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Friends! One of my favourite things made of words ever is up for the Best Series Hugo this year! That is correct, The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold is a Hugo Finalist. And I am here with the lovely frequent Lady Business guest poster [personal profile] forestofglory (Anna), a fellow Vorkosigan fan, to present you with two ways to skim the highlights of this series in 5 books each.

Five books is kind of an arbitrary cutoff, but it's a lot fewer than 17!

Isn't that right!

Now, you may have seen that your Hugo packet includes Borders of Infinity as the sole representative of the Vorkosigan Saga. This is a collection of novellas/short stories with some interstitial material that constitutes its own (very) short story. If Baen, the publisher, had to pick ONE book, this is not a bad choice, as it gives several interesting adventures and tones from this series. However, Anna and I think it doesn't really cover the breadth of the series, and we're here to fix that.

This post is intended for two audiences: (1) People who have never encountered a Vorkosigan book in their life, or maybe have read one or two but don't really know the full series, so we can suggest a subset of the series that is readable by the Hugo voting deadline; and (2) Fans of the series so they can come argue with us about our picks. BOTH ARE SO WELCOME.

Before we dive into the meat of the Vorkosigan Saga, here's a quick refresher on the brand new Best Series award:
A multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, appearing in at least three (3) volumes consisting in total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the previous calendar year, at least one volume of which was published in the previous calendar year. If any series and a subset series thereof both receive sufficient nominations to appear on the final ballot, only the version which received more nominations shall appear.

And boy howdy does the Vorkosigan Saga qualify, at roughly 2 million words spread out over 17 novels and half a dozen shorter works. Here they all are, listed in internal chronological order. There is also publication order (further down the page at the link), but I have basically never heard anyone recommend publication order, unless you've already read the series before and want to try publication order as an exercise. Still. 17 novels. Your average reader just does not have time for this before the Hugo voting deadline (hahaha unless you are an absolutely addicted Vorkosigan rereader and are already halfway through a full-series reread AWKWARD LAUGHTER CONTINUES).

But! Anna and I can help. Before we get to the recs though, let's talk a little about the Vorkosigan universe and why we love it. My favourite thing about it — besides the actual characters — is the uterine replicator technology, but I think it's Anna's turn to talk. Take it away, Anna!

Hi! So I’ve been a Vorkosigan fan for long time, and I think it's great series that has something for (almost) everyone: Great characters, all kinds of stories from madcap military adventure to mysteries to comedy of manners, plus really awesome worldbuilding that has lots interesting future tech but also considers the social implications of that tech. As an ecologist by training I’m happy that so much of the tech innovations discussed are biological in a nature, including cloned body parts, space station ecologies, and of course the uterine replicators. So let's get back to uterine replicators! These are artificial wombs where human babies can gestate outside a human. If you’ve ever been pregnant or had a partner or friend who was, you are probably thinking: sign me up! Anyways Bujold really considers all kinds of way this might impact society, from giving women more freedom (characters go on vacation while their babies gestate!) to genetic engineering (the four-armed freefall-dwelling quaddies are gestated in uterine replicators) to social structures (there's a planet of only men that use uterine replicators!). So, yes, Bujold doesn’t imagine tech being used just one way, but many ways by many different societies. And this worldbuilding is part of what make her characters great too. They are each grounded in the society they live in while still being individuals. We see people deal with the flaws of their societies in different ways from running away to getting political. It all adds up to an amazing complex picture.

Yes! I love the biotech in the Vorkosigan Saga! I've heard this series criticized as being barely science-fictional, since the stories themselves tend to be more oriented around character growth and society than around snazzy science fictional premises. But I think this is... really missing the point? The Vorkosigan Saga is great at exploring the social implications of fictional technologies, and the uterine replicator is, like I said, my favourite of these. So many science fictional universes absolutely fail to provide a technological answer to the questions of bodily autonomy and pregnancy and biological labour cost for women. Whyyyyyy is this so? It's such an obvious problem to solve! Bujold fully explores the personal, political, and societal consequences of divorcing reproduction from pregnancy, and I love it!

I think I should also say a few more things about the Vorkosigan Saga universe, half as a crash course and half a discussion of other aspects I love. Here goes!

