beginning.
Don't misunderstand me the book drawn my attention from the very first minutes, but all the time I had a feeling like it's dragging it's heels.
14 hours is too much, it should've been 5 or 6 at the most, but the story was interesting, the narration also matched the tempo of the book so Kevin T. Collins fits to this book.

But to make sure I will get the second book. Read my next review soon.

12 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Another fun space adventure from Lee & Miller

M Jela is a soldier, genetically engineered, of the "M" strain. He's still young, but a hardened warrior, and very nearly gets killed in space battle with the Sheriekas, humanity's enemy returned after centuries of absence. The Sheriekas' distant ancestors used to be human; that hasn't been true for a very long time. And the Sheriekas' plans for the galaxy, and the universe, are not compatible with human survival.

Cantra yos'Phelium is a jump pilot with a surprisingly well-armed ship, and a murky background.

They meet up by chance when Jela is trying to hook up with his intended contact, on a detached assignment intended to bring the war to the enemy, and Cantra is just seeking some enjoyable downtime on a stopover before taking off with her new cargo. Events lead to them fleeing the planet together, in Cantra's ship, with Dulsey, a batch-grown slave of the owner of the restaurant they dined at. Oh, and Jela's tree, a sentient tree he rescued off of the planet where he nearly died.

And their adventures have barely begun.

This is fast-paced space opera, with Lee & Miller's typically excellent pacing, mood, and character development. It's also a peek back at the origins of the Liaden Universe their fans have come to know and love. You don't need to be familiar with other books in the larger series, but if you are, there is some extra fun along the way in recognizing things that will be very significant to later generations.

What can I say but great fun, and highly recommended.

I bought this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Well balanced Sci-Fi

I've downloaded quite a few sci-fi series and I would have to say that so far this is my favorite. The narrative stays fresh and there is enough detail that you can really get involved with the story and no too much detail that it becomes tedious. I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A Good Beginning

Would you listen to Crystal Soldier again? Why?

I would listen to Crystal Soldier again because many elements it sets up continue to recur throught the Liaden series. Although I have read most of the Liaden books more than once, I had forgotten where some things came from. In addition, Sharon Lee's language is outstanding, and lends itself extremely well to being read aloud.

What other book might you compare Crystal Soldier to and why?

In the Liaden universe, this book and its sequel are genuinely different. Metaphorically, they serve the same role as The Hobbit served relative to The Lord of the rings.

Have you listened to any of Kevin T. Collins’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Kevin Collins is workmanlike.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I would never listen to any book in one sitting.

Any additional comments?

The Liaden universe is, in many ways, as well thought through as Tolkien, but the actual writing is more tersely poetic. It offers insights into human connections in an exotic and beautiful package.

9 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Is there a woman's military sci-fi genre?

I didn't even have to look at the author(s)... as soon as I started the book I knew it was a sci-fi written by a woman. Way more character development than my usual military sci-fi fare, and way too much "lollygagging at the views" for my personal tastes. Yes, it is all lovely to be thoughtful and present during a scenic event, but... I went in thinking this was a military sci-fi where stuff got blown up and people swore at each other. There is a lot of coddling and hand-holding here. Oh, perhaps it is the "mystical" component that I didn't like... something anyway.

The story is kinda interesting - and the characters are well-developed. It just doesn't really fit into the genre I thought it was trying to fit into. I see now that it is a prequel to a more advanced series, which is fine (it read like a stand alone book), but I don't think it has enough action to stimulate a reader to keep reading in the series... nothing very thrilling occurs, and I finished the book wondering why I really care what they do in a future adventure.

If there was such a genre as women's military science fiction, this might be the flagship type of story for that. For me, there was just not enough action, or enough military content, and just a bit too much touchy-feely and psychedelic wanderings (kinda like dream-sequences)...

The narration is good and there is nothing graphic in this book...

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • 03-01-13

Annoying and full of itself

Well as you can assume from the title , i really did not like this one little bit, the narrator was , well whats the polite way of saying dull, nah lets stick with Just plain Dull, his narration was one toned and you constantly found yourself lapsing into mind wandering episodes. I strongly urge you listen to the sample.



To be fair the story was a bit full of itself. You know when someone uses lots of words to describe a idea and after listening for a few minutes you think to yourself 'i have not got a clue what your talking about' well this pretty much sums up this audio book. The action scenes leave you cold. A book with potential , but unfortunately falls way way short.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful