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  1. #1

    The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

    I don't read a lot of science fiction but I've noticed that this series of books can count among its number two Hugo winning books. I'm thus intrigued. What are these books about? Where should I start if I want to get into them? What's the proper order in the series? Do I need to start from the beginning? Which books are the best in the series? Why aren't they discussed more? Thanks for your replies.

  2. #2
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    I have read the whole series and enjoyed it very much. The characters are great, the writting is good, there is humor, the story is fast paced and interesting, and the settings are good.

    The order in terms of the time line of Miles and his life is:

    Shards of Honor (About his mother & father)
    Barrayar (Miles is a fetus in this one)
    The Warrior's Apprentice(Miles tries to enter the Barrayan Military Academy)
    The Vor Game
    Cetaganda

    Ethan of Athos (Miles is not in this one, but send one of his operatives to Athos )
    Brothers in Arms
    Mirror Dance
    Memory
    Komarr
    A Civil Campaign
    Diplomatic Immunity


    The publishing order is a bit different, but this is the order from LMB's timeline in the back of the books. Some of the early books are out of print in paper and have been republished in Omnibus editions: Cordelia's Honor, Young Miles, not sure if there are others.

    There is also a book with short stories: Borders of Infinity that jumps around in the timeline but take place around The Warriors's Apprentice and The Vor Game

    The first couple of books set up the characters and the physical, political and cultural world that explains later why Miles is the way he is, and why he must act in certain ways. Because of what happens in the 2nd book Miles is born handicapped, in a society (Barrayar) which worships physical perfection. The story of Miles is a humerous, action-hero centered space opera -- but with a twist: Miles is physically handicapped and socially/culturally/politically handicapped because there rigid norms that a Barrayan can't transgress. The humor is in how Miles works around the restrictions - it isn't funny ala Pratchett, but humor is a by-product of the set up and situations. Although there is a very strong message to the books, LMB never preaches or breaks the story to make a point. Many are also very moving, especially Memory (but you have to read them in order to get it), but they are never soppy.

    Very good fun reads, deserving of the awards.

  3. #3
    Mod Lady Moderator Eldanuumea's Avatar
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    Oops, I bought A Civil Campaigna while back.......will it be a big mistake to read it before the earlier ones?

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    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Besides the plot of each book there is a progression from first book to the last one published, of the characters, their lives, situations and their personal stories - which all interact. I am not sure how much enjoyment you can get out of the series if you start with A Civil Campaign. You may not know who all the characters are, and you will miss the history that is underneath the things that happen. Not really sure how it will work as a stand-alone. If you do try it, and it doesn't work for you, try it again when you have read the others.

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    Tasty or your money back! Moderator fluffy bunny's Avatar
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    Civil Campaign keeps recapping the plot of Komarr, including its twists. It doesn't spoil the rest of the series so much, but if you wish to read Komarr don't start with 'A Civil Campaign,' delightful as it may be.

    I guess the best way to start reading the series would be through its anthologies (covering 2-3 books apiece), covering the early books in the author's intended order:

    Cordelia's Honor
    Young Miles
    Miles Errant
    Miles, Mystery & Mayhem

    Then go onto Memory, Komarr, A Civil Campaign & Diplomatic Immunity


    Some stories are stronger than others, but Bujold does go through a number of story types in the series (intrigue, romantic comedy, action adventure etc).

  6. #6
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Why aren't they discussed more?
    Actually, the series has been mentioned quite a bit on the SF Forum boards. Try a search using Bujold or Vorkosigan for a list.

    What are these books about?
    As a summary - space opera with all the trimmings, (though not so big on space battles) - as well as some humour and some nice character developments. Good page turners, and in places a lot deeper than you might expect.

    My favourites Memory, though as has already been said, you really should've read those before it to get all the links.

    Hobbit
    Mark

  7. #7
    infomaniac Expendable's Avatar
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    I personally liked Cordella's Honor. Its a good book.

