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Werthead

The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Any thoughts on Gentlemen Jole and the Red Queen?

I have seen some mixed reviews for it and descriptions of it as 'fan-service.' I thought everything that occurred was totally in keeping with the characters, however. It's one of Bujold's quiet character studies, lacking tons of action, Miles blowing shit up, or mad politics.

It was painful to read, not in the sense that it wasn't good, but that I felt like I was grieving during the whole first portion of the book.

Edit: Incidentally, here is the review and discussion of the novel over at Smart Bitches Trashy Books, a romance site that really adores Bujold. The reviews and some of the comments are pretty worthwhile.

Edited by LugaJetboyGirl-irra
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Book 13: Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

 

Quote

Ivan Vorpatril is one of Barrayar's most eligible bachelors and notorious rakes, but now in his mid-thirties he is finding his life of chasing women and partying is no longer as satisfying as it once was. On assignment to Komarr, his path crosses of that of two fugitives from a coup on Jackson's Whole and his attempts to help only make things worse...and change his life forever.

The most interesting thing about the Vorkosigan Saga has been Lois McMaster Bujold's willingness to experiment, switch protagonists and POVs and generally not sit still and bash out a load of action-adventure novels. Her willingness to put the series on hold for years at a time until she has a good idea for a new book has also helped it retain a high level of quality.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance is one of the lighter novels in the series. It is a romantic farce with an underlying adventure story and also dwells on the notion of ageing, growing up and maturing, a theme of Bujold's that she returns to repeatedly in the later books in the series. Using Ivan, Miles's womanising cousin with no interest in settling down, to explore this theme is extremely effective. It would have been easy to have done a "growing and learning" story in which Ivan suddenly mans up and accepts responsibility, but this would not have been true to the character. Instead Bujold develops Ivan's character (and, we realise, how she's been developing it subtly in the background all along) naturally and much more convincingly, by having him fall for a woman who seems to be right up his street (superficial and pretty) but whose hidden depths and complex background make her a lot more interesting.

These elements of growth and change are accompanied by some quite uproariously hilarious scenes, some nice catching-up moments with old characters who we haven't seen for a while (most notably Simon Illyan) and some more musings on the changing nature of Barryaran society, which are all handled quite well.

On the downside, the novel is a bit too long (over 500 pages) to support a slight premise and the lack of some well-motivated villains (we never even meet the bad guys who set the whole story in motion) and there are a few too many scenes of Tej's family scheming or Ivan feeling overwhelmed. A bit more of a serious editing pass to streamline the book would not have gone amiss.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (****) is not one of the best books in the series and could be a bit better paced, but it remains well-written with a refreshing focus on the characters and how they have evolved over the years, with some nice SF flourishes and very funny moments. It is available now in the UK and USA.

Edited by Werthead

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ert's observation that LMB had been developing Ivan's character subtly over the last few books is very true, particularly in terms of the last few books she wrote previously to CVA.  In the early stories, Ivan was a little less likable and a little more one-dimensional, but she did a nice job of rounding him out as a person.

The story lacked a sense of peril that the earlier works featured, but it was a comfortable yarn and enjoyable to read.  This comfortable tone reminded me a bit of some of the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout where Wolfe and Archie Goodwin solve the mystery, but are never in personal danger.  They eat some nice food and have some backchat with the Captain Cramer, but the stakes are low compared to the Zeck stories where the brownstone gets bombed and they have to go into hiding.  Both are good stories, just of different kind, and in the Vorkosigan Universe, this is a pretty calm story without the stakes of the Hegen Hub War or re-animation from cryodeath.

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Book 14: Cryoburn

Kibou-daini is an obscure planet in a remote corner of the wormhole nexus, but one with a specialisation in cryogenic freezing and revival as a means of cheating death. With the planet planning to expand to Komarr, the Barrayaran Empire decides to take a closer look. This means sending in Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan. Unfortunately things go wrong almost as soon as Miles arrives. Left lost and injured in a maze of cryo-tombs that extends for kilometres, Miles needs to call upon every ounce of his resourcefulness to survive.



Cryoburn is the most recent Vorkosigan Saga novel to focus on the series' erstwhile central figure of Miles Vorkosigan. The two more recent books (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, published later although set earlier than Cryoburn, and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen) have focused on other characters with Miles playing a much-reduced role. So this is the last ride, maybe for a while, we get to have with Miles encountering a problem and sorting it out in his own, inimitable style.

Cryoburn is satisfying on that level, but it also sees Bujold flexing her writing skills. A lot of the book is told from the point-of-view of an 11-year-old boy, Jin, whom Miles encounters on his travels. Given the labyrinth plotting, conspiracies and feints of the average Vorkosigan book, having it filtered through the understanding of a child is challenging but Bujold pulls it off to deliver something fresh, giving us a new perspective on Miles and his world (and makes me think that a YA-focused Vorkosigan novel could actually be a very interesting read). However, the book also give us something more evolutionary and adult as well. This book is set seven years after Miles's previous adventure in Diplomatic Immunity and he is now approaching forty. He has matured a lot in that time, becoming a father several times over and is now less manic, less prone to blundering straight into situations and is more thoughtful and analytical. This is all relative to his former self, of course, and he remains the same character, but an older, more seasoned and more wary one.

Indeed, Cryoburn feels like a musing on the passing of generations, with Jin representing a new generation of children growing up in a more peaceful period of nexus history and Miles spending chunks of the book analysing his father's and grandfather's lives and what they went through. The book's musings on death, mortality and legacy also feed into this, but Bujold expertly avoids making this a maudlin or depressing book. Quite the reverse, the notion of mortality and the precious commodities of life and time are joyously celebrated...right up to the final, startling moments of the novel, which may rank among Bujold's finest-ever pieces of writing.

