Posted by Sari
reason this has been surprisingly difficult entry to compose, I know why I find
Bujold extremely satisfying writer, but I have been struggling with how to say
it. Lois MacMaster Bujold writes space opera and fantasy and lately also both
in the romantic subgenre. Most of her formidable collection of Hugo statuettes
are for books belonging to her Vorkosigan saga, a series of novels about
magnetic but diminutive Miles Vorkosigan, the scion of a noble house on planet
Barrayar. Barrayar is struggling to rejoin galactic humanity after centuries of
isolation during which it had adopted a monarchical system of government
vaguely reminicent of 18th-century France
On one level, Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels are exciting space operatic romps with royalty, conspiracies, secret missions, captivating characters and delightfull derring do with cousin Ivan, that idiot, but what pushes them that extra notch up on my scale is the way Bujold sneaks in quite serious sociological and psychological themes almost casually among the action, romance and comedy. For example, Civil Campaing is a romantic comedy, the story of Miles grandiose and hamfisted efforts to woo his lady love. But it is also a sly look at reproductive rights in a society where male heirs and primogeniture are paramount but which has recently adopted advanced technology like ex-utero gestation.
In my chosen novel, Komarr, similar dual layered structure is at work. On one hand it is a detective story. Miles in his new job as Imperial Auditor is dispatched to Komarr, planet Barrayar has violently annexed to its empire, to investigate an explosion which might be sabotage. On the planet he meets Ekaterin, long-suffering wife of the chief administrator Tien Vorsoisson, a man who seems to be somehow involved in the sabotage. The novel shifts between Miles and Ekaterin’s points of view, and thus in between the well crafted mystery plot culminating on a hostage situation on a space station, there is a believable and terse look at a woman struggling to find her way out of a relationship that has over the years turned into emotional abuse and soul-destroying duty. And somehow Bujold manages to write these both stories seamlessly together. Now that is craftsmanship of highest order.
And I am glad to see that Jo Walton, World Fantasy Award winning author of the best dragon novel ever, Tooth and Claw agrees with me on Bujold’s excellence.