Lois McMaster Bujold – Cetaganda
|Read my review of book:|
|1. Falling Free*
2. Shards of Honor*
4. The Warrior’s Apprentice*
|5. The Vor Game
7. Ethan of Athos*
8. Brothers in Arms
|(stars indicate stand-alones/starting points)|
Read By: Grover Gardner
Length: 9h 18m (352 pages)
Genre: Science Fiction
Started: 06 February 2011
Finished: 15 February 2011
Where did it come from? From Blackstone Audio for review.
Why do I have it? Vorkosigan novels, yay!
Miles can’t even go
to a funeral without
getting in trouble.
Summary: The Cetagandan Empire may be Barrayar’s main military rival, but when the Cetagandan Empress dies, political niceties must still be maintained. In this case, the young officer Miles Vorkosigan, son of the Barrayaran Prime Minister, and his cousin Ivan are sent to Cetaganda to attend the galactic funeral proceedings. However, they’ve barely made it off their spaceship — and haven’t, to their knowledge, offended anyone yet — when they’re attacked by a servant of the late empress… The same servant who is later found in the middle of the mourning procession with his throat cut.
Miles and Ivan are torn about how to report this incident, and to whom, and puzzled as to how they’ve acquired such obviously powerful enemies so quickly. Also puzzling is the mysterious object left behind: a seemingly inert rod bearing the seal of the Star Crèche — the elite genetic repository for the Cetagandan upper class. The Cetagandan aristocracy is rigidly stratified, with the Ghem Lords in charge of the military, and the Haut Lords ruling the Ghem. The Haut exist in such luxury and seclusion that Haut Ladies travel everywhere inside opaque force-field bubbles, seen in the flesh by no one outside the Haut.
With that social system in mind, Miles is shocked when a Haut Lady corners him to demand the return of the missing object. But given that he still doesn’t know why he and Ivan were attacked in the first place, Miles is unsure whom to trust, even as he uncovers a plot that could shatter the very foundations of the Cetagandan Empire.
Review: The more I listen, the more I realize that the Vorkosigan Saga books come in several distinct types, and Cetaganda has confirmed that I prefer the books that are centered around a mystery more than the books that focus heavily on military strategy. Sleuthing beats spacefights, at least on my own personal scale. Cetaganda takes place almost entirely planet-side, and it’s got a good and delicious mystery at its core. It’s well paced, with each fresh revelation only leading to a deeper mystery, so that you’re left feeling satisfied yet intrigued throughout. Clues are sprinkled around, although some of the more important ones are subtle enough that they can zip right past and be gone if you’re not listening closely.
While Lois McMaster Bujold’s familiar themes of identity and what makes a person who they are continue to be developed throughout the book, what I found the most interesting thematically was the development of the Cetagandan caste system and the relative role of gender. Bujold has built a society that takes traditional gender roles and power structures and gives them a new twist, taking them to their extremes in a way I’ve not seen before. The world of the unapproachable Haut Ladies actually makes a very interesting counterpoint to the all-male society of Ethan of Athos, which is the next book in the series’ internal chronology.
This book also had a very interesting play on the political boundaries of the Barrayaran Empire. Barrayar and Cetaganda, while not (currently) active enemies, are tense rivals at best, and Miles finds himself in a position where he can choose to save the Cetagandan power base from falling into disarray. The ending of the book hints at the broader political implications of his choices, but I thought they could have been expanded upon more than they were.
The audio production was seamlessly enjoyable; Gardner’s slightly sarcastic voice is a great fit both for Miles’s character and for Bujold’s dry wit. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Miles’s background is less important to Cetaganda than it is to some of the other mid-series Vorkosigan novels, so it could ostensibly be read on its own. However, it’s a lot richer for knowing more about the rest of the Galactic worlds, to better bring Cetagandan society into contrast.
First Line: “Now is it, ‘Diplomacy is the art of war pursued by other men,'” asked Ivan, or was it the other way around? ‘War is diplo–‘”
© 2011 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.