Tag Archives: the Vorkosigan series

Friday Faceoff – The more I see, the less I know for sure…

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As luck would have it – I was running behind and hadn’t completely written up my Friday Faceoff yesterday before the internet went down – for the rest of the day. Thank you Sky for picking and choosing WHICH of your customers got the advance notification that you would be messing around with the phone lines (my sister did get the warning text – I didn’t!). So this article didn’t get posted and please accept my apologies for the lack of interaction on the blog in general…

This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is a cover featuring a panorama, so I’ve selected Cryoburn – Book 14 of the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold.

 

This Hardcover edition was produced by Baen in October 2010. It’s a panorama of the edifice where thousands upon thousands of people are stored in cryogenic stasis, which is the setting for this particular murder mystery. It’s a classic Baen cover, with large, blocky lettering featuring the author and title font. In this case, it’s shame they are quite so large as they blot out a lot of the excellent cover art – but it’s Baen’s trademark and I can’t fault them for their astute marketing model.

 

This Kindle edition was published in May 20111 and is, quite frankly, horrible. The clunky, charmless effort gives no hint about the genre or the fact this book is part of a highly successful series and an awesome read.

 

This Croatian edition, published by Algoritam in 2010, has attempted to recreate the vast scale of the cryostasis repository with Miles walking down one of the aisles. I’m interested to see that there is some attempt to depict his physical deformities, which is something the US covers often don’t do – although he is still without his cane. However, it is rather crude, even though it’s miles better than that dreadful, blobby egg-timer shown on the previous cover.

 

This edition, produced by Blackstone Audiobooks in October 2010 has taken the original cover and tweaked it, so that the title and author fonts don’t cosh you between the eyes. The result is a far classier version of the original cover which also shows the wonderful artwork. This is my favourite cover.

 

This French cover was published in November 2011 by J’ai Lu. I really like this cover. The dark tones reflect the fact we are dealing with a futuristic cemetery and the birds-eye view creates an eye-catching effect. They have even managed to give an echo of the Baen treatment of the title font without blotting out too much of the action – this is a very close contender for the top spot for me this week – which is your favourite?

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Books I Wish I’d Reviewed…

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I read a number of these a long time ago, before the internet existed or I even considered there’d be a time when I would share my love of books and reading with numbers of other people who also take part in this most solitary of hobbies. And the rest are books that I read before I really got bitten by the reviewing bug. Either way, I occasionally tell myself that I’ll go back and reread them some day to write the review. But if I’m honest – I probably won’t because I generally don’t reread books, in case the second time around they disappoint. In which case, I will have gained two miserable memories – the one of revisiting a favourite book and finding it isn’t that impressive after all, but even more devastatingly – it will also have smirched the lovely glow around my recollection of the delight when I read the book first time around.

In no particular order…

 

Cider With Rose by Laurie Lee
Cider with Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a villagecider with rosie before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past.

I read this when I was fourteen and immediately fell in love with the book and the depiction of a lost time in rural Gloucestershire. Much later, when pregnant with my daughter, I encountered Lee’s essay on when his daughter was born and cried as I read it. I was probably a tad hormonal, but it is beautifully written…

 

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartleythegobetween
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years.

Another wonderfully written book – a real mixture of humour and bitter poignancy and the ending is a shock. The dialogue is a masterclass in writing subtext and if you haven’t ever read it, do so. Set before WWI, it is another lost world, where poor little Leo is adrift in a social shark tank and is shamefully exploited by people who should have known better.

 

requiemforawrenRequiem for a Wren by Neville Shute
Sidelined by a wartime injury, fighter pilot Alan Duncan reluctantly returns to his parents’ remote sheep station in Australia to take the place of his brother Bill, who died a hero in the war. But his homecoming is marred by the suicide of his parents’ parlormaid, of whom they were very fond. Alan soon realizes that the dead young woman is not the person she pretended to be…

I’d studied A Town Like Alice at school and loved it, so went looking for everything Shute wrote, which was a fair amount. I loved most of it – but Requiem for a Wren stole a particular portion of my heart, as the story depicted all too clearly the personal cost of war. If you ever encounter a battered Neville Shute novel in a second-hand shop – they occur with surprisingly regularity – scoop it up. There is a solid reason why he was such a popular author for thirty-odd years in the last century.

 

Chocky by John Wyndhamchocky
Matthew, they thought, was just going through a phase of talking to himself. And, like many parents, they waited for him to get over it, but it started to get worse. Mathew’s conversations with himself grew more and more intense – it was like listening to one end of a telephone conversation while someone argued, cajoled and reasoned with another person you couldn’t hear. Then Matthew started doing things he couldn’t do before, like counting in binary-code mathematics. So he told them about Chocky – the person who lived in his head.

Another wonderful author, who is famous for The Day of the Triffids, but wrote a number of other really enjoyable science fiction stories. Again, I loved them all – but Chocky was a particular favourite.

 

rideratthegateRider at the Gate – Book 1 of the Nighthorses duology by C.J. Cherryh
Stranded on a distant planet that abounds with fertile farmland, human colonists appear to be in paradise. But all the native animals communicate by telepathy, projecting images that drive humans mad. Only Nighthorses stand between civilization and madness. When a flare of human emotion spreads to all the horses, chaos erupts.

