Carpe Diem by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
After an attack by the Yxtrang, Val Con yos’Phelium and his new wife Miri Robertson are stranded in a space yacht with no weapons or communication and little power. They are able to make one short faster than light jump, so choose to jump near an interdicted world that has not advanced enough to go to space but a place where Val Con and Miri can live out their lives if no one finds them. They will leave a beacon, but no one knows where in the galaxy to look.
On Liadon. the yos’Phelium family has political problems. Val Con had been recruited into the specialized Liadon spy agency and was on a mission for them for a few years. No one has heard from him in a while. No one knows what happened recently, that he now accepted into the prestigious Clutch Turtle race, that he was attacked by and escaped the Yxtrang, or that he is married.
Now the First Speaker of Liadon wants a new head of family prepared. The family still has time and Shan, the next in line after Val Con, refuses to arrange a contract marriage or take over the role as head of family. He was in one contract, loveless marriage. He won’t do it again. He has Priscilla, his first mate and lover. He doesn’t want another woman. Politically, the yos’Pheliums are prevented from looking for Val Con. But they are a powerful trading family on Liadon. They have ways to search without appearing to search.
Eventually their supplies run low, so Val Con and Miri land the space yacht on Vandar in the wilderness. They hide to the local village and find jobs with one of the town’s matriarchs. Over time they learn the language and become friends with the villagers. Val Can finds a fellow musician and is able to once again make music. If they are stranded for the rest of their lives, Vandar is a decent planet despite the constant local wars.
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liadon universe is great space opera. There are space pirates, space travel, interplanetary traders, undeveloped planets, heros and rogues, romance and fun. Carpe Diem continues Miri and Val Con’s story from Agent of Change.
The tale switches focus back and forth between Val Con and Miri to Shan and the yos’Phelium family both on Liadon and in the trader space ships. There’s political intrigue, space cowboys, and the pains of survival in an unfamiliar culture without the technological advances. Despite the chapter headings, it’s confusing at times to keep up with the setting changes. Eventually the reader gets into the rhythm, but it takes at least a third of Carpe Diem to get comfortable when the scene changes.
Need a dose of good space opera (so what if it’s 20 or so years old?)? You can’t go wrong with Carpe Diem, although it’s better if Agent of Change is read first.