Lois McMaster Bujold, 1990
Hugo Winner - 1991
Premise: Miles Vorkosigan graduates from the Imperial Service Academy and gets his first assignment: Weather Officer at a remote, unhappy base. Later, foiling plots and surviving the complex intrigue of interplanetary warfare should be easy.
This isn’t one that I re-read as frequently as some others in this series, but reading it again now, perhaps I should revise that habit. The story mainly concerns a series of adventures and misadventures in the Hegen Hub, a crossroads in space held between four planetary powers, each jockeying for position, spying on each other, and nervous about increased tensions.
The beginning isn’t the strongest part. Miles is shipped off to his ill-fated meteorological assignment, and while it’s a great little interlude, important in the formation of Miles’ character and his career, it’s sort of stressful to re-read. The second half is more fast-paced and frankly more fun.
But the heart of this book is motivation, service, and what you fight for. The various characters, heroes and villains, are pulled in many directions by personal, professional, and moral convictions. Miles is trying to find a way to serve his planet, despite a predilection for insubordination and a mania for control. General Metzov from the arctic base says a lot about honor and service, but his moral compass is a bit… askew. Cavilo fights only for herself; Tung wants his command back but has firm moral codes; Oser’s morality tends toward pragmatism. Elena and Baz are struggling with their duties to the mercenary fleet and their duties to themselves and each other.
I think this is one of the first times, but not the last, that it is stated in this series - the idea that to be Vor (of the military aristocracy of Barrayar) is to serve. The Vor Game pokes at all the nuances of that service, from Miles’ nascent career to Emperor Gregor’s dissatisfaction with his own role.
That’s on top of memorable characters, action, escapes, emotional turmoil, and grand schemes. Bujold packs a lot into a book.
5 Stars - An Awesome Book