Vorkosigan Saga #20: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Read: 16 December, 2018

This is one of the more casual of the Vorkosigan books, as the stakes never get particularly high. Even toward the climax when death is on the table, it’s a slow sort of death that leaves plenty of time for rescue.

I love this series for that frantic, ‘can’t turn the pages fast enough’ feeling, but this was nice, too. I like Ivan, and I enjoyed getting to spend so much time with him. I also enjoyed seeing him find love, at last. In typical Bujold humour, and so in keeping with Ivan’s character, Ivan gets married first and then does his courting. 

This is also a great story about growing up. Ivan has always been something of a Bertie Wooster, resisting all marks of adulthood. He was an committed bachelor who exerted a great deal of effort into avoiding career promotion or responsibility. Now, he’s coming to grips with just how old he’s getting, and finally ready to start thinking about what he wants to do with his life. Being about the same age, it was delightful to see that settling in process handled so adeptly. 

It’s a small story, but that fits Ivan. He’s never been the adrenaline junkie his cousin is. And, to be honest, it was just lovely to get to spend a little domestic time with old friends like Simon, Lady Alys, Gregor, and Ivan.

Read more in the Vorkosigan Saga series:

Continue reading

Vorkosigan Saga #14: Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Read: 9 May, 2018

This is the first time since Barrayar that we’ve had a book that focuses on the Vorkosigans but not on Miles. We met Miles’s clone/brother in Brothers in Arms, but there wasn’t much to him – he’d been conditioned and trained to imitate Miles, and had never been given much space or encouragement to develop a self of his own. At the time, it was so significant just for Miles to give him a name.

So it was really quite a joy to see the birth of Mark as a real, distinct person. Bujold has done a fantastic job of showing that split between the two of them, while also showing us the aspects of them that remain very similar.

I normally find the series to be very comedic – largely driven by Miles’s deadpan commentaries. But without Miles, much of that comedy was missing as well. Combined with a rather uncomfortably long torture sequence, this was the hardest book to read in the series. Still enjoyable, but boy did it ever get dark.

One of the recurring details in the book is Mark’s weight. His metabolism is much slower than Miles’s, plus he has an eating disorder. I’m rather conflicted about this. On the one hand, I really didn’t appreciate all the characters staring at Mark’s body in disgust, nor all the times characters talk about their concern for their health (presented matter-of-factly, as though it were a scientific truth that fat=ill-health, absent other factors). Enough of that, thanks.

On the other hand, Mark’s weight is an important means for him to forge his own identity, and I did like that, in the end, he chose to remain fat and seems quite happy with his body.

I just wish that there had been some character other than Mark himself who could recognise that fat isn’t disgusting or necessarily unhealthy. And I wish that the focus of people’s shock was more on the speed of his weight gain or the difference between his body and Miles’s, rather than disgust at his corpulence.

I don’t think I’d want to spend a whole series with Mark, but I’m glad that I got to spend more time with him. And I loved the way his budding self-hood was handled. He has the typical Vorkosigan Extreme Excellence, but I really liked that it’s a very different kind of excellence from Miles.

Continue reading