Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Agent of the Imperium

A couple of years ago, I learned that Marc Miller, creator of Traveller, had written a novel set in the game's universe entitled Agent of the Imperium. Despite my deep fondness for Traveller, Mr Miller himself, and the Third Imperium setting, I was initially quite skeptical of the novel – not due to any real knowledge of the book itself but simply out of long experience that "gaming novels" are, at best, a very mixed bag when it comes to quality.

I continued to hold this opinion right up until I attended Gamehole Con in 2018, where Marc Miller was a featured guest. I had met him once before, when I was much younger, at the Origins convention in 1991. In the company of several other Traveller fans, I went to dinner with him, Charles E. Gannon (now a successful novelist), and the Japanese translators of the game. I doubt Mr Miller remembered that night in Baltimore, but it made a strong impression on me, which is why I was both keen and reluctant to make his acquaintance again. 

When I did so, he was every bit as affable and gracious as I remembered and we spent a number of hours chatting over the course of the con. In a fit of fanboyism, I purchased a copy of the self-published Agent of the Imperium, which I asked him to sign, along with my copy of the fourth printing of the 1977 edition of Traveller. I took the novel with me and, while waiting in the airport and on the plane, I read it, wondering, "How bad could it be?"

As it turns out, not bad at all! I was skeptical, it's true, but Agent of the Imperium proved to be not just a good read but an interesting bit of science fiction as well. Being a Traveller fan, I also appreciated Miller's presentation of the setting and its history. In a few cases, I was genuinely surprised – and delighted – by what he had created. In others, I'll admit, I was a little taken aback. Clearly, in the decades since he first created the Third Imperium, Miller had taken his ideas in new directions, directions that didn't always comport with my own ruminations on the setting. That's not a bad thing by any means. After all, he's the creator of the setting, so he gets to do with it whatever wants. Upon further reflection, I have grown more comfortable with some of Miller's new ideas (which I won't spoil for the benefit of anyone planning to read the novel), since it's clear they tie into larger concepts that, with luck, he'll be able to explore in future sequels. The scope of these concepts is vast and worthy of further development.

The original version of the novel is still available electronically through DriveThruRPG. Print copies are now through Simon & Schuster's Baen imprint, which just recently published a mass market paperback edition. If you're a fan of Traveller, or thoughtful science fiction, I think you will enjoy this.


  1. Agent of the Imperium is on my bookshelf next to all the classic sci-fi books that Traveller is based on.

  2. Do you have a sense of how different this edition is from the previously published one?

    1. I have no reason to believe there are any differences between the two versions.