Miles Vorkosigan’s perilous rite of passage

Miles Vorkosigan: The Vor Game by Lois McMaster BujoldThe Vor Game (Vorkosigan Saga #5) by Lois McMaster Bujold

@@@@ (4 out of 5)

Miles Vorkosigan is just under four feet nine inches tall—a dwarf, by today’s legal definition. Because he was poisoned in his mother’s womb, his growth was stunted, his spine curved, and now his bones are so brittle they may break if squeezed hard enough. Miles is the son of Admiral Count Aral Vorkosigan, Prime Minister of the planet of Barrayar, and Cordelia Naismith, formerly a captain in the armed forces of Beta Colony, an erstwhile enemy. With ancestors including emperors of Barrayar, Miles carries the genes of leadership. He is a military genius whose quick wit and unrivaled instinct for strategy more than compensate for his small stature and physical weakness.

Miles is the central figure in most of the sixteen novels that comprise the Vorkosigan Saga, several books of which have won Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards for Lois McMaster Bujold. Bujold won the Hugo Award four times, matching the record achieved by Robert A. Heinlein—and it’s easy to see why. The space operas that comprise the Vorkosigan Saga are several cuts above the classics in that genre from the 1940s and 50s, the Golden Age of Science Fiction. They sparkle with witty dialogue and humor, characters come across as three-dimensional, they’re action-packed, and the plotting is invariably complex and full of surprises. In short, these books are fun to read.

A word of warning, though: Bujold wrote these novels far out of sequence, with the publication dates of sequels often separated by many years. To avoid getting lost, it’s wise to read them in order of the chronology of the saga, not the order of publication.

The Vor Game is the fifth novel in the Vorkosigan Saga. (I’ve now read all five, having chosen to skip the  two novellas that precede it in the chronology.) As the story begins, Miles has just graduated from officers’ training as an ensign and is assigned to the last place he would ever choose to go: a godforsaken basic training camp on an island in the frozen north of Barrayar. He’s told he will only receive a more desirable posting if he can avoid insubordination for six months. (Yes, Miles’ mouth repeatedly gets him into trouble.) Naturally, circumstances soon conspire to force him to defy the camp’s commanding general. And that’s only the beginning of this twisted tale.

The plot of The Vor Game twists and turns so frequently that some readers may grow dizzy. Summarizing the story without spoiling it would be difficult, because much of the fun is encountering the constant surprises that confront Miles. You’ve got to read it to understand it.

My review of the first novel in the series, Falling Free, is An outstanding sci-fi series. The second, Shards of Honor, is The exciting second book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. You’ll find the third, Barrayar, here: The Vorkosigan Saga: much more than a space opera. Number four, The Warrior’s Apprentice, is In Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, Miles begins his journey.

If you enjoy reading sci-fi, you might also check out my post, My 27 favorite science fiction novels. And if you fancy looking on the dark side, you might like to check out My 6 favorite dystopian novels and 24 compelling dystopian novels in series.


Mal Warwick