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Lois McMaster Bujold – Cryoburn

December 2, 2011

116. Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold (2010)
Vorkosigan Saga, Book 15

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
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.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

The e-book of Cryoburn and most of the other Vorkosigan Saga books are available for free from Baen CD.

Other Reviews: Bibliophage’s Buffet, Ela’s Book Blog, Grasping for the Wind, Gripping Books, Reading the Leaves
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Angels were falling all over the place.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2011 2:05 pm

    There was a lot about CryoBurn that I liked, though I did miss Ekaterin again – Jin and his animals, and his determination not to go back to his aunt, for example. I did feel that I had suffered through not having previously read whichever book it is where Miles dies and is cryogenically frozen.

    I agree with you about the abruptness of the ending – I wondered whether that means no more Vorkosigan books…

    • December 8, 2011 9:36 am

      Ela – Oh, you absolutely should go back and read Mirror Dance. It’s wonderful, one of my favorites in the series.

      As for the future of the Vorkosigan Saga, Bujold’s written some thoughts about this in The Vorkosigan Companion (Chapter 2, in particular). I think it’s safe to say that future Vorkosigan books will be a fair bit different from what’s come before, at any rate. But really, as long as she keeps writing *anything*, I’ll be happy. I’d love another Chalion book, too!

  2. Bill Woods permalink
    December 3, 2011 5:20 pm

    Jin, not Gene.

    I believe there’s another book in the works, starring Ivan and set between Immunity and CryoBurn.

    • December 8, 2011 9:40 am

      Bill – I listened to the audiobooks rather than reading the print version, and Grover Gardner pronounced it Gene. Jin does make more sense, given the rest of the culture, but hey, I figured a galactic diaspora could result in some weird naming conventions.

      I don’t know how I feel about an Ivan-centric book; I love him, but as a sole protagonist, I’m not sure. Although if it means we get more of Ekaterin in the bargain, I’m sure I’ll come around.

      • Bill Woods permalink
        April 6, 2012 4:47 pm

        Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance
        By Lois McMaster Bujold
        Baen , November 2012

        “Captain Ivan Vorpatril is happy with his relatively uneventful bachelor’s life of a staff officer to a Barrayaran admiral. …”

        You may not be able to see this page
        http://bar.baen.com/index.php?t=msg&th=84146&start=0&
        if you’re not logged into the site, but if you can, scroll down to
        “Barrayaran Imperial Auditor Lord Miles Naismith Vorkosigan interviewed by Lois McMaster Bujold”.

      • April 18, 2012 5:28 pm

        Bill – Oooh, that might be worth creating an account just to access! Thanks for the tip!

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