Werthead

The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

137 posts in this topic

There must be something wrong with me. I can't get into these books. I've tried, forced myself through 2 omnibus editions. Still can't recommend them to people. I wanted to like Miles, I really freaking did. People who's opinion I respect recommended them, they've got all the pre reqs for me, and they are well written. Just can't get into them.

I wish she'd write another Chalion novel.

I think her Chalion novels are a lot more mature than the Vorkosigan ones. The characters and themes seem to have greater depth, and Bujold's writing was better by the time she wrote those as well.

I like Vorkosigan the same way I like to eat potato chips and dip, or popcorn and Coke. Chalion novels come with a napkin, china flatware, and silverware, and you should be wearing a tie when you sit down to consume it.

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Well. I strongly prefer Shards,Barrayar and Cordelia over Miles adventures in general (even if those also contain a lot of good stuff.)


In fact I'm amazed Cordelias story hasn't gotten a movie adaption yet. It really has everything for it. Cordelia is also one of the few heroines that doesn't grate me, by managing to be a badass and all women at the same time. Her travails through her pregnancy and her endless fight for her son's life is nothing if not impressive. and yet despite her strong presence Aral still remain his own central character in the story.



Unfortunately, what she doesn't do is provide them with any chemistry. When Cordelia realises she is attracted to Aral, and Aral reciprocates those feelings, it kind of comes out of nowhere.




You must have skimmed it very lightly then. The first half of Barryar is nothing but romance buildup everything else is a mere backdrop to it. Not only is it close to cliche Harlequin romance, man woman from opposite cultures lost in the wilds learning to trust eachother that telegraph an unavoidable love story lightyears away. the interesting part is getting to know these people letting them explain themselves to the reader. A scarred middle aged couple both careerminded duty bound that thinks family life has passed them by and are given a last chance. Which is also why Aral's straight to the point proposal is both in character and understandable.



Dear C—Commander, am I too sudden, by Betan standards? I've been waiting for days, for the right opportunity, but there never seemed to be one."


"Days! How long have you been thinking along these lines?"


"It first occurred to me when I saw you in the ravine."

"What, throwing up in the mud?" He grinned at that. "With great composure. By the time we finished burying your officer, I knew."



When (spoiler alert!) they are eventually rescued, the book descends into a montage of Cordelia being captured, released, re-captured, escaping, being almost-raped (the lazy go-to jeopardy trope for any female character in peril, naturally) and so on for a good hundred pages or so. Due to the stodgy prose, mechanical dialogue and somewhat stilted character reactions, none of this is particularly exciting.




Couldn't disagree more I think it's very exciting even on rereading which is rare for me, the plot pace and twists in the story is simply amazing. Cordelias almost rape isn't in any way lazy either but one of the strongest scenes in the books.


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I have to say that of the four books (and one novella) I've read in the series so far, Shards of Honour is by far the weakest. I was warned off several times from reading it first as apparently it puts a lot of readers off from carrying on, and I have to say there is something to that: Barrayar, The Warrior's Apprentice and now The Vor Game are all much stronger books.


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I have to say that of the four books (and one novella) I've read in the series so far, Shards of Honour is by far the weakest. I was warned off several times from reading it first as apparently it puts a lot of readers off from carrying on, and I have to say there is something to that: Barrayar, The Warrior's Apprentice and now The Vor Game are all much stronger books.

Hmm... I'm not sure about that. It's the very first novel Bujold ever wrote (not just in the series, but in general) and this definitely shows, but it's still pretty decent. For what it's worth, I was introduced to the series because Shards was in one of the Humble eBook Bundles and it was sufficiently interesting for me to buy Barrayar (after which I read the entire series). There are better books in the series (my favorite is Memory which is quite a long way down the line from where you are right now), but Shards is not bad. The writing is something of a work in progress, but the story is pretty good.

Cordelias almost rape isn't in any way lazy either but one of the strongest scenes in the books.