  8. #8
    Registered User Leiali's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bond
    I don't read a lot of science fiction but I've noticed that this series of books can count among its number two Hugo winning books. I'm thus intrigued. What are these books about? Where should I start if I want to get into them? What's the proper order in the series? Do I need to start from the beginning? Which books are the best in the series? Why aren't they discussed more? Thanks for your replies.
    I just don't know why they aren't discussed more. They are such an incredibly good read! I read far more Fantasy than Sci Fi, but this is not a problem with the Vorkosigan books. I say read them all but in order. Though I prefer the ones with Miles as the main focus, as he is just a fantastic character. Elda, I read a Civil Campaign first having got it out of the library and not know a thing about the series. I then bought the whole lot via amazon. I was deeply depressed when I read them all....Nothing to look foward to!
    The attraction with the books is how well written they are. The plots are full of intelligent, plausible ideas. The characters are witty, there is a warmth to all the family - and I have an emotional attachment to Miles that is quite clearly a result of good writing and characterization. LMB is also quite unashamedly romantic. Good on her!

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit
    Actually, the series has been mentioned quite a bit on the SF Forum boards. Try a search using Bujold or Vorkosigan for a list.
    I did do a search for "Vorkosigan" but the links that popped up seemed rather general. I got the impression the series was likely to be mentioned in them but not discussed in detail.

    Okay, so know I know the order and what those anthologies are anthologies. No more puzzling about that.

    I've read Curse of Chalion and that in part made me more aware of Bujold's Vorkosigan books. What are your impressions when comparing these works of Bujold. Are they similar or has Bujold taken a different tack with her fantasy outing?

    Is there lots of political intrigue here? A spy story of sorts? On a grand scale or more intimate? Since someone said this was space opera, I'm getting visions of Han Solo and Leia juxtaposed with Miles and Cordelia. How similar is it to Star Wars? Better than the Timothy Zahn Thrawn trilogy? Also because of the mention of romance, the contrast of the female writer Bujold with the action heavy male writers of the New Jedi Order like R.A. Salvatore and Matthew Stover seems interesting. Any interesting thoughts or comparisons that can be made? The writing of Zahn I thought in the Thrawn trilogy lost some of the playful zing found in the original Star Wars movies. From Leiali's description, Bujold is able to inject some fun interplay between Miles and Cordelia that seems lost in the Star Wars books. On the other hand does the action suffer?
    Last edited by Bond; November 22nd, 2004 at 09:52 AM.

  10. #10
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    The stuff is character driven, though there are big spaceships, battles and 'stuff' happening. However, if you expect 'big space battles', lots of shootouts and robots, then these probably aren't the best for you.

    Most of Miles' stories depend on his intelligence and wit, because his diminutive stature means that he has to use other means than strength in order to survive. They are therefore more mind puzzles - Miles usually has to resort to subterfuge and tactics rather than big weapons.

    Most of the stories deal with Miles being put into difficult situations and seeing how he gets out of them. He acts as a politician and a soldier, as well as having a double life as a mercenary captain and a soldier of the Fleet. The characters are fun, you get to really like them, whilst at the same time sympathising with Miles' often conflicting and contradictory problems.

    A bit deeper than the usual Star Wars series I've come across, particularly later in the Miles books (though I can't comment on Mr Stover's addition). Sort of more 'fuzzy-warm Anne McCaffrey' SF, with a touch of David Weber thrown in.

    There is a nice humour running through the books - Miles is often fun, though not made fun of.

    Curse is different, though still has that readability of the Miles books.

    Hobbit
    Mark

  11. #11
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Cordelia is Miles' mother so there is no romance between them, and while they have a good relationship Miles is often more interested in keeping her in the dark about exactly what he is doing. They don't really spar because Miles is probably afraid of riling her. She is a force even the Barrayan empire respects. He also values her advice and wisdom.

    The series does start out with a love affair, between Miles' mother and father who are also on opposite sides of a war/political dispute. I actually prefer them to Miles, at least until Memory when he has to grow up and make choices that he has been ducking for the whole series.

    Miles has some passing infatuations in the various books & stories but no real romantic interest until almost the end of the series in Komarr. He ends up with a woman I consider a wimpy doormat. But there is a lot of love in the series. The characters like and respect each other and the author treats them very well.

