Discussion Post: The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Vor Game is the latest novel that we read as part of the Vorkosigan Saga Project. It sequentially falls, after the novel The Warrior’s Apprentice and the novella Mountains of Mourning, and before the novel Cetaganda. It’s about Miles Vorkosigan again and was first published in 1990. Miles is given his first mission after graduating from the Imperial Military Academy and it is not what he expected or hoped for.

You can read Katharine’s review of The Vor Game here, and Tsana’s review here.


Tsana: After skipping over the academy years, we meet Miles again as he gets his first assignment as a freshly-graduated ensign. To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed we missed out on Miles’s inevitable Academy hijinks, but this book does deliver plenty of hijinks to make up for it.

Katharine: Do we get to see any in flashbacks?

Tsana: Not that I remember. Certainly nothing major.

Katharine: Well that’s a dang shame. Bujold is still writing though, so perhaps we could get some further short stories… doubtful, but maybe if she’s reading our discussions… :p

In all seriousness, I do mostly appreciate that we jump from action to action – we know enough about their human nature to assume what went on in those years – he manages to outwit most of their exercises and instructors and gets bullied but mostly copes with it all. We meet him again when he receives his first actual mission… and it’s pretty disappointing.

Tsana: Yep. After hoping for ship duty, Miles is assigned to a polar weather station. Cold, miserable and occasionally filled with infantry cadets. Not at all in space. I think the only reason he doesn’t kick up a fuss is because it’s suggested that if he manages not to stir up trouble for six months he might be rewarded with a shiny new ship assignment. But Miles is bad at not stirring up trouble…

Katharine: Basically as soon as he gets there he’s overwhelmed with how poorly it’s run. The chap doing his job and supposed to be handling his handover is a drunk, many of the other workers don’t seem to care for the standard of their work, and of course Miles has a whole new range of people to be bullied by. It doesn’t take him long to be almost killed by a hazing attempt.

Tsana: All of which was almost expected, but… well, before we get into spoilers, should we briefly talk about how there are two very distinct parts to The Vor Game? The first part, set on the miserable polar island, and then a very distinct second part set elsewhere.

Katharine: Yup – by the end of the book it seems like a lifetime ago we read about the polar station – they don’t feel connected in the slightest. It isn’t a bad thing, or jarring in any way… if anything, it just shows how chaotic Miles’ life is. I’m not sure how much else we can say without the spoiler klaxon?

Tsana: *klaxon sound effects*

<spoilers below>

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Discussion Post: SPFBO 3 – The Cover Challenge

As part of being a judge for the Mark Lawrence hosted SPFBO 3, we judges had to ‘Select their 3 favourite covers for the cover art contest in which they will later vote.’

Out of my thirty I managed to whittle it down to the six which most stood out. And one stood out as the clear best, but I’ll leave it to be the last discussed – we’ll work our way up there, shall we?


First up, two that I personally shortlisted but had to discount compared to other covers.

These two, whilst quite decent and almost there, they miss out as while the images used are pretty good, the font/s chosen seriously let them down. On the one to the left I find the title for the author’s name is okay, but the rest is a little jarring. Something just isn’t quite right/appealing about the title, which is a shame.

The one on the right is so dang close. I love the blue, and the sword, and the title… but the font and colour used for the author’s name meant I just couldn’t let it get any further – it looks like a font used in WordArt from Microsoft Office which is a huge dang shame…



And now these two. The Way Into Chaos is pretty excellent, however there’s just too much text, and when the author’s name is so big it has to have the main character’s head partially obscure it? Not a fan. Quotes on book covers should be a few words in my personal opinion. I’d have the ‘author of’ and Publisher’s Weekly on the back – it’s cluttering on the front. And then the font used for the title and ‘book one’ is a little plain.

The Call of Agon is interesting. Decent font that may benefit from a little more finishing to make it sharper, or something. The alignment of beast below, and characters illuminated by the sun is good and catching, and it directs your attention to the right areas. The title and author name stand out, but don’t over complicate things. Not my favourite colours, but that’s not what this cover competition is asking for, I’m guessing :p


And now we come to my top three.

Liefdom, by Jesse Teller. The Censor’s Hand, by A.M. Steiner, and Wit Fallo, by R.D. Henderson. Two of which I had to hunt down as neither book was added to Goodreads – which is another tip to authors. Especially when entering a self-published challenge please make your books and information easily accessible.

Leifdom, to the left, has a good and emotive colour palette. Fonts that match, aren’t boring but also aren’t overwhelming, but are also easily readable.

