I have a deep and abiding fondness for the Vorkosigan Saga, having read essentially all of them. (haven't gotten around to the pre-history "Falling FrI have a deep and abiding fondness for the Vorkosigan Saga, having read essentially all of them. (haven't gotten around to the pre-history "Falling Free" yet, and there's at least one short story out there I haven't collected either) That affection for the series certainly helps carry this volume, which is very possibly the slightest entry in the whole series.
As a result this is definitely not a book for anyone new to the series. While there's very little that's in the plotting that can't be grabbed hold of by a new reader, the loss of history, nuance, and the sheer depth of the characters is likely to be lost on someone who hasn't carried through the series. That's important here, because this book is very light on plot and much more about character sketches and personal development. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't leave much room for error.
It's a little disappointing, truly. This is the first time Bujold has gone back to Cordelia as a protagonist in a long time and Oliver Jole (who has been floaring around the series in one official capacity or another for most of the books) is a suitable foil, but it's difficult to muster too much concern about whether or not Miles' widowed mother can figure out how to date and retire from public life at the same time. Because there's not much else going on here, I'm afraid. If we hadn't cared about Cordelia for so long this really wouldn't be a book we'd care much about.
It's not bad, of course, because Bujold is an excellent writer and has lived with Cordelia for a long time. And Oliver Jole is a terrific fellow with an interesting life and choices. But I think we were all hoping for a bigger final adventure for Cordelia than what we're getting here....more
A fairly solid romp with the original series cast. Enjoyed it, didn't love it. "L.A. Graf" (a psydonym for 2 authors writing together than stands forA fairly solid romp with the original series cast. Enjoyed it, didn't love it. "L.A. Graf" (a psydonym for 2 authors writing together than stands for "Let's All Get Rich And Fat") makes the choice to focus on Chekov, Uhura, and Sulu rather than a) The Big Three of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, or b) trying to spotlight the entire Enterprise Seven. It's a solid choice and gives the author some room to breathe, since these three usually aren't the focus in Star Trek novels (generally when one of them gets a lead role, it's just one of them working with the Big Three or something) and they make a likely team: similar ranks and responsibilities.
But as was true with one of "Graf's" prior Star Trek works, the author slaps on a couple of personal characteristics that are unseen until now for Sulu and Uhura in particular and tries to build a sub-plot around them. The problem is, these traits aren't all that well developed, and Graf doesn't have that great a grasp of the two, making them seem a bit stiff. (Graf does better with Chekov, I think, a character with an inner struggle that fits nicely.)
The plot is fairly good, involving sabotage, Orions, and Andorians (a highly underused part of the Star Trek mythos, I think) but the subploy with the annoying auditors doesn't really go anywhere, and it's hard to believe that the lead auditor would really get so confrontational with the elite Captain Kirk. Spock is almost completely sidelined here, which will be a disappointment to most fans.
Graf does reasonably well with Uhura and Chekov, but treats Dr. McCoy rather poorly, giving him a bizarre and never establishA mediocre Trek offering.
Graf does reasonably well with Uhura and Chekov, but treats Dr. McCoy rather poorly, giving him a bizarre and never established phobia of water out of nowhere and not really managing it very well. Kirk is done reasonably well, but doesn't really get all that much to do, which seems like a shame. Even worse, Spock and the rest of the crew are left almost entirely off-screen for basically the entire book, and McCoy & Kirk are separated from Chekov & Uhura for all the action as well.
The division doesn't do anyone any favors, because by pulling so many characters apart and giving them less familiar people to bounce off of (while not developing any real characters for them to work with) you lose the camaraderie that can carry the book even if the plot thins or lags. And it does lag here. Most of the book is a fight for survival that doesn't feel very terrible and the solution to all the problems pulls together very late and far too neatly.
The heavy-handed attempt to tie things to earth's ecological issues goes over poorly as well. Nothing wrong with using the future to mirror a current-day issue, it happens all the time in sci-fi and the allegory can be tremendously effective, especially when the future design adds a new perspective on the modern problem...but that's not done here.
I'm categorizing this as space opera, because I think the tone makes it a better fit and as far as I know, the scientific aspects of this (which are aI'm categorizing this as space opera, because I think the tone makes it a better fit and as far as I know, the scientific aspects of this (which are a driving part of the plot) are purely speculative. This is my first experience with the author.
Definitely an interesting concept behind interstellar travel, with navigation controlled by people with a special genetic trait and training that are the only ones who can actually find their way through "grimspace", essentially a form of hyperspace for FTL travel. The big catch? The navigators will burn out at some point, either crashing their ships or losing their minds in the jaunt, so they're all living on borrowed time, each jump taking them closer and closer to doom. But they still can't stop doing it.
