a preponderance of punctuation marks (reedrover) wrote,
a preponderance of punctuation marks

Book Review: Fledgling (no spoilers, really)

The Liaden story continues, from an angle. Young Theo Waitley is in her early teenage years. She is smart, friendly but slightly socially awkward (aren't we all at that age?), and at that adolescent stage where she is having trouble with a body and brain that know almost how to move together, but keep bouncing off of doorframes nonetheless. Her mother is an honorable scholar who has discovered severe meddling in academic resources: the basic texts upon which scholarly work is built have been altered. While Theo has to deal with her "antisocial" and "dangerous" physical "handicaps," her mother has to deal with a conspiracy to undermine the university system. While accompanying her mother on the academic investigation, Theo discovers something very important about herself along the way ... But is it important enough to take to Delm Korval?

Yeah, it sounds kinda silly. But what you get is a combination of academic intrigue and coming-of-age that lets us into the mental, emotional and physical development of the daughter of a Liaden pilot without any of the Liaden cultural restrictions. Certainly, there are cultural hedges all around her, but they are constructs of a very different world, where Terran-based academics are paramount, and "antisocial behavior" is the highest crime.

This book (the physical story itself) grew up more in the public eye than most. Back when Sharon Lee and Steve Miller were being sucked under by Meisha Merlin's abrupt bankruptcy, they decided to try serializing their book publication on the web. For every $300 of donations, they would publish a new chapter of their latest Liaden draft. Ok, it worked really well, and they got the money they needed to see them through the winter. And anyone who put in more than $25 got a copy of the book pledged to them if it ever made it to print. Hence me waiting on my signed first edition rather than running out to the bookstore when it came out for real.

What's interesting, for me, is that I got to read the same story from two very different perspectives. The first perspective was from the authors slapping the story down as it flowed out of their heads. There were typos, dropped characters, broken plot devices, and dead-end leads. The second perspective was after the authors had revisited the entire construction with their editors. It was the final, rough-sanded-smooth, edges all tucked in, shiny and sitting on the shelf version of the story. And while the concept was the same, the content was quite different, and in a 95% positive way.

One of the only changes that I'm sorry to see from the web-serialized first draft to the final is the loss of the bowli ball game description on the cruise ship. And really, the authors had to decide on space and focus for each step of the dance, so to speak, and in relative terms their decision to focus on the setup of the game rather than the play of game itself was likely more important to the character development (and reader education).
Tags: books

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