Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

All reviews copyright 1984-2017 Evelyn C. Leeper.


[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/21/2013]

I started CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S ALLIANCE by Lois McMaster Bujold (ISBN 978-1-451-63845-5) but it had the same problem that the Mira Grant novella did--if you were not up to speed by having read all the other works in the "Vorkosigan" universe, you would probably have problems following this.

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CETAGANDA by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen, ISBN 0-671-87701-1, 1996, 302pp, hardback):

Some of Bujold's "Miles Vorkosigan" stories are serious examinations of deep issues. Cetaganda is not. It's a murder mystery.

Miles Vorkosigan and his cousin Ivan go to Cetaganda to attend a state funeral. When they arrive, they are mysteriously attacked; then there is a murder. The rest of the novel is basically Miles solving the murder, along with unraveling a plot involved genetic engineering banks and a possible coup. As such, Cetaganda seems to be written for people who are already fans of the series; if you haven't read any of the other stories, you will probably not find this one anything special, and you will undoubtedly wonder what all the fuss is about the series. This is, I believe, the first Vorkosigan novel to be published in hardback, and I find that a bit ironic, since it is a fairly lightweight entry. It's enjoyable enough, but you might as well wait for the paperback unless you're a collector of first editions. (And why did they decide to use a cover so similar to that of Mirror Dance? I mean, the two heads facing each other made sense there, but for this book they are meaningless.)

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CRYOBURN by Lois McMaster Bujold:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/13/2011]

I normally leave the reviewing of the Hugo-nominated novels to Joe Karpierz, but I do feel obliged to say that CRYOBURN by Lois McMaster Bujold (ISBN 978-1-4391-3394) is the most lightweight, and at the same time, annoying Hugo novel nominee I've seen in a long time. Bujold assumes the reader knows all about Miles, his background, and his medical problems; nothing really happens; even the slightest hint of danger or menace is relieved in only a few pages; and the whole thing seems to be a very thinly veiled complaint about the mortgage crisis. (When they started talking about "commodifying [cryogenic] contracts" on page 114, I fully expected the contracts to end up being called Cryogenic Debt Obligations, or CDOs.)

In fact, Kelly Jennings is spot-on in her review of CRYOBURN in "Strange Horizons" (02/18/11): nothing at risk for the main characters, too much focus on the YA aspects of the story, and a whole lot of insensitivity towards economic or social inequality. Kelly observes that on Barryar, "counts and emperors rule so well that industrious serfs are happy to serve." On Kibou-daini, the rulers are not so "enlightened", but there does not seem to be any recognition that this is something to be concerned about. As Jennings writes, "On Barrayar, as Bujold has written it, this works very well. ... But when [Bujold] makes the leap to a world where people eat frozen pizza and live in tiny flats and worry about health insurance and daycare--our world--it's a lot harder to buy the argument that we should trust the Liege Lord, since he knows what's best. This is especially true when we see Miles treating Jin like a tool he's going to use and leave behind; or when Roic and Lord Mark, characters we are meant to like and identify with, mock the impoverished and the ignorant for no crime other than being impoverished and ignorant." The main (local) characters do end up better off through a fairy-tale sort of solution, but everyone else is still stuck.

The fascination of fantasy with feudalism and monarchy has, of course, been much discussed, and its "overflow" into science fiction is not all that surprising. The sub-genre of "science fantasy" is full of examples. The "Star Wars" saga may have science fiction props, but its underlying philosophy comes from fantasy. So while the "Vorkosigan" saga is set in a world of interstellar empires and all sorts of advanced technology, it's still basically fantasy. But when that fantasy gets moved to what is in effect our world, we get a disconnect.

Having been disappointed by Connie Willis's BLACKOUT/ALL CLEAR as well, I can only hope that the other three nominees are worthier choices.

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PALADIN OF SOULS by Lois McMaster Bujold:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 04/23/2004]

And one non-review: I am working my way through the Hugo and Retro-Hugo nominees. I read 150 pages of Lois McMaster Bujold's PALADIN OF SOULS before giving up. (And, yes, I had read the first book in the series, THE CURSE OF CHALION.) I understand that a lot of people liked this, but for me it was the Eight Deadly Words Effect that killed it: "I don't care what happens to these people."

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PENRIC AND THE SHAMAN by Lois McMaster Bujold:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/23/2017]

PENRIC AND THE SHAMAN by Lois McMaster Bujold (ISBN 978-1-596-06815-5): This is part of a continuing series by Bujold, and while it is okay, I suspect if I were more familiar with the series, I might have appreciated it more. As it was, I often found myself thinking I was missing something in my understanding of what was going on.

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"Winterfair Gifts" by Lois McMaster Bujold:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/10/2005]

"Winterfair Gifts" by Lois McMaster Bujold (in the anthology IRRESISTIBLE FORCES) is another Miles Vorkosigan story. Way back when, when I was young, and most of you probably not born yet, "Galaxy" magazine ran a back cover on which the left column was the start of a Western story, and the right column was the start of a science fiction story which was identical to the left column with just a few word replacements (e. g., "blaster" for "six-shooter"). And at the bottom, it said that "Galaxy" was going to have real science fiction, not just Westerns tricked up as science fiction. "Winterfair Gifts" is a romance/mystery tricked up as science fiction, and another mystery is how it got nominated for a Hugo.

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