I think that scene was intended as a subversion of several elements of the usual trope. The villain is not interested in the victim as such -- even once he figures out who she is, his sole motivation is revenge on his male ex-lover. The victim is only moderately discomforted by the upcoming act itself; she doesn't become distraught until the above-mentioned revenge is brought up... and even then she is not the most traumatized person in the room. And finally, the would-be rescuer arrives not just long after the resolution of the crisis, but after things have been mostly cleaned up (though he's still useful). I agree that it's a good scene.

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I agree with the no chemistry comment. Even the back blurb hadn't mentioned it that romance would have been a complete what the fuck moment for me.


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Vorkosigan Saga reminds me very much of the Pip and Flix books by Allen Dean Foster and I have pretty much the same reaction when the books work they are great. For the Vorkosigan Saga the strongest installements are the books the focus on internal Barrayar politics.

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Novella 1: The Mountains of Mourning

Miles Vorkosigan, home on leave from the Barrayar Academy, is given a job by his father: to adjudicate a case of infanticide in a farming community. Aral Vorkosigan has pioneered laws designed to protect ill and deformed young babies from being killed out of hand, as has been the custom for centuries, and wants to see the law enforced. Miles reluctantly heads for the village...only to find a seething morass of secrets and local intrigue which makes finding the real killer more difficult than he thought possible.

The Mountains of Mourning is a short (80 page or so) novella set in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosgian universe. It's a slight work but an interesting one, showing the changing face of Barrayar society due to the reforms introduced by Aral Vorkosigan after the events of Shards of Honour and Barrayar, the first two novels in the sequence.

The writing is pretty good, with Bujold pulling out some interesting twists to overcome the superior technology of Miles's investigating team (who are armed with instant truth drugs). On a character level, it shows Miles growing and taking more responsibility. It's a much more serious story than the previous (chronologically) novel in the series, The Warrior's Apprentice, and Bujold handles the change in tone quite well. Bujold also does reasonably well to avoid the worst cliches of the 'high-minded folk from the city telling the country bumpkins what to do' trope, with the villagers turning out to be smarter and less primitive than they are initially set out to be.

The Mountains of Mourning (****) is a fine novella, but it's not really worthwhile purchasing this as a separate volume. Fortunately it can be found conveniently packaged alongside The Warrior's Apprentice and the succeeding novel, The Vor Game, in the Young Miles omnibus, available now in the UK and USA.

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Book 4: The Vor Game

Miles Vorkosigan graduates from the Imperial Academy on Barrayar and is immediately assigned as a weather specialist on a remote arctic base. Given that he knows nothing about weather science and was expecting a space posting, Miles is unhappy with his assignment. However, what starts off as a minor job soon has Miles travelling to distant worlds, hooking up with some old friends (and enemies) and getting embroiled in a major interstellar incident. In other words, it's business as usual.

The Vor Game is the fourth novel (by chronology) in The Vorkosigan Saga and the second to feature its signature character of Miles. The novel picks up after the events of The Warrior's Apprentice with Miles now graduated from the Academy and ready to start his life of military service. As previously, Miles's physical weaknesses (he suffers from brittle bones and is stunted due to a poison gas attack on his then-pregnant mother) both hinder his ability to get involved in the action and also act as an easy means for his enemies (and friends he's trying to avoid) to identify him. Once again, Miles has to use his wits and intelligence to overcome obstacles and emerge on top.

This time around the obstacles include a psychotic military base commander, almost dying of exposure, being captured, being enslaved, almost being shot and being pursued by a lunatic femme fatale with delusions of becoming Empress of Barrayar. As with The Warrior's Apprentice, the book starts simply enough and then snowballs, accumulating plot points, characters and complications with almost frenzied energy.

As with its forebear, the book is a highly readable, page-turning experience. Bujold knows how to pace even a complicated story (and between the bluffs and double-bluffs, this book has become fairly complex by the time it ends) well and combine it with action as well as character-building material. A key theme in this novel is that Miles has problems with subordination, which is a bit of a problem in a military hierarchy, and his way of dealing with the crisis in this novel provides an idea on how Barrayar can use him to further its goals despite his limitations.