This book focuses around Jax, a renegade jumper whose last vessel crashed and she's being blamed for it. She's broken out of custody by a group trying to break the corporate hold on interstellar travel and now we're off the races. Some of the interpersonal romance aspects of this run a little too paranormal romance for my tastes, and there's at least one plot detour that's both too low on the risk/reward scale and too compassionate to be in character but overall it moves along pretty nicely.
The speed of pacing keeps you from learning too much about the other characters, aside from Jax & March and there's not really enough detail on some of the planetary aspects, governments and relationships to really satisfy, considering how earthshaking the endgame of the plot really is. But it still reads well, and the lack of obsessive detail is a bit of a cast back to older sci-fi novels that work harder on plot than detailed backstory and characterization. The modern trend of obsessive has been wearing thin (some of these doorstop tomes seem like the author was paid by the word), but this one might have erred a little far on the other side. A bit more depth is probably in order here, especially as this is an interesting universe from what we've seen. Moreover, if the plot is going to drive the story as hard is it does here, it needs to be more consistent in how it lines up.
This is a fast, fun read. It's a bit lighter than it's plot but does a good job and sets up some interesting possibilities. I'll be willing to give Aguirre another shot....more
The most recent entry in the Vorkosigan Saga takes the focus away from Miles for the first time in a very long time and drops the sp"Ivan, you idiot!"
The most recent entry in the Vorkosigan Saga takes the focus away from Miles for the first time in a very long time and drops the spotlight squarely on his cousin Ivan. Ivan has been a strong presence in many of the Vorkosigan books over the years as a supporting player, as the underachieving cousin that has the life that Miles wants in so many ways. Never stupid, just a little lazy and not living up to his potential, most of the time when you ran into Ivan one character or another would almost immediate exclaim, "Ivan, you idiot!" Seriously, you'd have to wonder at a certain point if "you idiot" was actually Ivan's middle name.
But with Miles finding love and marriage and job satisfaction and so forth, it's a good idea to take a closer look at his semi-wastrel of a cousin...who also happens to be a potential heir to the throne of Barrayar should something happen to Emperor Gregor. Other than seeing Ivan stick up for Miles (and get hauled into his schemes), frustrate his mother, try to get laid, and avoid responsibility at every turn we've never really seen very much of Ivan in his own right.
It's pretty fun. Unsurprisingly, Ivan gets dragged into a scheme involving ImpSec that he'd rather have nothing to do with, but since there's a very pretty girl involved you're hardly surprised when Ivan goes along for the ride. there are a few plot elements that are fairly predictable, but it's overall a lot of fun and zips along like a good caper should. It's also really nice to see retired captain Simon Illyan outside of Miles' orbit, still maneuvering things as best he can on Barrayar almost as if he can't resist playing a little, just to keep his hand in.
Ivan makes a good protagonist. He's easy to root for and you come to see that some of his slackerness is less about his personal drive and more about a desperate desire to avoid the spotlight for his and his family's political safety. Ivan has always been a bit of a comic-relief character, but it works here keeping things lighter as more of a screwball comedy without degenerating into absurdity or too much slapstick.
Good stuff as always from Bujold. I'd been wondering where she was going to take the series, with Miles no longer in romantic peril, finding job satisfaction, and a place in the Imperium and playing around with Ivan is a good one. The universe has been awfully well developed over the years but it leaves a lot of room to play in the corners and a lot of interesting side characters that can take the spotlight for a book or two. Very enjoyable and hard to put down....more
The latest entry in the Vorkosigan Saga is a reasonably good yarn, but I'm starting to think the series is running out of juice. One of the driving foThe latest entry in the Vorkosigan Saga is a reasonably good yarn, but I'm starting to think the series is running out of juice. One of the driving forces of the earlier books was the striving to overcome obstacles (for both Miles and Cordelia. even Mark and a few others) and finding their place in the Barrayarian universe. And for Miles, it was about creating a satisfying a fulfilling life for himself in the shadow of the count-his-father, grandfather, Emperor, etc.
There's not much left to do there. Miles is married, has kids, has a job that fills his particular energies, and a secured place in the Empire. So while the missions are entertaining (in this case an exploration of cryonics on a planet that has increasingly built its society around them), the overarching narrative has lost focus and impact.
The final pages are beautifully written and may restore some of that narrative balance. But they also may be a coda on a series quietly coming to an end after a brilliant run....more
A little disappointing; the book built well, but there wasn't the payoff I'd been expecting. (or the one that the back cover OR the occasional "notesA little disappointing; the book built well, but there wasn't the payoff I'd been expecting. (or the one that the back cover OR the occasional "notes from the future" in the book itself suggested was coming) That's where most of the downgrade comes from, otherwise the book is a fairly good space adventure wrapped around some sci-tech that's more Maguffin than anything else.
I have high expectations from Bull, having loved War for the Oaks (a book where she manages the climax in a much more satisfying fashion). Botching up the ending like this was a surprise and not a welcome one....more