Local Custom, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

>> Tuesday, March 01, 2011

TITLE: Local Custom
AUTHOR: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

COPYRIGHT: 2000
PAGES: 308
PUBLISHER: Ace

SETTING: Futuristic
TYPE: Sci fi / fantasy
SERIES: If I understand it correctly, this is a sort of prequel to the Liaden series.

REASON FOR READING: I bought it ages ago because of the review at AAR. I picked it up at random last January when I was back in Uruguay for a visit.

Master trader Er Thom knows the local custom of Liaden is to be matched with a proper bride, and provide his prominent clan Korval with an heir. Yet his heart is immersed in another universe, influenced by another culture, and lost to a woman not of his world. And to take a Terran wife such as scholar Anne Davis is to risk his honor and reputation. But when he discovers that their brief encounter years before has resulted in the birth of a child, even more is at stake than anyone imagined. Now, an interstellar scandal has erupted, a bitter war between two families-galaxies apart-has begun, and the only hope for Er Thom and Anne is a sacrifice neither is prepared to make...
I've read excellent reviews of Local Custom, and Anne McCaffrey's foreword was glowing. But for me, it started out badly and stayed bad enough that I really didn't feel like going on.

The basic plot is that Anne is from Earth, Er Thom is from Liaden. They met at some sort of conference and had a passionate affair. It's been a few years, but Er Thom can't forget Anne. His culture requires him to partner a proper bride and have a child (give his genes to his clan, or something like that), and his mother is piling on the pressure (very real pressure, this, rather than your typical mum's nagging). Before he makes any decisions, Er Thom decides he needs to seek out Anne once again. But when he finds her, it turns out she has a little human souvenir from their previous encounter...

So, first scene, Er Thom meeting with his mother. Yes, she's got the power to make things very uncomfortable for him, but he didn't have to been such an emo, doormat wimp about it! But ok, he decides to do his own thing and runs off to find Anne. Cool, sounded promising, but then...

Anne turned out to be an idiot. Er Thom shows up, they're talking and then their child comes in. Does Anne get flustered? Does she try to find the best way to tell Er Thom, knowing that this is going to be a great big shock for him? Nope, our dear Anne happily introduces the boy to Er Thom, telling him this is his son (she's even given him Er Thom's last name). The poor man is quite upset and the idiot woman has absolutely no idea why. Obliviously, she explains that she had wanted to have a child, and then when she met Er Thom she decided it would be better to have that child be a friend's than to go to a sperm bank, and why is Er Thom so angry? She'll even change the child's last name, if that will help!

At this point, I'm thinking it's all well and good that this is a novel about culture clashes and the misunderstandings that can result from different assumptions and expectations, but Anne is the Terran here. Surely I'm supposed to understand her? But no, this twit is behaving as no sane person would, and the one I completely understand is Er Thom (wimp or not).

It didn't help that the writing style didn't appeal to me, either. The dialogue is very stilted... two people who had a passionate fling four years earlier and haven't seen each other since meet again and go all "oh, my dear friend!" and calling each other dearling and dear all over the place? Anne sounds more like my great aunt than a woman in her (I think) 30s. Maybe the dialogue is on purpose? I would understand it if it was only Er Thom who speaks that way (English is his second language, of course, and he doesn't normally speak it), but Anne, too?

MY GRADE: I'm sorry to say, this was a DNF.

8 comments:

CD,  1 March 2011 21:54  

Yeah - I couldn't get through Local Custom either for much the same reasons.  I just found it dull dull dull blah blah blah zzzzzzzzzzzzz.  However, I absolutely ADORED Agent of Change - exciting plot, fantastic hero and heroine, and a great romantic space opera.  So give Lee and Miller another chance.

Megaera,  2 March 2011 04:42  

I've tried a couple of times to get into the Liaden books (people kept telling me that I'd like them because I love Bujold's Vorkosigan series), but I've given up on them.  It's nice to finally find someone else who feels the same way.

Anonymous,  2 March 2011 07:38  

CD: Really? Oh, good, I will. I reckon if so many people absolutely love their books, there must be something there!

Megaera: Please tell me you didn't try Agent of Change? 

Li,  2 March 2011 20:45  

Arrghhh - sorry to hear you didn't get into it.

This was probably the first Liaden book I read, and while I didn't love it, I liked it enough to continue reading the next books, and yeah, a bit of a fangirl now.

Jennifer,  2 March 2011 21:25  

I liked this one (first I read in the series), but damned if I know why, because it starts out gooey awful and Er Thom is emo like hell. He does, however, improve as the book goes on, so there's that.

...Yeah, the dialogue is formal like that. Liaden culture has a giant stick up the ass. And Anne has studied enough of it to talk like they do.

Seriously, pretty much every other book in the series is better. Though I could not finish Fledgling, unfortunately (academic planet = boooooooring drama).

rosario001,  3 March 2011 07:16  

Li, Jennifer: Ok, so I think I'll give the authors another try, and hope I like the other books better. Hopefully they'll work better for me!

Estara,  6 March 2011 23:40  

Maybe you'd enjoy Sharon Lee's newest book and Main Coast urban fantasy more? Carousel Tides! I'm another one of the big Liaden lovers - the space opera about the current generation - Er Thom's son and nephew and their loves - is a heck of a ride (although you will find that even protagonists may die... even if they are part of a loving couple). And by now Lee and Miller are writing the next generation (as well as having written the founding legend of Clan Korval).

Anonymous,  5 April 2011 19:05  

Catching up on the blog, so late to comment on this. But as a couple of others said, if this is the only Lee & Miller Liaden book you've read, don't give them up on this account. I'm a big fan of theirs, and I just didn't like this one very much. I highly recommend Scout's Progress.

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