The series has two main protagonists, female and male, and a handful of other characters who get POVs/protagonist roles depending on the book. The most frequent protagonist is Miles, a man born with visible and invisible disabilities in a deeply mutation-phobic society. Much of the middle part of the series deals with his adventures with the Dendarii Mercenaries, a mercenary fleet Miles accidentally created at age 17. The books follow him from before birth to, so far, middle age. Cordelia, Miles's mother, stars in Shards of Honor, Barrayar, and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, but her presence is felt throughout the series. She first comes to us in her mid-30s, on the older side for a SF protagonist (especially a female one), but the series continues to find her interesting into her 70s (at which age she strikes up a new sexual romance!). Cordelia is one of my favourite female characters ever, and overall I love the choice of protagonists in this series, as they are all either women (yay!) or men of mostly unusual backgrounds (disabilities, people of colour, middle-aged bisexual men). Speaking of middle-aged bisexual men! This series has two of them, one I won't reveal and another who is actually my favourite character in the entire series: Aral Vorkosigan, Cordelia's husband and Miles's father. A bisexual man is a rare enough beast in genre fiction, but a middle-aged bisexual man? Two of them, even? I love it!

On the subject of gender and sexuality, the series also features some side characters with nonbinary genders. However, the treatment of these issues is... a little hit or miss? I'm happy to see the representation, but there's a few caveats. Anna, do you want to talk about the nonbinary gender issues a bit?

Sure. So on Beta Colony where Cordelia’s from they have a third sex, hermaphrodites, or herms as they are generally referred to. This is pretty nifty, but there is one problem, which is that herms use “it” as their pronoun of choice, which most people find dehumanising. Anyways the main herm that shows up is a mercenary called Bel who’s great. Being from socially liberal Beta, Bel is always pushing Miles out of his comfort zone. I love their byplay.

There’s also a character later in the series who physically transitions from female to male. One could read this character as a trans man, but ... well he’s not trans the way people in our society are trans. Some people find this pretty uncomfortable reading. Anyways back to you, Ira.

Yeah, Bujold has said that at the time she introduced Bel, she was not aware of the commonly-accepted nonbinary gender pronouns of the time, and regrets the decision to pick "it" for the hermaphrodites, and now the series is stuck with that pronoun. As a note, though, these nonbinary individuals are intended to be truly hermaphroditic, with fully-developed and functional male and female sexual organs and reproductive abilties, not really the same thing as the intersex people we have in our society.

The character who switches genders is... interestingly handled. I'd love to discuss him in the comments! As Anna said, he's not trans in quite the same way we recognize in our society, so his transition can come off as a bit weird to us.

A little more about the setting in more general terms: The Vorkosigan Saga is set in the Wormhole Nexus, a scattered collection of planetary systems and space stations connected by wormholes. The planet of primary interest, Barrayar, was settled by colonists from four ethnic groups (predominantly Russian, but also English, French, and Greek), then was cut off from the rest of the Nexus for six hundred years when the wormhole leading to that system spontaneously collapsed. Barrayar then reverted to a pre-industrial society scarred by mutations and ruled over by the aristocratic military caste called the Vor. This period is known as the Time of Isolation. When a new route to Barrayar was found and the planet was once again connected to galactic society, the nearby Cetagandan Empire saw an opportunity to invade the technologically backward and socioculturally disoriented planet. This was the time of Miles's grandfather's generation. That generation managed to throw the Cetagandans out, at great cost. From this point the sociological and geopolitical consequences play out, and I recommend reading the books themselves to see what happens after this setup, as the geopolitics of the Wormhole Nexus setup and Barrayar's history are some of the most interesting stuff about the books, and Bujold really follows through on it.

So! What about the promised lists of 5 books? Here we go!

Ira's List: Story Highlights (Why do we love these people?)

This is the list for you if you want the highlights of the actual story/plot of the series as it follows its main characters. Unfortunately, there's no real way to cram everything into just five books without needing plot summaries for some of the books that were skipped. Plot summaries can be found on Wikipedia or on the Vorkosigan Saga wiki. Do not read the plot summaries until you reach the appropriate point in the series! The idea behind this list is to experience the story as it's intended to be, chronologically and with all surprises intact. Let's dig in!

  1. The Backstory: Cordelia's Honor
    The first entry on this list is a bit of a cheat as it's actually an omnibus containing Shards of Honor, "Aftermaths", and Barrayar. However, Shards is quite short, and Barrayar picks up literal hours after Shards ends; they really do read as two parts of one book. A word of caution: Shards was Bujold's first ever published book, and it shows; it also has an attempted rape in it. However, Barrayar, which immediately follows it in internal chronological order, was written many years later and is much better; it won the Hugo and Locus awards for that year and was nominated for a Nebula. I enjoy Shards in and of itself, as it is where we meet Cordelia and Aral, but some people find it to be a rough start to the series. Persevere until you get into Barrayar, and you will be richly rewarded.

