The Best Sci-Fi Read You’ve Missed Is Filled With Spies, Romance, And Massive Space Battles Stretched Over 27 Books

By Joshua Tyler | Published

Sci-Fi Books Liaden Universe

In the late 80s, married authors Sharon Lee and Steve Miller wrote a series of three novels set in a galaxy far, far away called Agent of Change, Conflict of Honors, and Carpe Diem. And then no one read them… or so they were told.

Their publisher claimed the series was a flop and so it seemed as though it would die right there. Enter the internet where, one day, Miller and Lee stumbled onto a Usenet group (an old way of discussing things on the internet, kids) flush with fans who all but demanded more in the series. The surprised authors went back to work and the series now spans more than 27 books.

Make it a point to read them all.

Sadly, Liaden co-author Steve Miller died suddenly on February 20, 2024. He was 73. It’s unclear if Sharon will continue writing the series without him. As a fan of the series, I hope not.

Before Steve Miller’s death, the couple completed one last book called Ribbon Dance. It’s just now available for pre-orders. I plan to savor it.

The Liaden Universe, the name most commonly used to encompass their work, is unlike anything you’ve read before. What’s most impressive about the Liaden books is the variety of settings and styles in which they take place.

Agent of Change, for instance, is an intimate spy novel focused on a small handful of characters engaged in a complex game of cat and mouse that is confined primarily to a single planet. Balance of Trade is the story of the crew aboard a massive, intergalactic merchant ship, making their way from one planet to the next. Local Custom is almost a romance novel, set amongst the complex politics of an honor-driven society.

The series contains massive war stories, smuggler runs, psychic warfare, and nearly every kind of science fiction you can imagine, but all in one universe. Best of all, it fits together. They aren’t random stories but larger parts of the same whole, each told in their own way and from their own angle.

It’s probably a stretch to call the Liaden series groundbreaking, but it is incredibly entertaining for something that has, for the most part, flown completely under the radar for nearly two decades. What the series might lack in substance, it makes up for in creativity and style.

No two Liaden stories are ever the same, yet, at the same time, they are. No matter what your sci-fi fix is, you’ll find something to love in the complex, rich universes (that’s right, more than one!) of Liad. Do yourself a favor and give Sharon Lee and Steve Miller a chance.

For more information on the series, head over to the authors’ page.