There was so much I didn’t remember about this one, that it was almost like reading a new book (which is never a bad thing). I must have only read this once and that right back when I started the series, which was after it first began, but still a long time ago.
I do love Val Con and Miri and that’s what I was expecting when I opened the pages, lots of Val Con and Miri, so I was almost surprised to rediscover that at the beginning of the book, really Val Con isn’t the Val Con we’ve come to know in later Liaden novels. Having vague memories of upcoming events, I found myself very worried by the latter half of the book whether or not we were going to get the “real” Val Con back before the end. (And I have absolutely no memory of how they get out of the pickle they are in right at the end, so I remain exceedingly motivated to keep rereading the series.)
It was a very enjoyable but slightly weird reading experience, shifting between the things I remembered, the many things I didn’t and the things that I got the feeling were foreshadowing, but again, I couldn’t really remember.
Let me digress to say that, once upon a time, I had a very good memory. I was a highly academic A-grade student in the sciences. Then, 22 years ago now, I developed CFS/ME and one of the major symptoms of the illness is significantly decreased cognitive function. My memory has been getting worse and worse over the years, I suspect as a combination of both illness and age. (I have lists and noticeboards and set alarms everywhere to try to get stuff done without forgetting about it.) In terms of my passion for reading, this can be both good and bad. Given a bit of time, there is just so much I can’t remember about the books I’ve read. People discuss them with me, commenting on so-and-so doing such-and-such a thing and I’m left looking blank. It’s gone. I don’t remember. I remember the emotions of reading a book but not the detail. (That’s part of why my “reviews” here are really more emotional responses to the books, with some pretty much stream-of-consciousness comments, rather than true reviews – I couldn’t manage the memory and cognition for those.) On the up side, it means I get to enjoy the book again without carrying the baggage of any “spoilers”.
But this lack of memory can be a problem when reading a series where book 7 refers back to something that happened in book 2. The chances of me remembering that (or even a character’s name from one chapter to the next) are slim-to-none. It’s another of the reasons why I love my ereader. My books are full of highlighted passages and short comments, usually specifically chosen as being something I’m likely to want/need to remember later. And because of that problematic memory, I have a huge list of books I want to reread. Books I remember really enjoying, but the details are all gone.
So I’m really enjoying the Liaden ones, and since my copy of Dragon Ship arrived last week when I still haven’t read Ghost Ship because I wanted to reread the earlier books first because I’d forgotten so much, I think I’m going to try carrying on with the series and getting caught back up.
So getting back to Agent of Change, I loved rereading it and I loved reading it for the first time all over again. I can’t wait for more Val Con and Miri, but I plan to enjoy re-meeting Shan and Priscilla all over again first.
For a book that was originally published in 1988, it’s stood the test of time pretty well. It is another clear case of the fact that, despite everyone’s predictions of the future in the 1980s, the swift widespread use of the internet, mobile devices and cloud computing was missed by pretty much everyone. Val Con needs to go to an info booth to find out about shuttle time, and you can see the ship in-and-out information in a bar, but you don’t have a mobile phone to check it on. The most interesting one was books: books are on “tape” (although that could fit digital media as well) and you need a book reader to read them. Lois McMaster Bujold has almost exactly the same situation in her Vorkosigan books. The idea of an ereader was possible, but the idea of the books being digital and downloadable and stored on the device itself was missed. Maybe we were just to hung up on physical libraries where you could actually SEE your books. Even as a total ebook convert, I do miss that I can’t run my hands along a shelf of my ebooks.
But that’s a very minor quibble. The reality of 21st century information technology simply wasn’t imagined in 1988. I mention it here not because it was a problem (although I admit I did keep noticing it) but because it’s an interesting artefact of the passage of time that shows up quite often when reading SF written before at least the 1990s.
Right, I shall shut off the aforementioned stream-of-consciousness typing before this gets too long and just finishing up by saying: Yay! Val Con and Miri! Next, Shan and Priscilla! Yay again!