As usual, Bujold mixes out-and-out moments of high comedy (though The Vor Game isn't as much of a comedic romp as The Warrior's Apprentice) with darker moments. Despite starting in a completely different place, it's also very much a continuation of The Warrior's Apprentice, with some character arcs continuing between the two novels. If The Vor Game has a major problem, it's that it's slightly too reminiscent of its forebear. This is very much The Further Adventures of Miles Vorkosigan and if you enjoyed the previous book, you'll like this one too. Bujold knows how to tell a ripping yarn and keep the pages flying, but this novel lacks originality and it lacks the previous novel's ability to spin on a dime between tragedy, comedy and drama. I was rather surprised to learn that The Vor Game is a Hugo Award-winning novel, both because it wasn't as good as the competition (The Fall of Hyperion was a better novel in the same year, probably Earth as well) and it's not quite as good as The Warrior's Apprentice.

Still, The Vor Game (****) is a fine, entertaining SF novel. It is available now in the UK and USA as part of the Young Miles omnibus, along with The Warrior's Apprentice and the novella The Mountains of Mourning.
Edited by Werthead

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I was rather surprised to learn that The Vor Game is a Hugo Award-winning novel, both because it wasn't as good as the competition (The Fall of Hyperion was a better novel in the same year, probably Earth as well) and it's not quite as good as The Warrior's Apprentice.


I agree, it's a fun novel but one of the weaker books in the series so it is a bit surprising that it won the Hugo Award. I think some books in the series would deserve the award such as Barrayar (which did win) or Memory (nominated but didn't win), but I'm less convinced about The Vor Game.


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I agree, it's a fun novel but one of the weaker books in the series so it is a bit surprising that it won the Hugo Award. I think some books in the series would deserve the award such as Barrayar (which did win) or Memory (nominated but didn't win), but I'm less convinced about The Vor Game.

I take the opposite view, in that I find this to be the apex of the Vorkosigan Saga. When I first read The Weatherman (a short story that comprises the first several chapters of the novel) in Analog or maybe FSF it was my first introduction to Bujold. I promptly went out to find more of her books, and I enjoyed them.

The reason I think that this is the high point for the series is that the focus is specifically on Miles, and the focus is on his efforts to overcome the obstacles around him and within himself. The earlier books lack this close focus, and the later books introduce romances, relatives, and other aspects that spread the focus out considerably.

That isn't to say that books with multiple focii aren't good - otherwise ASOIAF would not be very enjoyable. Those layered, complex books are more challenging and complex. Rather, I think that The Vor Game is an excellent example of how a book can focus singly on the protagonist and provide the reader only his viewpoint and still be successful in engaging the reader's imagination and interest.

Thank you again, Wert, for these enjoyable reviews.

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I haven't read all of the books (I'm up to A Civil Campaign) but personally I'd say Memory was probably the best book in the series. I do kind of miss some of the aspects of Miles' life which were wrapped up in Memory in the later books though.


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Awkwardly, Memory isn't available in omnibus, so I'll have to be careful I don't miss it my accident. No idea why, as it's not much longer than the other books in the series.


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Awkwardly, Memory isn't available in omnibus, so I'll have to be careful I don't miss it my accident. No idea why, as it's not much longer than the other books in the series.

It's one of the most significant points in the series, and Bujold didn't want to stick it in with another one because of how important it is. And the only place it would really fit is in with Mirror Dance, but that is definitely a follow up to Brothers in Arms which needs to be paired with The Borders of Infinity... Adding Memory to those three (already collected as Miles Errant) would be a bit much. Those three books really are a mid-series trilogy with a prequel novella, but that would be a much larger omnibus than the rest. I think it will make sense after you read them, it did for me.

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I haven't read all of the books (I'm up to A Civil Campaign) but personally I'd say Memory was probably the best book in the series. I do kind of miss some of the aspects of Miles' life which were wrapped up in Memory in the later books though.

