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Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
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's review
Dec 28, 2008

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bookshelves: fiction, science-fiction, disability
Read in August, 2007

A few hundred years before the events of the Vorkosigan books, a galactic corporation genetically engineered the Quaddies, people perfectly suited to zero gravity engineering and construction work because of their extra pair of arms instead of legs. A human engineer comes aboard the project, and through a series of events which do not need exploring at this juncture he finds himself spearheading nothing less than a revolution in a desperate bid to get the Quaddies safely out of corporate control when they’re slated for termination.

Huh. So about 75 pages into this book I went “um what?” and ran off to check the publication date. Because I knew it was early Bujold, but I didn’t realize how early. I mean, it’s classic Bujold SF – powered by character concerns as much as technology – but it’s, you know . . . early. I was tipped off by the wobbly POV, the slightly hasty character development, the wild coincidences – the entire plot hinges on a typo at one point, for God’s sake! There’s also the slightly troubling shape of the thing, the way the revolution is powered by a human with his big human ideas, and the Quaddies are just a bunch of kids following along.

Still, it is Bujold, and there are flashes of what will later be her more concentrated moments of clarity and brilliance:

“I’m no worse than anyone else.”

“But I’m giving you the chance to be better, don’t you see . . .”

The moral compass of the book points a bit too uncomplicatedly for my taste, but the heart of the thing is true. It’s about choices and self-determination, about how being a bystander makes you complicit in horror because choosing to do nothing is a choice too. The theme and narrative line of direction waver a bit – sometimes blaring in your ear, sometimes too tenuous – but they sound a clear note for all that.

Ah well. Everyone’s a new writer, just learning where all the muscles are, and the stunning difference between this book and, say, Memory is a testament to talent developed.

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07/12/2016 marked as: read

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