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.

Review: The Mountains of Mourning by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Phoenix Pick
ISBN: 1612421857
ISBN 13: 9781612421858
Published: 1989
Pages: 102
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

The next in our Vorkosigan read-through is a novella, a weighty one that won the Hugo Award for Best Novella (1990), Nebula Award for Best Novella (1989), and the SF Chronicle Award for Best Novella (1990) – so even though it’s short, hopefully I’ll have a few paragraphs of discussion handy!

We meet Miles again, now newly graduated from the Academy and having earned the rank of Ensign Vorkosigan – however at times as we see in this novella, still far out-ranking even though who’ve reached the 20-year mark of the militia because of who his father is, and the duties that come with the title. It’s one of these duties which suddenly eats up the remaining ten days of his home leave before he’s granted his first assignment, which means a quick trip to Vorbarr Sultana with his cousin, Ivan, and the purchase of a new lightflyer are thrown by the wayside.

The duties require Miles to act as Voice for his father, travelling back with a woman, Harra, who has come to them for justice for infanticide, to the mountain district (hence the title). Her baby was born with a harelip and a cleft palate, and being from a more old-fashioned part of the once quite savage Barrayar, the baby is killed for being born less. There was a new clinic Harra wanted to travel to with the baby for an operation – when she had recovered from the birth – but that option was taken from her. And now it’s up to Miles to investigate the old-fashioned way (ish, he has a few technical advances) to find out who the criminal is, and what the punishment should be. Harra swears it was her husband, Lem, and though the community lacks for communication technology Miles is used to taking for granted, Lem has gone into hiding by the time Miles arrives, and almost every person there expects Miles has come to kill him – fairly or no.

This is an interesting novella, and packs the punches you may expect from Bujold, especially when it’s backed up with three of the biggest awards our genre has to offer. What’s good about this is that things are never simple, and Miles (poor Miles) never has an easy go of things. The ignorance, prejudice, and downright insulting nature of the community are put on for show at both a shindig that kicks off one night basically in his honour, and then also when he gives his Speaking (verdict). There’s an attack on Miles’ life, on his horse (the only one remaining from General Count Piotr Pierre Vorkosigan’s personally trained stock), and disrespect shown for the elite in general. And yet, Miles takes things slowly (even when he doubts himself), and goes to extra lengths to instruct, inspire, and lead people to seeing himself and his family, their cause, justice, and the truth in a better light. He doesn’t always succeed which is always good – some minds will never be changed after all, but Miles is truly an inspiration for his ability to interact with people, and his determination to be and do the best he possible can.

A highly enjoyable novella I didn’t put down for a second, and I can’t wait to read the next in our reading challenge, The Vor Game.

Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

Last year in 2016, I joined the lovely Ju and Steph in reading all the of Twelve Planets, a project they called A Journey Through Twelve Planets. It was manageable as it was one book a month and it worked nicely, and each book, of course, was well written and enjoyable.

For 2017 I have already committed to reading two books a month to expand my knowledge of women of speculative fiction. One of these books is ‘Shards of Honor’ by Lois McMaster Bujold. I’ve always heard how brilliant The Vorkosigan Saga is. I’ve many friends who re and re-read them, and who go to all lengths to get their hands on the new ARC when another book comes out.

So I’m finally going to read them all. One a month, or a few novellas/short stories a month, as detailed below – all the way through to mid-2018. I’m very happy to be joined by Tsana Reads and Reviews and together we’ll do a summery post after each one. Tsana comes from having read them all before so we’ll offer both sides of view, and as the months go on, be able to discuss more and more of the worldbuilding and characters.

February
Shards of Honor – my review / our discussion

March
Barrayar – my review / our discussion

April
The Warrior’s Apprentice – my review / our discussion

May
“The Mountains of Mourning” – my review / our discussion
The Vor Game – my review / our discussion

June
Cetaganda

July
Ethan of Athos

August
“Labyrinth”
“The Borders of Infinity”

September
Brothers in Arms

October
Mirror Dance

November
Memory

December
Komarr

January
A Civil Campaign
“Winterfair Gifts”

February
Falling Free

March
Diplomatic Immunity

April
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

May
CryoBurn

June
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen