Cryoburn (Vorkosigan Saga #14)
Lois McMaster Bujold, 2010
Lois McMaster Bujold, 2010
Premise: Lord Auditor Miles Vorkosigan and Armsman Roic are on Kibou-daini to investigate a sketchy business venture that one of the cryofreezing corporations based there has planned for Komarr. Complications ensue, as usual.
I liked this book, and was slightly sad that I did not love it. I do want to emphasize that I did enjoy it very much, and had it not been for sky-high hopes, I would probably have loved it without reservation. This is the double edge of having authors that you trust to be great: you can be disappointed if they're not amazing.
Many of the Vorkosigan books are About something, with a capital “A”, but not in that annoying way that I remember from grade school. Memory is about life changes, and unexpected paths. A Civil Campaign is about love and romance, Barrayar is about motherhood. Cryoburn is about life and death; children and old age.
The planet Kibou-daini is obsessed with cryofreezing, and they put almost all of their populace in cold storage before they die in the hopes of future cures or longevity treatments. This, combined with some unorthodox voting policies, creates some interesting political problems and a nasty series of monopolies running most everything. It's a really neat setting.
Where this book shines brightest is in the character interactions. It's been 7 years in-world since the last book, and Miles is almost 40. You can feel him, not slowing down, but changing, settling a bit, with age. His interactions with other recurring characters speak to their shared history, almost to the extent of repeating old jokes. It doesn't always make for scintillating dialogue, but it feels real; people gently reference their past adventures with each other, and give into a bit of nostalgia now and then.
This runs the risk of feeling like old hat to those of us fans who are familiar with the entire series, but mostly I think Bujold rides the line well. The only place I think she goes too far is in the tangent about Taura, and I know she had to leave that scene for those same fans.
The other two main characters are (20-something) Armsman Roic, last explored in Winterfair Gifts, and a young orphan named Jin who befriends Miles, giving a spectrum of ages in the viewpoints. Miles' children (4 total, plus step-son Nikki!) are almost entirely off-screen, so to speak, but a presence nonetheless.
I absolutely loved the beginning chapters, but felt that the plot wandered a bit through the middle. I look forward to reading it again, now that I'm not racing ahead to find out what happens, just to enjoy the writing. It probably won't be one I re-read and re-read, though. In the scale of this series, I'd put it in the lower middle: above Ethan of Athos, Falling Free, The Vor Game and Brothers in Arms, right below the level of Cetaganda and Mirror Dance, maybe?
It's a mark of how much I love the series that a middling-to-average entry is still:
4 Stars – A Really Good Book
Side note to those who've read it: I haven't decided how I feel about the Afterword yet. I like the idea and the content, just not sure about the style. It makes me very curious about the next book.