  2. The Beginning: Do you want the more plot-dense book or the better-written book?
    1. Warrior's Apprentice: Denser plot but weaker writing


    2. Vor Game: Less essential to the plot but much better writing
    These are the first two books that star Miles. Warrior's Apprentice was Bujold's second book, and is a bit rough around the edges. Vor Game, like Barrayar, was written much later and is much smoother; it also won a Hugo and was nominated for the Locus. Apprentice covers the conception of the Dendarii Mercenaries, who continue to play a central role for many books thereafter, and so is the more plot-significant book. Vor Game is the very next Dendarii adventure and does have more important plot stuff about how the Dendarii come into their role in the series, about the character of Gregor Vorbarra (the Emperor of Barrayar, and Miles's foster-brother), and about the geopolitics of the Wormhole Nexus. To keep to the 5 book limit, you'll have to pick one to skip, so it's time to hit those plot summaries!

  3. The Middle: How much torture can you handle reading?
    1. Brothers in Arms: Mild torture in one chapter (constant light exposure, hostile interrogation)


    2. Mirror Dance: Two chapters with pretty horrific torture
    Before I scare you off with the torture talk, the series is not particularly dark and is actually full of humour. It's just that this part of the series deals with a particular character with a very rough past. These two books both contain important plot stuff that I'm not even going to summarize here, as the developments work so well as a surprise (don't read the jacket copy!). However, the characters do undergo some torture in each of them. It's really hard to choose between these books based on which is more essential to the plot, so I'm providing a choice here based on how much torture you can handle. If I had to pick, Mirror Dance probably has the more dense plot and character development (and the better writing — it won the Hugo and Locus awards for that year), so if you can deal with the torture, read the plot summary for Brothers in Arms then proceed to Mirror Dance.

  4. The Pivot Point: Memory
    No debate here: This is when the series takes a hard left, and this book is absolutely essential to understanding the latter half of the saga. This book was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards and is really, really good.

  5. The Aftermath: A Civil Campaign
    Between Memory and A Civil Campaign is Komarr, which is another one you need plot summary for. Among other things, Komarr introduces a love interest for Miles, and does a bunch more worldbuilding (yes there is still worldbuilding this late in the series, as there continues to be through to the latest books). I love Komarr (it's one of my favourites), but as far as character growth and plot development goes, A Civil Campaign wins out.

So that's the plot and characters of the Vorkosigan Saga in 5(ish) books! Now I'm gonna turn it over to Anna for the theme/genre list. Take it away, Anna!

Anna's List: Thematic Highlights (What can this setting do?)

One of the reasons it difficult to sum up this series is that it there are lot different tones and genres included. Of course all of them are science fiction, but there are many many sub-genres and overlapping genres. I’ve highlighted one work in each of five genres which I think are core to the series. I’ve also included one or two other works as "see also" for examples of more things I think fit in that category. It turns out that this list also highlights many of my favorite bits of biotech and worldbuilding too.

  1. Madcap Adventure: Ethan of Athos
    The Vorkosigan Saga is full of fast-paced adventure books which made it hard to chose just one book in this category. I picked this one partly because it stands alone very well, and partly because it includes some of my favorite bits of tech (like the space station ecology featuring genetically engineered newts), which makes it great for learning about the world if you don’t want to get too involved with the characters. So the eponymous Ethan is an obstetrician on a planet of men where he oversees the creation of new babies at a reproduction center full of uterine replicators. (This planet also has culture that pays people stay home and look after babies — because of course childcare is valuable if men do it.) He goes off planet, meets a woman for the first time, and gets caught up in adventure.
    (See also: Falling Free, Brothers in Arms, Komarr, and bunch of books I’ve put into other categories)

  2. Political Thriller: Cetaganda
    Bujold’s political books are never just about who wins some political contest but always focus on real harm that will result if the protagonist loses. Cetaganda is especially well plotted with key information being revealed at key times. Before this book the Cetagandans were the generic baddies of the series, they had an expansionist empire, and lots of military — in this book their culture is explored and we see them as something more. In turns out that they have a complex culture with a multi-tiered nobility and strict gender roles. They are also experts at genetic engineering and we see many beautiful, strange, and/or creepy products of that skill.
    (See also: Diplomatic Immunity)

  3. Military Fiction: Vor Game
    Many of books in the series have military elements but to me this the most quintessential military fiction. There’s day to day military life on a remote arctic base, ship-to-ship combat, and tons of tactical plotting. This novel also shows off the complexity of the setting of the wormhole system, which underlies the military maneuvering.
    (See also: Warrior's Apprentice, “Borders of Infinity”)

