Bujold, Lois McMaster. The Vor Game.

NY: Baen, 1990.

By internal chronology, this is the fourth novel in the “Miles Vorkosigan” series but only the second one about Miles himself. In Warrior’s Apprentice, the young Miles — who is under four-foot-nine, with very brittle bones, as a result of a genetic-toxin attack on his pregnant mother — can’t meet the physical requirements for entrance to Barrayar’s military academy, so he goes off on his own in quest of adventure. And ends up, entirely accidentally, at the age of seventeen, with his very own mercenary fleet and a new, very different identity as “Admiral Naismith.”

That story was high-quality space opera (though it took me awhile, frankly, to appreciate it) and this one, beginning at the conclusion of Miles’s Academy training (yes, he finally got in, thanks to Emperor Gregor), is — for the most part — equally high-quality military SF. Miles has problems with subordination. As the son of the regent, who is now the prime minister, he grew up surrounded by brass, so he’s not particularly impressed by rank for its own sake. So, to provide a bit of leavening, his first assignment is as Meteorology Officer at a infantry training base above the Arctic Circle. If he can keep his nose clean for six months, his request for transfer will be considered. So, off he goes — and runs smack into a Captain Queeg type with a very iffy history and a propensity for sadism. Things work out (of course), but Miles is just too different from his young colleagues — not only physically but psychologically and in his intellectual capabilities — so he finds himself taken into the Imperial Security Service, . . . and sent back to the Dendarii Mercenaries. And this time, the emperor himself gets involved. The second part of the book, which is quite similar to the first novel and very different in tone from the first section of this book, is rousing adventure involving mad military commanders (some of them gorgeous), prison breaks, playacting for blood, interstellar politics, wormhole invasions, and a lot of fast, glib talking to stay alive. And Miles, with his boundless energy, deep-seated worrying, and intuitive grasp of strategy, is a first-rate lead character. Just the sort of thing Bujold is so good at, in other words. What bothers me is the way the story at Camp Permafrost and the story out in The Hegen Hub are almost like two different novels. It’s rather jarring. I was also put off by the whole body-in-the-culvert sequence, which had absolutely nothing to do with anything else in the story. I kept waiting for the relevance to suddenly appear later on, but No. Why was that even included? Well, I suggest you just ignore those rather minor problems and enjoy everything else. This book won the author a Hugo, and with (mostly) good reason.

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Published in: on 11 June 2012 at 8:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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