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All of the Vorkosigan books - Qualified Perceptions
All of the Vorkosigan books
The Vorkorsigan series (by Lois McMaster Bujold)
Recently, tirinian and I were trying to convince mjperson that he should read this series. I guess "it's like Honor Harrington except actually good" might have been a little rude, but I stick to my claim. So then I had to read them all again, including the last two (by the time they came out, I didn't want to go read them all again yet to get back up to speed). They're kind of short, by modern doorstop standards, but oh how they shine.

Cordelia (early main character) is awesome and perfect (from a liberal-tolerant point of view - though her liberal-tolerant society comes in for a hilarious thumping towards the end of the book, which makes Beta Colony a lot less of a Liberal Utopia than it might threaten to be). She fades into the background as Miles takes the series over, but it's fun to see her occasionally show up and demonstrate that she's still an Elder Amberite, compared to the younger generation.

Her son Miles is less perfect (probably for the best), but his flaws are endearing and make for good plot. And though the plot is a lot of fun - dramatic and fast-moving and just enough confusing to be mysterious - the characters are what takes the books from Good to Great.

I think my favorite character moment is in Brothers in Arms. The Nefarious Plot involves the bad guys having cloned Miles, to try to replace him with a Nefarious Duplicate. Things are going wrong, and it seems possible that the clone will end up dead in the crossfire.
"...But what happens to your rather expensive clone?" said Galeni, puzzling out the threads.

Miles smiled crookedly. "Ser Galen doesn't care. He's just a means to an end." His mouth opened, closed, opened again. "Except that -- I keep hearing my mother's voice, in my head. That's where I picked up that perfect Betan accent, y'know, that I use for Admiral Naismith. I can hear her now."

"And what does she say?" Galeni's brows twitched in amusement.

"Miles--she says--what have you done with your baby brother?!"

It's astounding. The idea of having a familial responsibility for the Nefarious Clone Set Up To Replace You is not part of my default worldview. Yet, once it is suggested, it makes perfect sense that Cordelia would believe that, and that Miles would know and be influenced that way. That's just a tiny bit of the whole clone-brother plot, but it's all really rich in character as well as plot twists.

And, since I digressed into talking about chauvinism and the male gaze with the Dresden Files, I noted this bit.

Miles rubbed his neck and turned to the new autopsy report. Gruesome, as always. The pilot had been a Komarran woman in her mid-fifties. Call it Barrayaran sexism, but female corpses always bothered Miles more. Death was such a malicious destroyer of dignity. Had he looked that disordered and exposed when he'd gone down to the sniper's fire? The pilot's body showed the usual progression: smashed, decompressed, irradiated, and frozen, all quite typical of deep-space impact accidents. One arm torn off, somewhere in the initial crunch rather than later, judging from the close-up vids of the freezing-effects of liquids lost at the stump. It had been a quick death, anyway. Miles knew better than to add, Almost painless.
It's nearly equal to Dresden in "it's worse when bad things happen to women" but there's absolutely no sexual objectification to it. Whether or not the woman is pretty is irrelevant. It's not that Miles doesn't notice pretty women, but here, his gaze is entirely sympathy and empathy and it moves me far more than Dresden's chivalry-towards-hot-babes.

(Speaking of pretty women, I generally approve of how the romances are handled, but I do think Miles is a little bit too noodleheaded in A Civil Campaign. It veers from comedy-of-manners intoto comedy-of-painful-awkwardness, though I concede they're close neighbors.)

Final quote:

"Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart."

Five stars.


31 comments or Leave a comment
chanaleh From: chanaleh Date: February 12th, 2014 05:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

And that last is one of my favorite quotes, ever.
sorceror From: sorceror Date: February 12th, 2014 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes! And the books are full of other brilliant quotes as well.

“Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."

"Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.”

“Aim high. You may still miss the target, but at least you won't shoot your foot off.”

“Don't wish to be normal. Wish to be yourself. To the hilt. Find out what you're best at, and develop it, and hopscotch your weaknesses. Wish to be great at whatever you are.”

“My home is not a place, it is people.”

“Some people grow into their dreams, instead of out of them.”

“You try to give away what you want yourself.”

“Experience suggests it doesn't matter so much how you got here, as what you do after you arrive.”

“One step at a time, I can walk around the world. Watch me.”

“Money, power, sex ... and elephants.”

“On the sixth day God saw He couldn't do it all, so He created ENGINEERS”

...now I have to go read the series again...
From: desireearmfeldt Date: February 12th, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Miles is kind of noodleheaded in A Civil Compaign, though not in contrast to the people in the B (C?) plot (the science, not the politics), it's only fair to say. :) And at least his noodleheadedness is in character for him. He's noodleheaded in that sort of way about things other than romance too, especially in the early books.

