Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

Monday, February 15, 2016


Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
Lois McMaster Bujold, 2015

Premise: Three years after the end of Cryoburn, Cordelia Vorkosigan takes a long look at her life up to this point, and what she wants going forward.

I agree with many reviewers that this is a polarizing book. Whether you like it will really depend on what you enjoy the Vorkosigan series for. If you only like the adventure and excitement, this is not the book for you. If you more deeply value the complexity of the characters that Bujold has carefully constructed over the series, if your favorite parts are those of reflection and emotion, than you might find a real winner here.

I loved it.

I’m going to try not to say too much about the central conceit/reveal of this book, although it comes up early. I will say that while I understand to a point those fans who were unable to get behind it, for me it clicked immediately. It fit with everything that had gone before, but cast many things in a new light. (Yes, I did go back and check The Vor Game.)

I had recently re-read Shards of Honor/Barrayar, and I think that really enhanced my appreciation of the story. Cordelia’s history and the start of her and Aral’s romance was fresh in my mind, so all of the scenes here that looked back over their life together really worked for me.

And when Miles finally appears as a secondary character, I was surprised how satisfying I found it that the book feels honest around him. He's getting older, and he lived hard in the early books, and his upbringing and experiences combine to create a flawed person who feels real and true.

This feels like a potential cap to the series. It creates a solid arc that starts in Shards of Honor and ends here. It’s not that there couldn’t be more with any of these characters, and it’s not that Bujold couldn’t easily write more in this world. But if this were the end, this whole book feels like a denouement.

The themes were as rich and lovely as I have come to expect from Bujold: the many acts of life, the secrets and nuances of families, how aging changes or doesn’t change us, love and all the forms it takes over a lifetime. And of course, the particularly SF issues, like the effects of longevity and reproductive technologies on the forms families and relationships can take.

By all means don’t start with this one, but if you’re a fan of the series, walk in with an open mind. It made my heart hurt in a beautiful way.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

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