  4. Comedy of Manners: A Civil Campaign
    This book is dedicated to Jane [Austen], Charlotte [Bronte], Georgette [Heyer], and Dorothy [Sayers] and it's not hard to see why if you are familiar with the work of these women authors, all of whom wrote about navigating complex social and emotionally charged situations. This book should work on its own, but it deals with characters that have a lot of backstory so it won’t have the same emotional depth for new readers, plus it really spoils much of the plot developments that came before. (You could read plot summaries, but that still won’t have quite the emotional impact.) Bujold’s major comedies of manners all come late in the series, so anything I picked for this category was going to have that issue. However, this type of work is still underrepresented in SFF and reading something like this still is important to understanding the full range of the series. Also this book features another favorite bit of bio-tech: the butter bugs, but I’ll let you learn about them form the text.
    (See also: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)

  5. Mystery: “The Mountains of Mourning”
    This only a novella so if you are feeling a that even five books is bit much (and I don’t blame you) you get a tiny break here. Bujold uses mysteries for some of her most personal and political stories that really dig into both characters and societies. In this novella, Miles, disabled and physically different himself, must judge the murder of a baby born with a mutation. To do this he travels into the backcountry of Barrayar. As well as showing the cost of one small death this book shows how many ordinary people don’t have access to tech and are struggling to cope.
    (See Also: Memory)

That's it for our two lists! Do you agree with our choices? Disagree? Disagree vehemently? Come talk to us in the comments! =D

Date: 2017-05-19 09:31 pm (UTC)
novin_ha: Destruction Girl Hotaru ([sailor] destruction girl)
From: [personal profile] novin_ha
This is my kind of content ♥

Soo! I sort of agree with both, and sort of disagree with both! Let's see:

1) I think Cordelia's Honor is a must, because Aral Vorkosigan is the best male character of the series and the staple of the entire universe, even though his POV doesn't get revealed. You need to meet Aral & Cordelia. Truth be told, I'd love to read 20 books about them.

2) I'd go with Mountains of Mourning next - it's amazing and one of the best parts of the series for me, even if we're stuck with Miles the whole time (and I... don't quite like Miles). And it makes up for cheating with 1) and giving you two books for the price of one.

3) Mirror Dance - better than Brothers in Arms, although a little moot without Brothers in Arms + The Vor Game...

4) Surely must be Memory, which imo is the best-plotted novel in the entire series, and does so much to change the entire stakes, should be included here! The one problem is: it's really best to read this after one has read everything else that came before. And I mean, everything else.

5) Now I'm torn: do you want something light and nice or something heartbreaking? If a) go for Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. It's delightful, shows another side to multiple characters (and I prefer it to A Civil Campaign because I don't like Miles/Ekaterin; I think he's kind of terrible for her, though YMMV). If b) go straight for Gentleman Jole and experience the utter heartbreak. I cried for days. (I know some people hate it, I... really don't.)

And otherwise The Vor Game, Brothers in Arms, Komarr/A Civil Campaign - all deserve a read.

I'd say Cetaganda, Warrior's Apprentice, Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn are skippable-ish, except that Cryoburn of course does two great things: 500 pages of foreshadowing and then the gut punch.

Oh, just read all of them. It only took me seven weeks...

Date: 2017-05-19 10:30 pm (UTC)
justira: A purple, gender-ambiguous unicorn pony in the style of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (lady business)
From: [personal profile] justira
Thanks so much for commenting!

Aral and Cordelia! I love them so much! Like I said in the post Aral is my actual fave; I could read about him all day. Cordelia's Honor is where I tell everyone to start, if they can handle (a) attempted rape and (b) rape apologia (Bothari's whole character >.>).

Don't get me wrong, I love Bothari. But he's... complicated.

"Mountains of Mourning" is, to date, the only Vorkosigan work that has made me cry. It wasn't even the first time I read it, but one of my many rereads. I'm glad [personal profile] forestofglory put it on her list, because it really deserves to be read.

Miles! He took a long time to grow on me, honestly. I think... I think I like the shape Miles makes in the world more than I like Miles himself? I don't dislike him, but... he's more of a... vehicle for me? Like he moves the series along all right. But I prefer Aral and Cordelia.

