Monday, September 19, 2022

Fair Trade (Liaden Universe #24), by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author)

Baen  Books, May 2022

Jethri Gobelyn was born and raised on a Terran family Loop ship, where he was an unfavored junior, resented by the Captain for reasons of family history. Unexpected events led to him being taken aboard the Liaden tradeship Elthoria, and rising to the rank of second trader under his foster mother, Norn ven'Deelin Clan Ixin.

Now new changes are coming into his life. He's being transferred to be Lead Trader on a smaller Liaden ship, attending his first big Terran trade conference, and taking the lead position in pushing for the adoption of his late father's plan to revamp the trade loops to enable the small Looper ships like the one he grew up on to survive the encroachment of Rostov's Dust.

While he has allies in that last project, including some very influential Looper families, he also has quite dedicated opponents. These include TerraTrade itself, which favors remaking the trade routes to have Loopers acting as feeder ships to the big trade ships, not directly to the planets in the Rostov's Dust region. And this is utterly logical and reasonable, if your main concern is profit and stability. The big ships can't jump as far into the Dust, or as reliably, as small ships, and skipping a planet for a cycle or two would be just a business decision for the big ships, not the abandonment of trusted trade partners, as it is for the small ships. People would die because getting to them cost too much for the big ships.

Meanwhile, Jethri has a mistaken-identify problem. He looks just like his father, who looked just like the enigmatic figure called the Uncle, for the very simple reason that in fact they are all clones. This causes some actually quite reasonable small traders who unfortunately trade mostly in salvaged bits of the banned "old tech." and assume Jethri is a connection to Uncle, who generally buys it readily.

Another small ship on the edges of Looper society has its own problems, as the previous captain and first officer have died, and the younger generation are trying to break out of their elders' own fondness for crooked trading with a nasty small-time criminal gang leader. When the gang leader tries to hijack their ship and get the ship's recently acquired family of norbears--still largely unknown in this earlier time in Liaden Universe history--seized as dangerous, diseased animals, Jethri and his Looper allies get caught up in that, too...

Even as some snootier members of the Liaden Trade Guild are trying to get Jethri blocked from promotion to Master Trader because they don't like the fact that he's Terran.

There's culture clash, old friends, new friends, the first norbears in Liaden space, unsuspected minor populations including descendants of Liadens who opted out of the rigid society on Liad, Jethri facing challenges he feels inadequately trained for at best, and a lot of fun.


I believe I got this book as a gift. In any case, I'm reviewing it voluntarily.

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