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Lois McMaster Bujold – Diplomatic Immunity

November 4, 2011

96. Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold (2002)
Vorkosigan Saga, Book 14

Read my review of book:
1. Falling Free*
2. Shards of Honor*
3. Barrayar
4. The Warrior’s Apprentice*
5. The Vor Game
6. Cetaganda
7. Ethan of Athos*
8. Brothers in Arms
9. Borders of Infinity
10. Mirror Dance
11. Memory
12. Komarr
13. A Civil Campaign
13.5 Winterfair Gifts
(stars indicate stand-alones/starting points)

Read By: Grover Gardner
Length: 10h 53m (384 pages)

Genre: Science Fiction

Started: 08 July 2011
Finished: 21 July 2011

Where did it come from? From Blackstone Audio for review.
Why do I have it? Vorkosigan Saga, hooray!

Quaddie bad guys should
be careful, since they’ve twice as
many fingerprints.

Summary: Miles and Ekaterin Vorkosigan deferred their honeymoon for a year after their wedding, but they’ve spent several months touring the nexus while their first children gestate in uterine replicators back on Barrayar. They’re on their way home to be present for the birth when Miles’s duties as Imperial Auditor intervene, and they are diverted to Graf Station to handle a budding diplomatic disaster. Graf Station is in Quaddiespace — home to a race of four-armed humans genetically engineered to be ideally adapted to zero g. A Komarran trade fleet with its Barrayaran military escort had docked at Graf Station, but when one of the Barrayaran officers went missing — presumably murdered — his fellow soldiers reacted badly. Now the Quaddies have impounded the ships and are holding a number of Barrayaran troublemakers as prisoners.

Miles is tasked with keeping the situation from escalating any further — a tricky business when the Quaddies’ fiercely proud independence runs up against the Barrayaran prejudice against genetic mutations. He has some unexpected help from the Betan hermaphrodite Bel Thorne, dismissed from the Dendarii mercenaries after the debacle on Jackson’s Whole, and now working as a Portmaster on Graf Station. But the deeper Miles digs into the matter of the missing crewman, the more complicated things become… and if the assassination attempts are any guide, there is someone aboard Graf Station who desperately wants to keep the truth hidden at any cost.

Review & Recommendation: The problem with having such a long series is that inevitably some of the books are going to be better than others, and the problem with having the best books in a series be in the middle is that it’s hard to sustain that level of awesomeness indefinitely. But the good news is that while Diplomatic Immunity doesn’t quite match up to the brilliance of Mirror Dance or A Civil Campaign, neither is it a far drop. It’s a solid, fast-paced mystery with plenty of twists and turns and a solution that fits but is never obvious — and one that Miles solved before I did, which was important when he’s billed as a brilliant tactical mind. My least favorite part about Memory, the previous Vorkosigan Saga mystery, was how oblivious Miles was to the answer that was staring me straight in the face; in the case of Diplomatic Immunity, though, I was constantly kept guessing, right up until the very satisfying end.

The other problem with having such a long series is the temptation to keep bringing back characters and elements from past books. In this case, I didn’t mind so much, although there is a slight sense that Miles now knows everyone in the universe, since he seems to be unable to go anywhere without running into a familiar face. I thought it was nice to see Bel again, and nice that it got more character development here than I remember it having in most of the previous books — and I got a little smug thrill every time I recognized a tie-in to Falling Free, the prequel that introduces the Quaddies. (The line about the Quaddie ballet — performed in zero g — and how the dancer playing Leo Graf was “supposed to dance like an engineer” in particular made me chuckle.) But I can see how the constant references to past books might be distracting or confusing for a reader who was primarily interested in the mystery.

My main gripe with the book was how quickly Ekaterin was shunted to the sidelines. She’s an awesome character, one that I’ve quickly come to love, and she proved in Komarr that she’s well able to handle herself even in tense and deadly situations. While I can understand her decision to keep her life and her work separate from Miles’s career, I also feel like this book could have been written so that she had a more active and helpful role to play, rather than spending some time looking at the Quaddies’ gardens before being banished to a separate ship “for her safety.” The previous two books spent so much time emphasizing the point that she wanted to be in charge of her own destiny, I would hate to see her become Miles’s sidekick rather than his partner.

Actually, my main gripe with Diplomatic Immunity is that now that I’ve finished it, I’m down to less than twelve hours of Vorkosigan Saga listening left. The audio production was flawless as always, and Grover Gardner captures Miles’s voice like no one else could. But it’s bittersweet — as much as I enjoyed this book, and as much as I’ve absolutely loved the Vorkosigan Saga as a whole, I’m not ready for it to end. 4 out of 5 stars.

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First Line: In the image above the vid plate, the sperm writhed in elegant, sinuous curves.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2011 1:45 pm

    Hey, it’s not ended! Bujold’s surely going to write more!

    Hm. In isolation, that is one strange first line.

    • November 15, 2011 9:35 am

      Bookwyrme – Okay, not ended in the grand scheme of things, but ended in the sense that I am caught up with no more immediately at hand to read. :)

  2. November 8, 2011 3:10 am

    I thought that about Ekaterin, too – and she barely appears in CryoBurn, either, which slightly annoyed me.

    • November 15, 2011 9:36 am

      Ela – Argh, agreed. She’s such a great character, and I got so invested in her after the Miles in Love books that it’s frustrating that she more-or-less disappears.

  3. November 8, 2011 2:51 pm

    I would have liked to see more of her, too. It’s not as if Bujold doesn’t know how to write ensembles, either.

    • November 15, 2011 9:37 am

      Bookwyrme – Exactly! Ekaterin’s capable of helping, and Bujold’s capable of writing it, so seeing her punted to the sidelines was really frustrating.

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