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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
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.
26 of 32 people found this review helpful
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