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.