The Censor’s Hand, to the right, gets the same critique as to the left – decent font, striking images used in striking design, and both make me want to pick them up to find out more.



And now, my personal winner. Wit Fallo by R.D. Henderson. Very decent image quality, decent font. Seems to have the highest level of finish out of my selection and yet isn’t overbearing. I especially love the sigil in the middle of the ‘o’. All the colours matched and it makes me want to pick it up:

Review: The Female Man by Joanna Russ

Published by: Gollancz
ISBN: 0575094990
ISBN 13: 9780575094994
Published: 1975
Pages: 207
Format reviewed: Paperback
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Women of Speculative Fiction

This is part of my reading challenge for 2017, to expand my woeful knowledge of women in speculative fiction by reading at least 24 books by women that were and are instrumental in our genre.

Books like this stress me out a little. There’s so much build up, and there’s the expectation that I’ll get so much out of reading it – and that to appreciate it fully I need to be rested, ready and put in the effort to allow that to happen. Otherwise I’m doing the book a disservice. So then I put it off, and off, thinking I’ll feel smarter some other day and ready to tackle it.

Winner of the Nebula Award and James Tiptree Jr. Award for Retrospective (1995) – so important to Tiptree – her criticism – her essays on pornography and sexuality – she’s an intimidating writer to approach. What’s refreshing is to read this book, be a little taken back by some parts and do some research, and see how Russ came to realise her own errors in part. It’s a book from the seventies, and this is evident from her treatment of transexuals (and apologies if I use any incorrect or outdated terms in this review, please let me know and I’ll learn and update.)

This book is pretty awful. It’s short and powerful, and shows how terrible things were for females. It’s then something to check against today and see how little has changed, or how recent events have shown us to go backwards almost in response to our general advances, as if the privileged are scared or feeling threatened.

I would have loved to read and study this book in university with a decent lecturer. And I’m sure it’s been done, but guided (and intelligent) discussion on a con panel would be amazing.

Discussion Post: The Mountains of Mourning by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Mountains of Mourning is a novella that we are reading as part of the Vorkosigan Saga Project. It sequentially falls, more or less, between the novels The Warrior’s Apprentice and The Vor Game. It is about Miles Vorkosigan and was published in 1986. Miles is back home on holiday after graduating from the Imperial Military Academy and is given an official task by his father the Count.

You can read Katharine’s review of The Mountains of Mourning here, and Tsana’s review here.

Katharine: So we left Miles just as he gains entry to the Imperial Military Academy and we join him again just as he’s graduated – he’s on home leave, ten days out from his first assignment… very seamlessly done! Do we get any or many flashbacks to his time in the academy? I’m glad we didn’t have to see it all but I wouldn’t have minded seeing some!

Tsana: I think there might be a bit about it in The Vor Game? I’m not entirely sure, so we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, The Mountains of Mourning had a very different tone to The Warrior’s Apprentice, although the setting did remind me a little of what Cordelia sees in Barrayar. What were your impressions of it?

Katharine: It was good – it didn’t treat the reader like an idiot. There are quite a few changes, such as his new bodyguard, and it doesn’t take pages upon pages to labouriously introduce the reader and really hammer home how weird Miles felt or still feels about it. We’re just given the new bodyguard’s name and then we learn of him as the story goes on. Excellent!

Tsana: And there are some memories on Miles’s part to remind us that Bothari existed and that Miles still thinks of him. In terms of the actual story, I think this is the one that deals most directly with ableism and the attitudes of Joe Poor Barrayaran towards Miles and other people with “mutations”.

Katharine: Yeah, the term ‘Mutie’ is a bit confronting. I wonder how Miles got by in the Academy with this hostile and antiquated view… should we raise the spoiler shield so we can jump right into specifics?


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Review: The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey

Series: The Tower and the Hive #1
Published by: Ace
ISBN: 0441735762
ISBN 13: 9780441735761
Published: 1990
Pages: 328
Format reviewed: ePub
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Two out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Women of Speculative Fiction

This is part of my reading challenge for 2017, to expand my woeful knowledge of women in speculative fiction by reading at least 24 books by women that were and are instrumental in our genre.

Unfortunately, this book was a DNF for me. I struggled with the first section of the book and it melted into even more of a mess the longer it went on. We’re told that as have the greatest talent and that is The Rowan, however the Gary-Sue character of Jeff is apparently somehow also stronger, doesn’t respect anything, and yet this is somehow being passed off as a romance? The Rowan may be lonely and desperate for connection and yet it just made me uncomfortable throughout.

Instalove and the sudden ‘wifey’ aspect was cringeworthy. Bah.