Cryoburn, an upbeat and uplifting book about death, is one of the stranger but stronger books in the series (****½). It is available now in the UK and USA.

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The end of this book was really great, i had a thought about great endings and this is in my top 3 along with the original  farseer trilogy and long price, whats the common denominator?  two of these featured a death and one a faux death, is that relevant, dont know, but there it is..

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After ignoring it for 15 years, I've finally bought Curse of Chalion. Seems like it could be to my taste after all.

I was looking for something with a "Spanish" type setting as I so enjoyed that in the wonderful Lions of Al-Rassan.

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Really enjoyed Gentleman Jole and The Red Queen (is there an abbreviation we can use? GJ&TRQ?). Not an action-packed romp like the earlier Miles' Own Adventure books, but a quiet, touching reflection on living and moving on after death. 

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On 06/03/2016 at 5:32 AM, Wilbur said:

 In the early stories, Ivan was a little less likable and a little more one-dimensional, but she did a nice job of rounding him out as a person.

Early!Ivan can actually be given a darker interpretation. How many of his earlier flings were him taking advantage of aristocrat/servant power disparity?

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1 hour ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Early!Ivan can actually be given a darker interpretation. How many of his earlier flings were him taking advantage of aristocrat/servant power disparity?

I can't recall any such case.

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1 hour ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Early!Ivan can actually be given a darker interpretation. How many of his earlier flings were him taking advantage of aristocrat/servant power disparity?

That is the sort of thing I was thinking of.  I thought that over the arc of the series, LMB sort of redeemed his character, or at least showed him digesting the negative feedback that Aral gave to him.

Furthermore, his reticence in the political realm became more obviously a choice rather than just dimness.  Miles viewed Ivan as something of an intellectual non-entity, but LMB demonstrated in later books that Ivan was fairly well aware of his potential political significance and was making conscious decisions to minimize himself so as to neutralize this potential flashpoint.

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On 27/04/2016 at 4:00 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Early!Ivan can actually be given a darker interpretation. How many of his earlier flings were him taking advantage of aristocrat/servant power disparity?

I think that's a bit of a stretch. Ivan's a womaniser, but has never been shown to be even slightly dark. Witness his complete equanimity when Tej initially turns him down in CVA - that's not the attitude of a man who'd coerce servants into having sex. I'd also struggle to believe that  either Alys or Cordelia would foster an environment where that could happen.

Like Wilbur, I really liked how Ivan developed from the doofus cousin into somebody who's actually highly competent and self-aware.

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4 hours ago, HairBearHero said:

I think that's a bit of a stretch. Ivan's a womaniser, but has never been shown to be even slightly dark. Witness his complete equanimity when Tej initially turns him down in CVA - that's not the attitude of a man who'd coerce servants into having sex. I'd also struggle to believe that  either Alys or Cordelia would foster an environment where that could happen.

Like Wilbur, I really liked how Ivan developed from the doofus cousin into somebody who's actually highly competent and self-aware.

Later!Ivan is much more considerate about boundaries. He's certainly grown and matured. My point is that Early!Ivan, between Aral telling him off and (IIRC) him having to protect his genitalia from someone who spurned his advances, comes across as a good deal less considerate.

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I just finished Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. As everyone has said it's a good reflection on grief and moving on after loss.

It's not really what the book's about, as such, but I do have to say I feel a bit sorry for Miles though. Finding out your parents were in a relationship significant enough for Cordelia to consider Jole a co spouse for a couple of decades and nobody bothered to mention it to him isn't really great. On top of that Cordelia has decided to have the siblings he's always wanted in a manner which means he's probably going to be minimally involved in their lives. It's not the primary reason she's not going back to Barrayar of course but it's not incidental given her wanting Jole to take custody in the event of her death ahead of Miles. Plus she was very definite about wanting them not to be Vor, which is a fairly important part of Miles' identity, it's hard not to see that as a bit of a rejection.

It's kind of interesting seeing things from Cordelia's perspective for the first time in a while, she clearly loves Miles but she does seem to think of him as taking after Piotr, who she really didn't like, a number of times. 

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21 hours ago, ljkeane said:

I just finished Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. As everyone has said it's a good reflection on grief and moving on after loss.

What I hated about it was that it required so much retconning and acting out of character. No way I'm going to believe that Aral would have done that without telling Cordelia first -- and no way I'm going to believe that Cordelia would have essentially dumped Jole just because Aral had died, or that they would have kept Jole such a dirty little secret or shunted him off to the side like that.

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It doesn't bother me that much but, yeah, there's clearly no way McMaster Bujold intended Jole to be a co spouse in the previous books of the series. I think in retrospect she would have liked to make Aral's bisexuality more front and centre.

Having said that, while Cordelia wouldn't have liked it, I could see Aral (and Jole for that matter) wanting to keep there relationship a secret. Barrayar is still pretty conservative and for most of the period involved not that stable. Aral's leadership was a fairly significant bulwark of the government so they'd be pretty wary of doing anything to undermine that.

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4 hours ago, Contrarius+ said:

What I hated about it was that it required so much retconning and acting out of character. No way I'm going to believe that Aral would have done that without telling Cordelia first -- and no way I'm going to believe that Cordelia would have essentially dumped Jole just because Aral had died, or that they would have kept Jole such a dirty little secret or shunted him off to the side like that.

And no way Aral would have ever had a relationship with a subordinate IMO. Totally against his principles.

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1 minute ago, David Selig said:

And no way Aral would have ever had a relationship with a subordinate IMO. Totally against his principles.

That too!

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