I fell in love with C.J. Cherryh’s writing from the first sentence – and this is her at her unbeatable best. I’d also include the sequel Cloud’s Rider, which is another gem.

 

Sundiver – Book 1 of the Uplift Saga by David Brinsundiver
No species has ever reached for the stars without the guidance of a patron–except perhaps mankind. Did some mysterious race begin the uplift of humanity aeons ago? Circling the sun, under the caverns of Mercury, Expedition Sundiver prepares for the most momentous voyage in history–a journey into the boiling inferno of the sun.

I loved this take on what might befall Earth creatures should we encounter alien cultures – and how terrestrial species other than humans might fare.

 

fallingfreeFalling Free – Book 4 of the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Leo Graf was an effective engineer…Safety Regs weren’t just the rule book he swore by; he’d helped write them. All that changed on his assignment to the Cay Habitat. Leo was profoundly uneasy with the corporate exploitation of his bright new students till that exploitation turned to something much worse. He hadn’t anticipated a situation where the right thing to do was neither save, nor in the rules… Leo Graf adopted 1000 quaddies now all he had to do was teach them to be free

Another talented speculative fiction author, whose groundbreaking writing has taken me to wonderful worlds. I have reviewed a number of the Miles Vorkosigan adventures – but this particular story featuring the quaddies has always had a special place in my heart…

What about you – have you any books that you wish you had reviewed? Or books you dare not reread in case they aren’t quite as wonderful as you recall?

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen – Book 16 of the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

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I had resigned myself to no longer looking forward to reading yet another slice of this delightful world, so was thrilled when Himself announced last year that a new book was in the offing . So was all that anticipation worth the wait?

Three years after her famous husband’s death, Cordelia Vorkosigan, widowed Vicereine of Sergyar, stands ready to turn her life in a new direction. Oliver Jole, Admiral, Sergyar Fleet, finds himself caught up in up in her plans in ways he’d never imagined, bringing him to an unexpected crossroads in his career. Miles Vorkosigan, one of Emperor Gregor’s key investigators, this time despatches himself on a mission of inquiry into a mystery he never anticipated – his own mother.

Layout 1First of all, a bit of a rant… For reasons I’m unable to fathom, no publisher this side of the Atlantic handles Bujold’s work, so Brit fans have to acquire her print books from the US. As Himself always insists on getting the hardcover copy of Bujold’s books, we naturally pre-order them – but this time, we were let down. The book didn’t arrive until nearly a week after the day of publication, by which time, he went and bought the Kindle version, no longer able to bear the thought of a Bujold book out in the universe that he was unable to read. Why someone of Bujold’s stature is not published in this country other than on ebook, I’m unsure – but it is a pain.

So was the book worth the wait – and the extra expense? Oh yes… However, for those readers who have dipped in and out of this long-running series, I would add a note of caution. The Vorkosigan series is ground-breaking on all sorts of levels – and one of them is the way it slides across a variety of sub-genres. The books charting Miles’ adventures as a youngster are mostly space opera, action-packed adventures with a dollop of social commentary thrown in amongst the shooting and mayhem. However, there are several straight whodunits, such as Cryoburn and yet several more books in the series are far more about the social and political aspects of this complex, multi-layered world, with nothing much in the way of hardcore action. This book drops squarely into the last classification.

However, that didn’t stop me reading waaay later than I should have, to discover what happens next. I have always enjoyed Cordelia’s character – she is something of a personal heroine as she has led a fraught existence, first as Aral’s wife and then mother to Miles. This is the first book since Shards of Honor where Cordelia emerges from her roles as wife and mother and rebuilds her life, again.

This is also a book where we are brought up to date on how the newly colonised planet, Sergyer, is emerging from its dark past, with all the challenges that poses. One of Bujold’s most famous gismos, the uterine replicator once more takes centre stage as one of the main characters is considering whether, after a lifetime of military service, to produce a family as a retirement project. It turns out, a steady trickle of ex-military personnel of all three genders, decide that raising a family is a suitable pastime for their retirement.

I also enjoyed the fact this book isn’t all about teenagers or young twenty-somethings, but about characters who are much older with a lifetime of adventure and life events, both good and bad, behind them. The emotional tenor of this book reflects that maturity. I appreciated characters who bring to bear a wealth of experience to the events that unfold around them, often with a certain wry detachment that runs through this book. While there isn’t the hilarious farcical humour of A Civil Campaign and Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, I found myself grinning and having a quiet laugh at this comedy of manners.

This book also gives us another view of Miles, and not necessarily a completely flattering one. But that is okay with me – Bujold has never shrunk from showing us Miles’ flaws, along with his amazing fortitude, courage and desperate desire to do the right thing, no matter what. All in all, this book, one more, reminds me of why Bujold is regarded as one of the most interesting and nuanced writers of speculative fiction alive today – and if you like your science fiction to be about more than space battles and robots, then track down this thoughtful, intelligent addition to the canon.
10/10