Necessity’s Child is a new Liaden Universe® novel out today from Baen. For those not familiar with this universe, it is a space opera, but one based around interplanetary trading rather than warfare. The “aliens” in the universe are humans (though of slightly smaller stature than the terrestrial variety) who came to the planet Liad from another universe many generations before. Liadens and humans from our universe are able to interbreed, but there are many cultural differences, and there are several worlds which are predominately Liaden.
This novel centers around Syl Vor, son of Nova yos’Galan, and his experiences moving from a Liaden-only family living situation to being on a planet with mostly non-Liadens. His cousins are all older and they go off to begin apprenticeships, so he is left with a tutor all to himself. The planet Surebleak is run by bosses who control territory and they are trying to start a school in a neutral area for all the local children to attend. Neighborhood schools have been started and those schools will then merge to form the large one. Syl Vor convinces his mother that it would be a good idea for him to attend: after all, how will the other bosses trust her support of the central school if her son does not attend?
Once in school he meets Kezzi, a bright interesting girl about his age, and decides that he likes (and hates) her so much he wants her to be his sister. He proceeds to drag her home with him and gets his mother to agree to his outrageous plan.
Syl Vor and Kezzi have several adventures together and learn about each other’s culture through games and questions. As a consequence of the book being centered around the children, the Surebleak and Liaden culture is explored as well as the culture of Kezzi’s family (which appears to be somewhat like futuristic Irish Travellers or Pavee), so this volume is a good first step into the Liaden Universe®.
Interestingly, the Liaden culture appears to have more in common with that of Kezzi’s family than it does with that of Surebleak, so the children bond through their own similarities and not by understanding the predominant culture around them.
This novel does not have the spaceships and the interplanetary settings of some volumes but the exploration of the cultures is very interesting and you get some idea of how the Korval clan plans to reestablish itself on Surebleak. The Department of the Interior makes an appearance and you get some idea of the damage Korval has done to them, but their interference on Surebleak has interesting results.
So overall, this is not a very space-operatic volume, but a very interesting one for those who have been following Korval for several books or for those not familiar with the universe. The children introduced will surely be important characters in books further down the timeline, as previous children presented in Liaden Universe® books have proven to be.