Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Publication: Baen; Har/Cdr edition (October 19, 2010)

Description: Kibou-daini is a planet obsessed with cheating death. Barrayaran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan can hardly disapprove—he’s been cheating death his whole life, on the theory that turnabout is fair play. But when a Kibou-daini cryocorp—an immortal company whose job it is to shepherd its all-too-mortal frozen patrons into an unknown future—attempts to expand its franchise into the Barrayaran Empire, Emperor Gregor dispatches his top troubleshooter Miles to check it out.

On Kibou-daini, Miles discovers generational conflict over money and resources is heating up, even as refugees displaced in time skew the meaning of generation past repair. Here he finds a young boy with a passion for pets and a dangerous secret, a Snow White trapped in an icy coffin who burns to re-write her own tale, and a mysterious crone who is the very embodiment of the warning Don’t mess with the secretary. Bribery, corruption, conspiracy, kidnapping—something is rotten on Kibou-daini, and it isn’t due to power outages in the Cryocombs. And Miles is in the middle—of trouble!

My Thoughts: I can't say enough good things about this book or this series. Miles is a wonderful character. He is a child of privilege who was born with deformities that made some members of his mutation-averse culture clamor for his death. He is a plot magnet because some theories say he is better suited by ancestry to be emperor than the current emperor. He is a hyperactive genius. He is intensely loyal to his planet and his emperor but not averse to calling out both when he thinks they are wrong.

In this story, Miles has settled into being an Imperial Auditor and has settled into being a family man surrounded by his wife and four young children. Because Imperial Auditors are Emperor Gregor's troubleshooters, Miles is sent to see what is going on on Kibou-Daini and to make sure that whatever it is doesn't constitute a threat to the Barrayaran Empire. Miles is of the opinion that anything worth doing is worth over-doing. So his visit to Kibu-Daini has the potential to remake the planet. Even though his loyal armsman/assistant/bodyguard keeps telling him that it is not his job.

While Bujold does explore the implications of successful cryofreezing of the elderly on society, the science doesn't overwhelm the book. Her science fiction is very much character-oriented. Her characters are well-drawn and very realistic. Each has and shows a unique personality and viewpoint. She makes you care about even minor characters in her stories.

An interesting point in this series is that we get a chance to see Miles Vorkosigan through the viewpoints of characters who don't know him or his history. Jin, a young boy who is a native of Kibu-Daini, provides one of the voices. He is an animal lover who has run away from the aunt and uncle who have been caring for him since his mother was seized by one of the cryocorps and frozen to silence her protests against the corporations. Jin has fallen in with a rogue cryofreezing operation that is determined to offer this option to those who could not otherwise afford it. When Jin discovers Miles wandering on the street under the influence of drugs that are causing halucinations, he takes Miles home with him and, therefore, involves Miles in his life.

The Miles Vorkosigan series is filled with characters who will take root in your heart. And, after being seduced by the remarkable characters, you will be dipping into the books again and again because of the beautiful language, crisp dialog, and underlying good humor of the stories. 

Buying the hardcover of Cryoburn now not only introduces you to a very memorable character but gives you the rest of the series too. Each first edition hardcover comes with a CD-ROM that contains almost all the books. (I haven't checked this myself but am told that Memory is not here.) Here is information from the CD:
You are about to start playing with a new Baen CD-ROM. Welcome! It includes not only the latest book in the series, Cryoburn, but the ENTIRE Vorkosigan Saga in several formats—and The Vorkosigan Companion—all of it beautifully unencrypted and unencumbered. But wait, there’s more! Also on this disk are interviews with author Lois McMaster Bujold, and various other interesting tidbits including a sample of the French language Miles Vorkosiagn graphic novel! More than fourteen novels for free—and with no stupid codes to work around. Think of that.
That is quite a bargain for the $13.99 that Amazon and The Book Depository are asking for this book today. I can't recommend this book highly enough. But I will say "Buy it, buy it NOW!"

Favorite Quote:
She blew out her lips in a short laugh. "At the time, I didn't think we'd go more than a year before we all ended up in jail. I figured it more of a hopeless protest than anything. Then the street people started coming in, even more desperate than we were, and we found we couldn't quit. Couldn't betray them as everyone else had."

"The world is make by people who show up for the job," Miles agreed.


  1. Sounds like a very "huge" book with a very varied cast.

  2. Kathy, I love your description of Miles. And yes, Bujold makes us care about all of her characters. I always want to know what happens to them. Plus, she usually has something profound to say, though it never interferes with telling a great story.

    Oh, and thanks for the information. I never even looked at the CD that came with the book!


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