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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Review: The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen Books
ISBN: 0671720147
ISBN 13: 9780671720148
Published: 1990
Pages: 346
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

The Vor Game won the Hugo Award for best novel in 1991, and although parts seemed a little slow in the cacophony of travel that takes up the middle, the ending is what really dazzles the reader with how it all comes together and all becomes worth the ride. Not that the middle was ever boring – it was just exhausting for one to even consider having to go through. Poor Miles and his lack of sleep certainly made me feel entitled to extra naps here and there in the novel.

But I’ll backtrack. We last left Miles having finally earned himself a place in military academy and we find him now going out on his first deployment. It’s to a harsh place of constant-winter, where he is to be working in weather prediction… though this quickly gets out of hand when he nearly dies in a hazing ritual and, Miles being Miles, shakes up the order of the place substantially within days, earning himself a few more enemies in the process.

He’s then whisked back to his father’s side, and sent on a more secretive mission under ImpSec whilst under the appearance of being kept somewhere safe and out of the way as punishment… so of course Miles manages to throw aside all orders for the greater good, reunites himself with the Dendarii and Elena (and Baz), and then manages to save the one thing Barrayar hold most sacred. All in all, Miles certainly deserves a holiday after this one. By the end of the book, you can hardly believe the beginning is as it is – surely that awful time in the snow is another novel entirely?

We get to see Elena has become entirely her own in the time Miles has spent away from the Dendarii, and a few people note how she is by far more experienced and capable than those who’ve had limitless training and opportunities thrown at them. Chapter fifteen had me wriggling in my seat with glee, and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed an ending more in a long time in any book this year.

Once again, I can’t wait to see what happens to Miles and everyone else next. Especially Gregor.