I find it harder to go back and read the early Miles books, because they seem kind of...juvenile as books, not just because Miles himself is juvenile and grows up over the course of the series. *That* -- Miles growing up, and the focus of the books shifting as a result -- is something I really like about the series. (Though it does seem a waste to have setup the Dendarii and then end up doing so little with that part of the universe!)

In my opinion, the series peaks at Memory, with Komaarr and A Civil Campaign being still good books (worth re-reading) and serving an important purpose (finishing Miles's growing-up-and-finding-peace-and-a-partner arc). Everything after that is definitely post-shark-jump, partly because I think she got to the end of the interesting story and kept going, but more importantly because in several of them she's forgotten her own espoused rule of "think of the worst thing you can do to the character, and then do that." Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, which I finally got 'round to reading recently, having been given it for xmas, really read to me like a) she'd forgotten how to do plot, and b) not-especially-well-written fanfic.

(Hm, now this whole comment sounds like I don't care for the series, which is the opposite of true. I'm very fond of it. I just think it should have wrapped up several books ago, while it was still great.)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: February 12th, 2014 05:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance I kind of put in the same category as Civil Campaign, except that it's Ivan's noodleheaded romance rather than Miles (and Ivan is actually a little *less* noodleheaded, but Tej is more, so it came out about the same). Cryoburn I thought was about as good as Ceteganda.

(Huh, I realize only just now that I read them out of publication order - the back of the books has a very careful book-timeline, in which Cryoburn is last.)
izmirian From: izmirian Date: February 12th, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Woo hoo! I highly endorse all of the Vorkosigan books.
From: desireearmfeldt Date: February 12th, 2014 05:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Also, about the gender thing: to me, Miles is very much...a pretty progressive guy who's comfortable with women as people and as his equals, except that he was raised in a culture of fairly strict gender roles, plus he has hormones, so he does sometimes react to them as *women* rather than as *people*, in a much more gendered fashion. He...I think plays at the forms of gendered chivalry more than he actually engages in it, but he does have some feelings in that direction, too. And he's not completely immune or exempt from Ivan-ish male-thinking-about-women -- though there he kind of code-switches depending on the company he keeps and whether it's more Barrayaran or Betan/galactic.

Though I didn't think the pilot moment was about "it's worse when it happens to women" for him, particularly. (As I recall. It's been a while. It's the mother who, in a way, genders it more, with the wedding dress and whatnot.)

This thought about Miles-and-women (I now realize) is just another item on my list of "Why Miles Vorkosigan is secretly Lord Peter Wimsy."
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: February 12th, 2014 06:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Another nice gender moment is when Mark takes Elena's oath as armsman. Elena boggles some because you can't do that, and Miles boggles even more later.

I think the whole series does a lot of interesting exploration of gender with culture and individual people, sufficient for essays rather than brief reviews. :)

The reason I quoted the pilot bit was the explicit "Call it Barrayaran sexism, but female corpses always bothered Miles more" so it made a nice contrast with what I was talking about with Dresden before - it's not that I think it's a key Miles insight or anything. (The mother and the wedding dress is a different dead body entirely, at the end of Shards of Honor; the pilot is from Komarr.)
tallou From: tallou Date: February 12th, 2014 06:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love those books. Though they used to all live here and then they moved out. :( My niece is named after Cordelia. (and I concur about the down hill toward the end)
visage From: visage Date: February 12th, 2014 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Reminded by the gender issues brought up, there was a great quote I recently read in a novel, which boiled down to one character calling out another in the following fashion: "Sure, the perp beat the everloving crap out of Naomi, but the Captain's girlfriend got hurt! He's the real victim here!"
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: February 12th, 2014 07:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was brilliant. It's one of my highlighted passages too. :)
sorceror From: sorceror Date: February 12th, 2014 07:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love this series! Highly recommended. To everyone.
fredrickegerman From: fredrickegerman Date: February 15th, 2014 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wait, how is it possible that I've read a series before mjperson did?

I quite liked the series, but it definitely has its uneven points, and I find more of a disconnect between the characters of "Miles Errant" and "Miles Grown Up" than desireearmfeldt does.
mjperson From: mjperson Date: March 5th, 2014 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, somehow, I just never got around to that series though I've know of it for years. I'm through 3 of them now, heading into a 4th.
countertorque From: countertorque Date: February 19th, 2014 10:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
OK. I just finished the Old Man's War trilogy. So, I'm starting on this. I have a lot of book reading time on the train now.
mjperson From: mjperson Date: March 5th, 2014 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked the Old Man's War. Very Starship Troopers, but with more look at the inner workings.
31 comments or Leave a comment