Mirror Dance/Brothers in Arms/Vor Game — I had a really hard time trimming down this part of the series in my list, because the series builds on itself so much and basically everything that came before matters. The same problem obtains with Memory, and if there's one thing I think my list is really missing to make Memory pack the best punch, it's "Borders of Infinity". It's an example of the extraordinary results Miles could deliver with the Dendarii which I think really adds to the place Memory holds in the series.

I have a... hit or miss relationship with Captain Vorpatril's Alliance.

Well, okay, I'll come clean: in private conversations, I refer to that book as The Heteronormativity Shoehorn Power Hour. Ivan/Tej grew on me eventually, but Rish/Byerly just... I don't see it? I don't get it? It read really heavily of "pair the spares" to me and Byerly never read as particularly hetero to me. Scratch that — he read as explicitly NOT hetero to me. He could, of course, be bi but... we only ever see him with a woman (I'll come back to this point). Finally, Byerly and Ivan had such great chemistry with each other that I had really high hopes for them. I mean, before Captain Vorpatril's Alliance was published, I thought, Bujold gave us Aral, so maybe she'd take another step and give us Byerly/Ivan?

Alas, it was not to be.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance is a fun story that's like... half heist and half comedy of manners, or perhaps comedy of errors. But I will basically never get over my disappointment with it.

You next talk about Gentleman Jole which is actually A GREAT TRANSITION for me because let's come back to that "only ever see him with a woman" bit. So, I am not actually gonna go into detail here, because [personal profile] owlmoose and I are writing a WHOLE POST about this book and sexuality in the Vorkosigan saga and so on, so I hope you join us there! But I have a complicated relationship with this book, too. On the one hand, it gave us Aral/Jole canon and I like Cordelia/Jole, and I like the bittersweetness of it, finding something beautiful after a death. But... none of the Aral/Jole takes place onscreen and it's basically more het relationships? Anyway, that post will be coming soon! [personal profile] owlmoose and I come at the book from completely opposite angles, so hopefully it will be an interesting and exciting post!

I agree with your list of must-reads/skippables EXCEPT I find Warrior's Apprentice to be essential. It's shakier writing, but the stuff with Bothari and Elena just holds too much weight for me (I latched on to Bothari as a character really strongly).

I actually avoided reading Cryoburn for... six years? I think? I pre-ordered it and owned it as soon as it came out, but someone spoiled me for The Spoiler and like... I couldn't handle the idea. I just couldn't read it until Gentleman Jole came out and then I blitzed straight through Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Cryoburn, and right on to Gentleman Jole, which helped me process my grief a lot.

Anyway, thanks for coming here to disagree with me! I love disagreeing with people!

Date: 2017-05-20 07:02 am (UTC)
novin_ha: LoVe Lives ruined, bloodshed. Epic. ([vm] epic)
From: [personal profile] novin_ha
First of all, I read Shards once as a teen and forgot about the series. Then I read the entire series (save for Falling) since March (it was my Women's Day pick).

I might be a little weird about how much I love Aral Vorkosigan. I wrote about this in my reviews on goodreads, but basically throughout my teens I was huge on Richelieu, the fictional/historical character, the original Evil First Minister Who Sort of Saves the Day Somehow. And there are literally so many parallels (including the thing with forbidden duels)! And I just like prime minister characters. In addition, I have a shameful fetish about sexy bi dudes in fiction (watch me read historical romance hoping for glimpses of secret dude exes). My wife makes fun of me about this all the time.

I was spoiled for Cryoburn and I'm glad I had been because otherwise...

But basically reading Gentleman Jole was interrupted by legit crying a lot and gave me a migraine.

Ha! I actually... hate Bothari. I get what Bujold is doing with him, but I directly blame him and Piotr for Miles being such a sexist asshole (the entire chivalry angle + always trying to manipulate / one-up women he's in love with, ugh). And poor Elena Bothari.

I think I don't mind Bujold not giving us Jole/Aral on screen. I guess this way it's perfect in my head and if she'd written it and shared it (I think I've read somewhere that she'd admitted to having written more than a little Jole/Aral stuff, just not for publication? But that may have been like, someone's comment in a discussion post and totally fake) it could have come off wrong in so many ways. (I confess I'm not a huge fan of straight-women-writing-gay-men stuff, slash or ofic - I mean, some of it is amazing, but I approach with caution because often it feels exploitative to me, or else makes me sad about how little f/f there is in similarly mainstream stories).

I will come back! to respond to the parts about Ivan, Byerly and CVA in another comment later! Because now I have to go earn money :(
Edited Date: 2017-05-20 07:08 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-05-20 08:30 am (UTC)
novin_ha: Zuko is having all his feelings and I feel that ([avatar] zuko is completely calm)
From: [personal profile] novin_ha
Woo, free again. So, where was I? I apologize in advance, this will be chaotic.

