Bujold, Lois McMaster. Komarr.

NY: Baen Books, 1998.

Over the life of this very enjoyable series, Miles Vorkosigan has seen action throughout the wormhole nexus, in one way or another. The major inhabited worlds — Cetaganda, Jackson’s Whole, and Earth itself, as well as his home world of Barrayar — have each had their own novels. The venue this time is Komarr,

which Barrayar invaded and conquered a generation before, mostly because Komarr, which has access to half a dozen wormhole jump-points, also controls the only route into and out of Barrayar itself. And whoever control that, controls Barrayar. Barrayar is now the more or less benign ruler of Komarr, which has gone through a series of revolts but is finally settling down to a period of prosperous trade. Komarr is also only a few centuries into major terraforming, so its entire population lives under a series of force-field domes.

That’s the background. Specific to the plot is the disaster that befell Komarr’s enormous orbital solar reflector when an ore ship plowed into it, which will cut the planet’s energy supply drastically until it’s repaired or replaced. Miles, no longer a mercenary admiral, has been an Imperial Auditor for less than a year — quite a different sort of career, but with plenty of room for him to exercise his investigative talents. (In fact, much of the side-story has to do with how he fits himself into his new role and figures out how to do his new job.) Miles and another Auditor, a noted professor of engineering, are sent in to figure out what happened to the solar reflector — accident, or sabotage, or what? The professor’s niece is married to the Barrayaran head of the local district’s terraforming operation, and he’s a real piece of work. And then he’s dead. Miles is beating himself up for not having noticed certain things earlier, but he’s also taken with the new widow, who has a number of psychological issues herself, mostly as a result of her rural “old Vor” upbringing and marriage. I won’t go any farther with the plot-spoilers, but I will say it’s a pretty good story. If this were the beginning of a new series, it might not work as well, but the fact that we have come to know what makes Lord Vorkosigan tick, what sort of things drive him, means we can compare the new Miles to the old one — an interesting exercise that demonstrates Bujold’s skill in building characters you can believe in. Moreover, given Miles’s increasingly serious interest in the widow, who is now taking her young son back to Barrayar, there’s obvious material here for future installments in the series.

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