While I enjoy Miles-as-Imperial-Auditor I do miss Miles-as-Admiral-Naismith, although I can see why it was necessary to move him on from that role.

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While I enjoy Miles-as-Imperial-Auditor I do miss Miles-as-Admiral-Naismith, although I can see why it was necessary to move him on from that role.

Agree

Spoiler through Cryoburn:

I'm looking forward to what changes for Miles-as-Count-Vorkosigan

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Book 5: Cetaganda

Miles Vorkosigan visits Eta Ceta, the homeworld and capital of the empire that formerly ruled his own planet, as a diplomatic envoy. What starts off as a fairly routine job - representing his world at a state funeral - escalates into a clandestine battle of wits between Miles and an unknown Cetagandan enemy who is trying to frame Barrayar for a crime and reignite hostilities between their two empires. Miles has to find and defeat this foe without offending his hosts or shaming his own world.

Cetaganda is the fifth novel (by chronology) in The Vorkosigan Saga and the shortest to date, clocking in at only around 250 pages. It's a slight story, and feels more like an expanded short story than a fully-fleshed out novel.

On the successful side of things, Bujold brings her trademark wit and readability to the story. To use a lazy reviewing tactic, if you liked the previous books in this series, you'll probably like this one as well. However, Bujold is arguably unsuccessful in really making the Cetagandans (here making their first on-page appearance after many frequent mentions) an impressive, convincing society. The Cetagandan Empire is ruled under a bewildering array of rules relating to male/female relations, genetic engineering and social function, which is all fine until you realise it would be too easy to topple the whole thing if enough people decided they didn't want to play along (as indeed almost happens in this novel).

More damaging is the fact that Bujold does not complicate Miles's story enough. Every time something bad happens, Miles immediately shifts it to his advantage, and he is never on the back foot for more than a paragraph or two. With a long series based around one character you have to constantly be on the look-out for that character becoming too infallible or invulnerable, and that nearly happens to Miles here.

Still, even a sub-par Vorkosigan novel remains a fun, if lightweight, read. Cetaganda (***½) is available now in the UK and USA as part of the Miles, Mystery and Mayhem omnibus.

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I remember finishing Cetaganda and thinking, "What? That's it?" It just seemed such a slight thing after the books that she had published between 1989 and 1994.



In addition to the "hero always wins" problem, the book also gave us our first look at the Cetagandans, who, up until this point, where the (mainly) off-screen Big Bads, the Soviets of the past. And frankly, they were nothing particularly intimidating, especially since they were ruled by a bunch of lotus-eating effete men and wheelchair-bound women.



This is an exaggeration, of course, but since previously we had only been exposed to masked-wearing ghem-lords who nuked entire provinces, the Cetagandans at the highest level were not very impressive compared to my expectations.



Really, though, as other forum participants have mentioned above, the series is at its best when Miles or Cordelia deal with the internal politics and dangers of Barrayar, such as in The Mountains of Mourning or Barrayar. While still well-written and plotted, some of the non-Barrayaran books are not as gripping to my taste. I am thinking of Ethan of Athos, this book, and Falling Free. These have their own charms, but seem off the main sequence in my opinion.


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the book also gave us our first look at the Cetagandans, who, up until this point, where the (mainly) off-screen Big Bads, the Soviets of the past.

Given the nature of Barrayar, shouldn't that make Cetaganda the Americans of the past? ;)

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It's actually pretty clearly based on Japan during the Heian period. The haut are the equivalent of the court aristocracy and the ghem are the warrior class. That said, don't underestimate the haut:


not only are they are inhumanly strong and long lived, but they have bioweapons that are beyond even the technologically elite worlds such as Beta Colony.


And yeah, this book is rather tame. I think it's the last one where Miles comes off as invulnerable; the next few get progressively darker until the turning point of the series.


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Given the nature of Barrayar, shouldn't that make Cetaganda the Americans of the past? ;)

Ha.

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