Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Vorkosigan Saga" reread: "The Vor Game" by Lois McMaster Bujold

I am going forward with my reread of the "Vorkosigan Saga" by Lois McMaster Bujold, so last week I finished "The Vor Game", the second book featuring adventures of Miles Vorkosigan.

"The Vor Game" takes place few years after "The Warrior's Apprentice". Miles has spent last three years in the Imperial Academy, training to become a normal (as he can be) Barrayaran officer. After finishing it successfully, he gets another test before being let to proceed with his career - a 6-month post on Kyril Island, one of most extreme and stressful bases on Barrarayar. After almost managing to avoid any troubles, he is forced to choose between his career and his conscience, which again lands him in political troubles. All this is just a prelude into his new adventures that will once again join him with his Dendarian Fleet. Miles will be forced to manipulate both his friends and his enemies. But this time, much more depends on Miles - life of his Emperor, and fate of several planets.

Even though "The Vor Game" was written after several other books in the same setting, it is not such a smooth read as was "The Warrior's Apprentice", at least in the beginning. Bujold introduces a lot of expansions on the setting and throws in a lot of unfamiliar terms (fast-penta, galactic history and relationships, and so on...). Nevertheless, this doesn't damage the enjoyment of reading this book. Again, Bujold was able to make a SF setting far in the future without disclosing the technology behind it - instead focusing on characters and the plot. Again, the book is darker than I remembered it.

There are lot of similarities between plots of "The Vor Game" and its prequel, but as I said before, this one is for bigger stakes. First part of the book (one third, maybe) is focused more on Barrayar, and it brings it much closer that the first part had. But as the book goes forward, so the plots becomes much faster and risks bigger. My favorite part of it is the head-to-head negotiation between Miles and Commander Cavilo near the end - some really good fast-talk. It is funny and thrilling at the same time.

Characters are Bujold's forte, starting with Miles. You can see he has grown, but he became more solid and thicker in the frames that were set in "The Warrior's Apprentice". Other characters are also great. In this book we are first time really introduced to Simon Illyan who will have a large role in series, as one of most important reference points for Miles. If I have to point one thing that I didn't like, that was the easy shortcut that Bujold took with Admiral Oser.

"The Vor Game" continues and expands the formula Bujold wrote with "The Warrior's Apprentice" - a thrilling and rushing military SF. Except if you are a really hard-core hard SF fan, this is a book and series I would recommend to anybody

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