Ah, yes. Heteronormativity hour! Well, I can absolutely agree with most of your criticisms! I mean, I also still think Tej is... not a great character. She's inconsistent and occasionally suffers from plot-necessitated-stupiditis. (I love her lack of ambition though.) Rish/Byerly was very marginal for me and I never thought of Ivan as potentially not straight, so maybe that's why this didn't bother me too much, but overall I agree that having Byerly get together with a guy would have been much better (and I just love Byerly, I confess).

But Captain Vorpatril's Alliance is also a novel that does so much for Simon, Simon/Alys and Alys! I loved those parts so much. And just - Simon becoming Ivan's father. Ivan growing up. That was my catnip. I mean, the one thing I *didn't* like about Aral was how clearly he fucked up at being a father figure for Ivan. He just didn't have the time, obviously - being a Regent *AND* fathering Miles is like four full-time jobs in itself - but their relationship being summed up in "where's that idiot Ivan" makes me so sad for that fatherless little boy that he must have been between Barrayar and The Vor Game. So Ivan and Simon teaming up and Ivan regretting not being more caring about Simon earlier is a great and emotional moment for me.

...which sort of shows why this 5 book thing is so difficult - these novels are only good to very good on their own, they SHINE thanks to all the backstory and connections.

Miles: I don't like Miles too much (well, there are books where I do, like Mountains, Mirror Dance and I think The Vor Game, and possibly bits of Komarr?) but I agree that he works for the series. Still, absolutely, Aral & Cordelia all the way.

I will wait with my feels re: Aral/Jole/Cordelia for the future post then! There's a lot of them.

Date: 2017-05-20 11:38 pm (UTC)
justira: A purple, gender-ambiguous unicorn pony in the style of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (lady business)
From: [personal profile] justira
I am totally on board for inappropriate amounts of loving Aral Vorkosigan. I don't actually think a fetish for bi dudes in fiction is shameful, as bi dudes are waaaaay underrepresentd and seeing them in fiction, especially genre fiction, is delightful. If you have any recs along those lines, I'd love to hear!

Talk to me about Miles being sexist! As for Bothari, he's pretty terrible as a person, but I love him as a character. Kind of like Piotr? Piotr was a terror, but he was also a very effective character. I guess that's part of what I meant in my earlier comment about Miles. He's a very effective protagonist. I'm not really a fan of Miles/Quinn, especially not in Brothers in Arms, but I actually like Miles a lot in that book in terms of his relationships with Galeni and Mark. Miles + Mark I love in general, especially from Mark's perspective, because Miles has someone just as smart as him to needle him, as he richly deserves. Actually one of the plot threads I tried to lean on in my list, but couldn't reveal because SPOILERS (casual comment readers, that was your warning), is the whole thing with Mark Becomes A Real Boy. It's one reason I picked A Civil Campaign over any of the other latter-series books I could have gone with, because it doesn't exactly wrap up Mark's arc (I love hen he shows up in Cryoburn to pull everyone's ass out of the fire (LITERALLY XD)) but it does serve as some really nice punctuation to that. Actually, my favourite moment in A Civil Campaign is when Aral and Cordelia arrive home in time for the denouement of the disastrous dinner party and Kou is yelling at him like "Do you know what your son did?!?!" and Aral is just casually like "Which one?" ARAL. I love that man.

Aral/Jole discussion I will mostly save for the post about it, so I hope to see you there! I might add some thoughts about straight women writing queer male romance to that post, too.


It's true, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance does a lot for Ivan, and I actually love Ivan a lot. I loved him in Memory and was so glad for him to have POVs in A Civil Campaign, so I was excited for an Ivan book. I agree about Aral's failing as a father figure for him, and how Ivan's book really filled that void in his life and his relationship with his mother. Byerly I just adore straight up. As for Aral and Ivan and raising Miles... Miles... creates voids around himself throughout the series.

The series structure! Have you read Bujold's afterwords to the omnibuses? She talks in one of them (I forget which one... Young Miles?) about how writing a series is as different from writing a single novel as a novel is from a short story. I like that she takes this approach, because it really shows in her work on the Vorksigan Saga, especially considering she wrote them almost entirely out of chronological order! The Vorkosigan Saga works as a series better than any other series I can think of/have read.

