Lois McMaster Bujold – Cryoburn
|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
|9. Borders of Infinity
10. Mirror Dance
13. A Civil Campaign
13.5 Winterfair Gifts
14. Diplomatic Immunity
|(stars indicate stand-alones/starting points)|
Read By: Grover Gardner
Length: 10h 33m (352 pages)
Genre: Science Fiction
Started: 23 August 2011
Finished: 05 September 2011
Where did it come from? From Blackstone Audio for review.
Why do I have it? Vorkosigan Saga! I mean, really.
This planet takes the
phrase “My parents are cool” to
a whole new level.
Summary: In this most recent installment of the Vorkosigan Saga, Miles finds himself on Kibou-daini, a planet with a highly unique political organization. The entire planet is controlled by competing cryonics corporations. Kibou-daini culture encourages people to be frozen prior to death, in hopes of a future in which their various illnesses and accidents and ravages of age can be cured. However, since the cryocorp then controls the votes of its patrons — who are not, after all, technically dead — cryo-preservation is much more common than cryo-revival.
Miles, who has a personal stake in the matter, having been through cryo-preservation and revival once himself, has been sent by Emperor Gregor to attend a cryonics conference on Kibou-daini, both to learn about the new technology, and to investigate a company who is looking to expand their business to Komarr. The conference is attacked by a radical group of anti-cryonics dissenters, but Miles escapes from his would-be kidnappers only to find himself heavily drugged and lost in the cryo-storage catacombs. He’s rescued by Gene, an eleven-year-old boy who has been living as a runaway ever since his mother, another political dissenter, was frozen under suspicious circumstances a year and a half ago. Miles didn’t want anyone else to become embroiled in the current mess, but in attempting to do right by Gene, Miles uncovers evidence that points to a potential planetary takeover scheme… and something even more sinister going on right there on Kibou-daini.
Review and Recommendation: Taken on its own merits, Cryoburn is a solid, engaging conspiracy thriller. It builds its mystery well, has plenty of action, interesting, sympathetic characters, and keeps everything moving along at a good clip. However, viewed through the lens of the rest of the Vorkosigan Saga, Cryoburn is somewhat of a let-down on several fronts.
I think the most obvious of these is its very ability to stand on its own merits. Readers that have stuck around through the fourteen previous books in the series have not done so because Lois McMaster Bujold can write solid, engaging conspiracy thrillers, but because we love the characters she’s created, and want to spend more time with them… preferably while they’re in the midst of solid, engaging conspiracy thrillers. This book takes place roughly six years after Diplomatic Immunity; Miles and Ekaterin now have four kids, and are in completely different places in their lives. But because most of the conflict in Cryoburn is external rather than interpersonal, (and because all we see of Ekaterin and the kids is one short vid message from home), I came out of the book feeling somewhat shortchanged, like there were a lot of interesting stories and bits of character development on which I was missing out.
This was particularly brought home by the abruptness of the ending. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but while I can see the reasons behind why Bujold handled the ending the way she did, I felt like was important enough to merit more space on the page than it got.
Not that Cryoburn didn’t have its redeeming features. I thought Gene was an excellent character, and enjoyed his POV chapters more than I thought I would, given his non-Vorkosigan status. (My childhood Zoobooks-loving heart also went out to him and his menagerie and his supply of biology-related trivia.) I also really enjoyed how Bujold used the premise of cryonics to bring up attitudes towards death and dying, particularly from Miles, who has already died once, and is further coming to grips with his own mortality as he grows up.
So, while this was an enjoyable listening experience, with nothing actually wrong with it, it just didn’t have enough of what I wanted to be completely satisfying. In a way, I’m very lucky that I came to the series late (and in their audio format — Grover Gardner will forever be the voice of Miles in my head); if I had been forced to wait the eight years after Diplomatic Immunity for Cryoburn to be published, I think I’d be even more dissatisfied with its lack of connection to what’s come before. Now that I’m caught up, though, I can only hope that it’s not another eight years before we get another novel starring Miles and (hopefully) the rest of the Vorkosigan clan; I’ve hugely enjoyed having them be such a large part of my reading life for the past few years. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be off starting again at the beginning… 4 out of 5 stars.
The e-book of Cryoburn and most of the other Vorkosigan Saga books are available for free from Baen CD.
First Line: Angels were falling all over the place.
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