Somehow, in all my years of reading The Vorkosigan Saga, this is the first I’ve written a review for. That puts me in a bit of a tricky situation; namely, how do you review a series you’re more than a dozen books into? Do I tell you about Miles and how he is irrepressibly awesome? Do I explain how Bujold has taken one universe and one set of characters and branched out into almost every sub-genre of speculative fiction within it? Do I tell you about that universe, and its complexities, gifts and foibles?
No, I don’t think so. I really don’t think I need to tell you anything more than that I really do highly recommend this series for nearly all readers, and then we’ll talk about this book, shall we? This book is set as Miles is reaching a new stability, at least as compared to his remarkable, turbulent, and ever-aspiring-for-more youth. Imperial Auditor, family man, diplomat…these are elements of his life he seems to be reaching a comfortableness in…which puts him a bit out of sorts when the events that open this book put him injured, drugged, hallucinating, and lost in a light-less catacomb on an unfamiliar world.
It’s a heck of a way to open a book, but the rest of the novel can’t (and arguably shouldn’t, considering Miles’ advancing age and various medical issues) hold up to the relatively tense nature of that opening scene. It’s a good book, but when it comes down to it, the primary motivator of the action, here, is a politico-economic scheme. And that’s just not much to build a really gripping yarn from. I mean, OK, sure…it’s the most exciting genre book about a shady investigator in a large-scale economic scam since Orca…but I don’t see too many rave reviews for that one, either.
Is it a good book? Yes. If you’re new to the Vorkosigan Saga, should you start here? No, but you should start with Cordelia’s Honor. If you’re not new to the Vorkosigan Saga, then aren’t you going to want to read it anyway? Of course! But is it better than all the other Hugo nominees this year? No…although it’s closer than it would be in a stronger year, I have to say.