Anyway, the Gentleman Jole post will hopefully be up soon so! Yeah =)

Date: 2017-05-21 09:00 am (UTC)
novin_ha: Buffy: gotta be a sacrifice (Default)
From: [personal profile] novin_ha
I haven't read in omni, so no, but I think one of the interviews mentioned something similar, and Jo Walton made great points about it in her reviews on Tor.com!

"Which one" is SUCH a great moment.

(Also: Simon waking up in Memory to see Ivan at his bedside. (Insert screaming.)

I am with you on liking Piotr as a character. He's amazingly effective.

I'm sort of glad I don't get to vote for Hugos because choosing between Vorkosigan saga and Temeraire would have hurt my soul.

I am so looking forward to a discussion of Gentleman Jole, and I will absolutely be commenting.

(As to bi dudes, off the top of my head: well, there's always Jaran. I headcanon Temeraire's protagonist as bi. And then, hopefully about half of my future novels.)

Date: 2017-05-21 03:35 am (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
Your thoughts about Miles/Ekaterin reminded me of this review

Date: 2017-05-21 08:48 am (UTC)
novin_ha: DW Martha ([dw] martha)
From: [personal profile] novin_ha
Thank you! I skimmed and it sounds supremely relevant to my interests; I will be back to read it in full later.

Date: 2017-05-19 11:56 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
If you like "The Mountains of Mourning", you will adore "Barrayaran Roses" by Maureen O'Brien. This is a filk, and is unfortunately not available anywhere online that I can find (and the mp3 link in the blog post threw a malware warning), but here are the lyrics:

We are like the roses; we do not belong.
Fighting to survive, to stay alive, we must be strong
All our lives, beginning when we're born -
Because Barrayaran roses need their thorns.

We are like the roses, brought here by mistake,
Not supposed to be here; all you see here we were forced to make.
All that we have made, we mean to keep -
We are Barrayaran roses, rooted deep.

Barrayaran roses, hardy as a weed;
Handle us respectfully or else we'll make you bleed!
We were meant for gardens, behind stone walls to stay,
But sometimes garden roses grow away.

We are like the roses; cut us back, we grow.
Home soil here was never sweet, but no defeat can make us go.
We are no one's fool and no one's pawn -
We are Barrayaran roses, growing on.

I love the way she took that one throwaway image and made it into a metaphor for all of Barrayar. It's one of the strongest filks I've ever encountered.

Date: 2017-05-20 11:41 pm (UTC)
justira: A purple, gender-ambiguous unicorn pony in the style of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (lady business)
From: [personal profile] justira
Thanks so much for the rec! That's some really good imagery! It's a shame about the malware warning =\

Date: 2017-05-21 02:49 am (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
This great, thanks! (Though the roses thing reminds me that Bujold is not an environmentalist and sometimes that bugs me.)

Date: 2017-05-20 01:25 am (UTC)
seventhe: (Cats: I LIKE THEM)
From: [personal profile] seventhe
Ok so I like all things about this post but because I wanna fight* in general let's fight: Komarr, I love it, and therefore why not on list?

So I relate with Ekaterin a lot as somebody who crawled out of an abusive relationship barely realizing how bad it was until much later, but even without the personal aspects I think Ekaterin is where we really see the good and the bad of Vor. She brings a new angle, and while we see some of it reflected from the bright mirror of Cordelia, Ekaterin IS Vor in a way Cordelia never was, and I found this book the most intricate byplay about Barayarran society and especially the woman's role.

It also really sums up the cultural dependence on the wormholes and the precarious edge Barrayar** sits upon in terms of advancement - it's all too obvious who has things to lose if Barrayar moves backwards again.

The thing is: Memory belongs on your list, and Civil Campaign does also, so I guess Komarr is the one to skip --- but let's talk about it plz

*where by fight I truly mean talk enthusiastically about awesome things ok
** my autocorrect hates this word

Date: 2017-05-20 11:59 pm (UTC)
justira: A purple, gender-ambiguous unicorn pony in the style of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (lady business)
From: [personal profile] justira
Like I mentioned in the post, Komarr is actually one of my favourites! I really like the plot, I love Ekaterin, and I enjoy the continued worldbuilding. And! Miles growing into his new role! I actually like how Bujold wrapped up the body-birth for Nikki thing in with the other Vor woman stuff, kind of sneaking it in with the mutation/gene-cleaning stuff — you know, women's-labour and all.

I also like how Ekaterin's experience with Tien kind of... helped her be able to stand up to Miles? (and lbr, her experience with Nikki >.>) Miles is an unholy terror and like... Cordelia and Aral raising him, jesus. [personal profile] novin_ha pointed out upstairs how Aral raising Miles meant he didn't have the time to be a father figure to Ivan. I actually like how in Diplomatic Immunity Ekaterin makes Miles slow down and explain and unpack things (not that managing men should be women's work, but still).

