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Elizabeth Moon

If you don't recognize this person, then you might guess that she is someone's favourite granny or aunt (I can find no information on this, although anyone would be very lucky to have her as either).

You might also guess that she is a historian, and you'd be right. You'd probably be surprised to learn that she became a 1st Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps while on active duty and is an experienced paramedic.

She is actually Elizabeth Moon, an author of Fantasy and SF fiction who has given me more reading pleasure, in quantity and quality combined, than almost any other.

Her masterworks, for me, are the main “Paksworld” novels, set in a fictional medieval world, which begin with The Deed of Paksennarion (or Sheepfarmer's Daughter) and end with Crown of Renewal. They form a single very long adventure-filled story in two parts, spread over many volumes.

For these novels Elizabeth Moon has created an extraordinarily realistic world, showing a deep appreciation of diverse cultures, politics, economics, historical development, real military campaigning and trading and legal systems.

The novels also demonstrate, as no others that I have read, what honourable and competent leadership really means, something particularly relevant in today's political culture.

If you are interested, you can read my full review of them here, which includes a list of all the volumes in order.

Most of her other works are set in the far future. My favourites are Vatta's War followed by the (misleadingly titled!) Vatta's Peace, and The Serrano Legacy, both of which (like the Paksworld novels) are very long adventure-filled stories in multiple volumes. These have been described as “military action SF” (and by me as “great holiday reading”, especially if you are e.g. a Tom Clancy fan) but they are far richer and more complex than those phrases would suggest.

Leadership and personal development again feature in these books, as do many of the Paksworld novels' other strengths, including some great world-building. In addition, the author has created extraordinarily real spacecraft, whether commercial vessels or fighting ships, in which much (but by no means all) of the action is set. This sense of reality extends not only to the environmental, engineering, weapons and command sections of each ship, but to the detailed functions of the crews who man them. I am oddly reminded of C.S. Forester's WWII book The Ship, which tells the story of a single critical engagement in the war in the Mediterranean, from the viewpoints of individual men of all stations serving on a destroyer.

The Serrano Legacy has a particularly rich background, and storylines that go well outside the military. One of its central concerns is a fascinating exploration of what might happen to societies and hierarchical organizations when the human lifespan can be significantly extended.

Vatta's War revolves around another complex issue, namely what happens when an essential monopoly-controlled galaxy-wide communication system (based on the “ansibles” that Ursula LeGuin invented for other SF writers) comes under attack.

If you enjoy Elizabeth Moon's books, don't miss her “stand-alone” novel The Speed of Dark, set in the near future, which draws on experiences with her autistic son. It was highly acclaimed by the critics, and you can find many links about it here.

If you like this...

[The Fantasy section of my Books page, including my full review of the Paksworld novels]
[The SF section of my Books page]
[A useful publication list for Elizabeth Moon's books, with Amazon purchase links]

[...and try clicking the entertainment tag at the top of this post... just a suggestion!]


The World of Paksennarion


If you like fantasy books such as those by J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R.R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey or Christopher Paolini, and have never heard of Elizabeth Moon, then a real treat is in store for you.

These are the main “Paksworld novels”, which essentially form a single epic story in two very long parts, the second part split into 5 volumes.

(The first book by itself is nearly as long as The Lord of the Rings, containing far more than its title would suggest, and was also split into 3 volumes for paper publication.)

The unique flavour of these books naturally has to do with the author herself. Among other things, she became a 1st Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps while on active duty, is an experienced paramedic, has degrees in history and biology, and obviously knows everything there is to be known about horses (and mules).

These books, set in a complex medieval world, often read like a well-researched historical novel. However, no historical novels or epic fantasies that I have read contain the kind of action and adventures taking place here, nor the qualities shown by several of its main characters in the leadership and personal development of people.

Click the image or go here if you would like to read more about them in the Fantasy section of my Books page. You won't be sorry.