    The stories are action adventures I would say that happen to be set in space, on a ship or a station. They are often a comedy of manners in that the plot turns on very slender items set up in a specific way. There is a lot of fun and the problems are often solved in a thoughtful yet humerous way. It is not a series about big battles or cool hardware, it is about people and how they can overcome almost anything if they believe in themselves and each other, and think and work together.

    Miles is skilled in making the preposterous seem plausible and ordinary.

    I haven't read Zahn's trilogy so I can't comment on that. I don't read media-tie-ins, I think they are the Cliff Notes of SF & F so I can't compare them.

    In terms of LMB's other series. It is fantasy with some ties to history. Each book is set in the same world and time, but the characters are usually not the same in each book (though there is some overlap). There isn't the same type of unbroken story about the main characters running through the series, underneath each new plot.

    They also are mostly an older crew, and some are very damaged by life, where Miles and Co. started out young and are now in their 30s. LMB seems to be fascinated with those who are physically limited, and shows their difficulties and challenges as they rise above what is expected of them. She is also exploring religion (faith, belief and the benefit of receiving healing grace) in the fantasy series and doesn't really mention it in the other series. Though the religions are all fantasy and she never preaches - but gods are very central to the stories. She also uses humor again very well. The talking tumor in the first book is pricelessly funny.

    I think she is using the new series to write about what interests a mature woman, where she was a young woman raising children when she wrote Miles, and some of those types of concerns come out in those stories. She is/was a nurse and so a strong reverence for life is present in all her work.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by FicusFan
    Cordelia is Miles' mother so there is no romance between them
    Oops!

    BTW, Happy Birthday FicusFan!

  13. #13
    Registered User Leiali's Avatar
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    Birthday greetings Ficus Fan.
    It is interesting Bond that you worry that action may suffer. I think that LMB's quality of writing is quite a lot better than Stackpole who wrote some star wars stuff didn't he? And Salvatore, but I say that Stover's Caine stuff is just different. She is a more subtle writer, and as previously noted by Ficus Fan and Hobbit, its about Miles using his wits more than anything else. But things do get blown up and the action is pretty intense when it does happen. I like Space Opera because it encompasses so much, and this is one of the best around.
    I would also stress that the romantic element in the stories are always in keeping with the plot, and not overwhelming. A civil campaign is an excellent comedy of manners as Ficus fan put it, and though very little goes on in comparison to the other Miles stories, it still holds your interest. Ficus fan - Miles's poor love interest doesn't deserve such harsh criticism. I think her character is that of a Lady. Not quite Cordelia, or any of the other female characters I guess, but anyone Miles fell in love with couldn't rival him in intensity...

  14. #14
    Anitaverse Refugee FicusFan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leiali
    Birthday greetings Ficus Fan.
    Ficus fan - Miles's poor love interest doesn't deserve such harsh criticism. I think her character is that of a Lady. Not quite Cordelia, or any of the other female characters I guess, but anyone Miles fell in love with couldn't rival him in intensity...

    Thanks Leiali and Bond for the birthday wishes.

    Sorry Leiali but what I said before was the "kind" version of what I think of her.

    Miles' bimbo is the one character in the series I hate. She is a doormat and a coward and lets her son be terrorized and his life and health become endangered bcause she was too wimpy to take a stand. If Miles hadn't come along he would probably be dead while she dithered about what to do, since she was too scared to rock the boat.

    I lothe her and think she has no place in the series, and certainly no place in Miles' life. A real Cordelia would spit in her face for putting her comfort before her son's well-being (Cordelia who had to have Miles protected by an armed guard while he was still in the artificial womb, because his Grandfather wanted to dump him out because he was going to be born handicapped).

  15. #15
    Prefers to be anomalous intensityxx's Avatar
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    anyone Miles fell in love with couldn't rival him in intensity...
    **perks her ears, hearing her name**

    I'm really enjoying this conversation, it's inspiring me to make it a higher priority read. With all the current distopian fantasy and scifi, I need the balance of an optimistic view.

    Happy Birthday Ficus!

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