But yeah, the expansion on Komarr as a world, and on the mechanics of the Wormhole Nexus, is more stuff that I like about this particular book. I was very sad to leave it off! But basically every book I left off was torture ._.

Date: 2017-05-21 02:57 am (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
Well, since I was base my list on exposing the reader to all the different styles of books and trying not to have too many spoilers Komarr didn't fit.

But since you like Ekaterin so much have you read any Dorthy Sayers books with Harriet Vane? They are 1930's detective novels but she has similar character arch. Strong Poison is the 1st book she appears in.

Date: 2017-05-20 06:58 am (UTC)
frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Thank you for this! I'm not voting on the Hugos this year but I do want to read some of this series eventually! This list is so so helpful. Adding to memories!

Date: 2017-05-20 11:42 pm (UTC)
justira: A purple, gender-ambiguous unicorn pony in the style of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (lady business)
From: [personal profile] justira
Thanks so much for commenting! I hope the list helps you when you get to reading the series! =)

(Nice Connie icon!)

Date: 2017-05-21 09:37 pm (UTC)
bluemeridian: Bright red autumn olive berries (Default)
From: [personal profile] bluemeridian
As someone who hasn't read any of the series, I'm interested in tackling it in chrono order but would I be able to skip over Dreamweaver's Dilemma?

Date: 2017-05-21 09:52 pm (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
Yes it is set many hundreds of years before the rest of the series. You could also skip Falling Free which is set several hundred years before the main series --but reading it before Diplomatic Immunity.

Date: 2017-05-21 09:59 pm (UTC)
bluemeridian: Bright red autumn olive berries (Default)
From: [personal profile] bluemeridian
Excellent, thank you!

Date: 2017-05-21 09:56 pm (UTC)
justira: A purple, gender-ambiguous unicorn pony in the style of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (lady business)
From: [personal profile] justira
I agree with Anna — "Dreamweaver's Dilemma" is skippable, but read Falling Free at some point. Before Diplomatic Immunity is essential, but before "Labyrinth" is also good. On most rereads I like to get Falling Free out of the way relatively early, because it was one of the earlier-written books and is less slick, but I usually recommend that new readers start with Cordelia's Honor if they can handle the attempted rape, or Young Miles if they can't.

Date: 2017-05-21 09:59 pm (UTC)
bluemeridian: Bright red autumn olive berries (Default)
From: [personal profile] bluemeridian
Yay, thank you!

Date: 2017-05-21 10:31 pm (UTC)
spindizzy: Alice in chibi mode looking really confused, with the text "curiouser and curiouser" above her. (Curiouser and curiouser)
From: [personal profile] spindizzy
It looks like the only Vorkosigan book off this list I can lay hands on is Memory or the one in the Hugo packet that I've forgotten the name of. Is it... Worth starting with those?

Date: 2017-05-22 06:54 am (UTC)
owlmoose: (lady business - kj)
From: [personal profile] owlmoose
Jumping in here to suggest that you *not* start with Memory. Although it is my very favorite Vorkosigan book, it depends so much on everything that came before, and then sets up everything that comes after. I have no idea if it would work as a stand-alone, and it would definitely spoil you for the first part of the series.

If Memory and Borders of Infinity (the collection in the packet) are your only options, then I would recommend Borders of Infinity. It's a good sampler, but doesn't spoil too much if you decide you want to read the rest.

Date: 2017-05-22 09:22 am (UTC)
novin_ha: Cylons say all you need is love ([bsg] love is all you need)
From: [personal profile] novin_ha
Borders of infinity contains Mountain of Mourning, right? That's a really good place to start. I actually disliked the other two parts of Borders, but YMMV.

And I second re: Memory. It doesn't pack 1/10 of the same punch without knowing at least a few of the earlier novels.

Date: 2017-05-24 12:02 pm (UTC)
subsequent: (-the solution and the problem)
From: [personal profile] subsequent
I don't have anything in particular to add to the post (unless you would like excellent fanfic recommendations, because I have many) - I have mostly commented to FLAIL ABOUT THIS SERIES because it is amazing and I love it and I inhaled the last book in a few hours after it reached my hands.

ALSO: EKATERIN IS AMAZING AND I LOVE HER and her initial novel was the most well handled story of emotional abuse I have ever read.

also. just. butter bugs.


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