Saturday, January 17, 2009

My favorite science fiction series

I could write pages and pages about Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga - the complex and interesting characters, the fascinating settings, the social commentary, the gripping, complicated plots, the humor, the amazing world building, the irresistible blending of genres - but I will spare you. Take my word for it, though: even if you think you don't like science fiction, you might want to give these a try. They are not about gadgets and high-tech gobbledygook speak. They are about people, people you come to know and care about, in worlds that you'll wish you could visit.

This thick volume is an omnibus containing books eleven and twelve in the series (Komarr and A Civil Campaign) along with the novella Winterfair Gifts, which was published in the anthology Irresistible Forces). I know I'm a hopeless stickler about insisting that books be read in order, but the payoff of reading the books in the Vorkosigan Saga in order is tremendous. The first books do not feature Miles (one of my top-ten favorite literary characters of all time); they are about his parents, who come from two different planets (so different that their cultures are diametric opposites) yet find that their differences complement each other perfectly.

Komarr deals with a turning point in Miles' life - a career change that puts him in the position of having to find his footing in a completely new situation. In this case, it's the planet Komarr, where there's been a disaster that might, in fact, have been simply an accident - or it could have been sabotage. This novel is a wonderful blend of science fiction and mystery, with an added dash of romance as Miles finds himself falling for a beautiful, married, miserable woman who, he's sure, wouldn't look twice at him even if she were single.

A Civil Campaign is my very favorite book in the series, and it was a pleasure to reread it in anticipation of reading Winterfair Gifts, which had somehow slipped past my radar when it was first published. It deals with Miles' "campaign" to woo the woman he is so desperately in love with, only he has to learn that all is not, in fact, fair in love and war, and romance cannot be conducted with the tactics and maneuvers that come so naturally to him and have been so effective in other areas of his life. This is a hilarious novel, a perfect blend of science fiction, political intrigue, romance and humor, and it has a most satisfying ending that is sure to put a silly grin on every reader's face.

Winterfair Gifts has an element of mystery as well, and it brings back beloved characters from earlier books and is told from the point of view of a relatively minor character, which adds an interesting perspective. I almost hated to read it, because it is the last (so far) in the Vorkosigan saga. Apparently Bujold is working on a new installment in the series, though - which, according to Wikipedia, is due to be published in 2010. That's great, really, but I hate to have to wait so long!

Books in the Vorkosigan saga:
Falling Free (a kind of slightly related prequel, not really necessary to read first)
1. Shards of Honor
2. Barrayar
3. The Warrior's Apprentice
4. The Vor Game
5. Cetaganda
6. Ethan of Athos
(almost a spin-off)
7. Brothers in Arms
8. Borders of Infinity
9. Mirror Dance
10. Memory
11. Komarr
12. A Civil Campaign
13. Diplomatic Immunity

Miles in Love (Omnibus edition that contains the novels Komarr and A Civil Campaign and the novella Winterfair Gifts) by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen, 2008)

Also reviewed at:
Deep Thoughts: "Wonderful books, amazing author, what's not to like?"
Eating Muffins in an Agitated Manner: "On one level, Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels are exciting space operatic romps with royalty, conspiracies, secret missions, captivating characters and delightful derring do with cousin Ivan, that idiot, but what pushes them that extra notch up on my scale is the way Bujold sneaks in quite serious sociological and psychological themes almost casually among the action, romance and comedy."
The Good, the Bad and the Bookish: (On Winterfair Gifts):
"Sadly this is a novella, but Bujold has incorporated every essential element into this tale of Miles’ next stage of life – the Count and Countess, a love story, a treacherous plot, substantial growth for at least one character, humour (including a brief reprise of butter bugs), a sense of place and time, really smart characterisation, an absorbing plot, and a satisfactory resolution that leaves room for a sequel but doesn’t demand it. Though I do – more please!"

12 comments:

  1. I had never heard of these, but they sound really good!must try one day.

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  2. Valentina - They are really wonderful books! The series just gets better and better - but read them in order, whatever you do! :-)

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  3. Wonder how you're supposed to pronounce that lol? I tend to stay away from science fiction at almost all costs. I love fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormals, etc... just not sci-fi!

    I'm glad you enjoyed it though and I'm so sorry you have to wait so long for the next one (I HATE it when an author does that to me).

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  4. I read Shards of Honor on the recommendation of a friend. It was so different and...cool! from what I thought it was going to be. Then I forgot about the series amid of crisis of broken limbs (not mine, thankfully) and school projects.

    Thanks for the reminder! I'll pick up the second book as soon as I can.

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  5. Ladytink - well, if you ever dare to venture into SF territory, give this series a try. You might want to try Bujold's fantasy novels, just to see how you like her books. They are wonderful, too. But, sigh, there is no Miles in them! :-)

    Fuzzycricket - Oh, I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed it! I can't wait to hear what you think of the next one.

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  6. I should read these. I loved the Sharing Knife books, but am a little hesitant to get into a long series.

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  7. I've read (and loved!) Bujold's first two Chalion books, and have The Hallowed Hunt on my TBR pile, but I've never picked up her sci-fi books. Thanks for the review!

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  8. Anna - well, the advantage is that you won't have to wait impatiently for new books to come out, at least not for a while. I haven't read the Sharing Knife books yet, but I loved the Chalion ones. She is such a great storyteller, whatever genre she's writing in!

    Fyrefly - If you liked her other books, I'm sure you'd enjoy these. They're my favorites of everything she's done, and I really do love the fantasy novels.

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  9. It's always a pleasure to come across another reader with an appreciation for great writing!

    Thanks for referencing my review with yours - we seem to have a lot of authors in common, and I suspect reading your blog is going to swell my To Read list beyond its already expanded dimensions!

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  10. Alex - I enjoyed reading your review! I live to add books to other people's tbr lists (it's payback, plus it gives my life meaning). :-)

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  11. I love these books, but I've only read through "Borders of Infinity" (and haven't read "Falling Free" or "Ethan of Athos.") I really must get back to them. My husband has read them all multiple times. I knew I had to read the series when I saw him roll off the couch laughing at "A Civil Campaign."

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  12. Felicia - that's great that you and your husband both enjoy the series! Just wait till you get to A Civil Campaign - it is such a fun, funny book. I enjoyed Falling Free and Ethen of Athos, but not as much as the ones from the regular series. I'll be curious to hear what you think of them!

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