Pseudo-Hugo: Brothers in Arms

Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold, published 1989
(In-Universe #7 chronologically in the Miles Vorkosigan Saga)

I skipped Ethan of Athos 1.) because it’s not in my library and 2.) because it doesn’t have Miles. I’m fairly sure I’ll go back later and read it at some point.

This was a really nice suspenseful novel and it made me laugh frequently, wig out frequently, and essentially keep turning the pages. I liked Elli Quinn’s character here and how we actually get to meet her now instead of her just being an injured soldier in the infirmary like she was in The Warrior’s Apprentice. I am pretty much hopelessly in love with Ivan Vorpatril. In fact, Miles went a little weird in this one and started to rub me the wrong way like Barrayar and Shards of Honors did and I’m getting to like Ivan more.

I liked the story Miles made up about being/having a clone. I loved how Miles was frazzled and pretty much had his multiple personalities splitting and converging and going absolutely wild. What I did not love was the actual appearance of a clone and Miles going wiggy over the really odd human rights status of said clone in various cultures and then to his own mind. I just don’t find it believable that someone finds out they have a clone and is instantly accepting of that. That’s fairly unrealistic. “Hey you have a clone!” “Awesome!!” No. By the end of the novel I was pretty fed up with Miles and his “free-thinking.” I’m inclined to agree that clones have human rights (like androids!), but seriously I just don’t think someone who was unwittingly copied is going to be that thrilled about it. That’s probably why I was far more sympathetic to Ivan by the end who basically ends up on the bad end of all of Miles’ plots. I love Miles being a spastic hyper genius, when he went off into unthinking Betan human rights lala-land he rubbed me wrong enough that his spastic hyper geniusness ended up being quite annoying. So, let’s get back to Awesome Miles instead of Annoying Miles, ok?

I liked this novel. Yet again. Bujold and Miles continue to amaze (and continue to eat my brain). So far, I think my favorite is definitely The Vor Game. That certainly stands out as the high point at this point.

Hugo: The Vor Game (1991)

The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
Read February 6, 2011 – February 9, 2011

Premise: Miles Vorkosigan (remember Miles?) has a problem following orders. As in if it would be better to disobey the order to achieve the goal, he cannot obey it. So he ends up gallivanting across the universe, rather by accident, and rescuing Barrayar from the evil Cetagandans (again, by coincidence), not to mention saving his Emperor from himself.

Verdict: This novel won the Hugo the year before Barrayar did. And you know what? Since Barrayar only exists to tell the story of Miles genesis, I’m now willing to forgive it a ton of things that rubbed me the wrong way to begin with. Miles is a snark. He’s entertaining, absurdly lovable (from the reader’s standpoint anyway), and just all around fun to read about. This novel follows his trials getting through his first few months in the Barrayaran military (I think the military came out on the bad side of that deal, if that gives you any idea about Miles.) Last time, I said the only person I loved more than Miles was his father. This time, the only people I love more than Gregor Vorbarra (Emperor of Barrayar) are Miles and his father. Ha. Another interesting character was the psycho-lady Commander Cavilo—the leader of another mercenary group sort-of-fighting against Miles. She basically uses sex for evil. Bujold managed to pull her off as a terrifying character instead of just throwing her in for titillation which I definitely commend her for. And what is “The Vor Game” anyway? As far as I can tell it’s “the game of life” that the upper classes of Barrayar have to play involving honor, intention, politics, and on and on and on (in this case it’s much about the Emperor of Barrayar). If you like space opera, political intrigue, the rest of this series, or good books in general, I’m fairly certain you’ll like these.

Certainly keeps you turning the pages. Onward!

Pseudo-Hugo: Cetaganda

Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold, published 1996
(In-Universe #5 chronologically in the Miles Vorkosigan Saga)

This one was fairly weird and utterly not like the others in the least. Miles and his cousin Ivan are sent to Cetaganda (remember evil Cetaganda? They’re really just a weird eugenics culture that’s pretty nuts) as a diplomatic courtesy to attend the funeral of the Dowager Empress. They end up embroiled in some internal Cetagandan political turmoil.

There aren’t really space battles, or tactics or anything beyond explorations of the Cetagandan culture and a pretty transparent “mystery” story of court intrigue here. It was fun and I was interested in the Cetaganda social structure (which was pretty nifty) but this one definitely leans away from the amount of substance you get in the other books. It was fairly strait forward and suspenseful enough to keep the pages turning, but it lacked the really urgent suspense and anticipation that I’ve seen in the other books in this series.

Bear with me as I ramble off into theoretical land. BUT! I keep thinking about how much I hate Dune (see evidence here) and why. Essentially, it’s written by a male member of a patriarchy about a male character who is also a member of a patriarchy and who is doing nothing but reaffirming said patriarchy by proving the uselessness and redundancy of women. The Vorkosigan saga is written by a female member of a patriarchy about a male character who is also a member of a patriarchy but who sees the structure in which he operates and—being himself handicapped—is essentially demoted down that ladder of dominant hegemonic respect to the level of women who are deemed useless, frivolous, and who garner less-worth in the social structure. It’s essentially Miles’ mission in life (and the point of his existence) to expose the patriarchy to those who are so wrapped up in it that they cannot see it. Rock on Miles. For some reason, every other minority group—racial, geographic, religious, etc—are currently getting some level of respect as far as acknowledgment of their status as legitimate human beings within the power structure. Even those of non-traditional sexual orientations are gaining visibility and respect. But when it comes to the subject of women, society is still pretty full of scorn and skepticism. Bujold: I love you.

Now that I have all of those run-on sentences out of my system…

As ever—ONWARD! The next novels have earlier publication dates. Lookin’ forward to ’em.

Pseudo-Hugo: The Warrior’s Apprentice

The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold, published 1986
(In-Universe #3 chronologically in the Miles Vorkosigan Saga)

Basically, stunted “mutant” Miles Vorkosigan (who you may remember from last time), fails to get into Military Academy, goes to see his grandma on the liberal planet, ends up accidentally getting into a war, and is (as he has been so perfectly described to me by a friend) “such a spaz.” But a genius, hilarious, endearing, and brilliant spaz.

I don’t have much to say about this. My sheer glee and adoration of it is beyond my powers of in-depth description at the moment (and frankly, I’d rather go to sleep, given the hour). What I do know is that I adore Miles Vorkosigan. My love for him is surpassed only by my love for Aral Vorkosigan. Curse these feudal class systems of honor and female oppression! They are far too tantalizing. Thousands of years of cultural evolution is hard to combat with only a few decades of feminism. That’s probably why all the female characters in these novels are such intense badasses. The Counts and Lords and all their barbaric ways speak so deeply to the human psyche, even as we know that the enjoyment of such things are a dirty secret to indulge in. I shall say that I am slightly willing to overlook the utter-oddness of some of the stuff in the first two books, just because it gets me Miles (and since they were written completely out of order, I guess maybe it took some retconning to get it to work right.)

Onward! I have checked out this entire series from the library in one fell (and, I am told, “aggressive”) swoop to prevent anyone else from checking them out while I’m trying to blast through them. Bwahaha. The next one is an actual Hugo winner.