Saturday, May 7, 2011

Review: A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold

A Civil Campaign 
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Publication: Baen; Reprint edition (August 1, 2000)

Description: One cunning plan too many? It's spring in Vorbarr Sultana, and a young person's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love ...lack of money ...incompatible planetary sexual mores ...District succession scandals ...the Emperor's wedding ...and, of course, love ...

Lord Miles Vorkosigan, youngest Imperial Auditor to be appointed by the Emperor since the Time of Isolation, has a problem all his new power can't solve: unrequited love for the beautiful Vor widow Ekaterin Vorsoisson. Ekaterin is violently allergic to marriage as a result of her first exposure. But as Miles learned from his late career in galactic covert ops, if a frontal assault won't do, go to subterfuge. He has a cunning plan ...

Lord Mark Vorkosigan has a problem: his love for the sunny Kareen, daughter of Commodore Koudelka, has just become unrequited again. But if all his new money can't solve their dilemma, perhaps a judicious blending of science and entrepreneurial scheming might. He has a cunning plan ...'

It's another winner with all kinds of unexpected adventures ...Georgette Heyer has met her match for intrigue and style! A sprightly conducted romance with twists and turns that could only happen in a Vorkosigan-inspired novel...Boy, can she write!' -Anne McCaffrey.

My Thoughts: I have lost count of the number of times that I have read this book. Each time I get lost in the story and the wonderful language. Bujold has polished each word like a precious gem. I have highlighted so many favorite quotes that almost the whole book is highlighted.

The basic stories that are interwoven in this episode of the Vorkosigan saga are these: Miles is secretly courting Ekaterin (secret from her, that is) because her previous bad marriage ended with the accidental death of her husband; Ekaterin is trying to decide who she is and what she wants for her future; Mark is coming home to Barrayar to start a new bio-business trailing a clueless Escobaran biochemist and his 8000 bugs; Kareen is home from Beta Colony and trying to find her place as an independent adult; Lady Donna goes to Beta Colony and comes back Lord Dono to claim a seat in the Council of Counts and Miles is accused of murdering Ekaterin's husband to clear the way for his courtship.

The book has romance - including the best love letter I have ever read in fiction, political intrigue, and humor -- the bug butter battle comes to mind. Miles hosts a dinner party that causes both laughter and major wincing as we try to keep track of who knows what and who should say what. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Ekaterin, talking to Miles about his Admiral Naismith persona:
"Would you go back? If you could?

His gaze grew distant. "Well, that's the strangest thing. I think I would feel like a snake trying to crawl back into its shed dead skin. I miss it every minute, and I have no wish at all to go back." He looked up. and twinkled at her. "Needle grenades are a learning experience, that way."

This was his idea of a joke, apparently. She wasn't sure if she wanted to kiss him and make it well, or run away screaming. She managed a faint smile. 
Ekaterin, thinking about her marriage:
Every night now, lying down alone without Tien, was like a taste of some solitary heaven. she could stretch her arms and legs out all the way to the sides of the bed, reveling in the smooth space, free of compromise, confusion, oppression, negotiation, deference, placation. Free of Tien. Through the long years of their marriage she had become almost numb to the ties that had bound her to him, the promises and the fear, his desperate needs, his secrets and lies. when the straps of her vows had been released at last by his death, it was as if her whole soul had come awake, tingling painfully, like a limb when circulation was restored. I did not know what a prison I was in, till I was freed. The thought of voluntarily walking back into such a marital cell again, locking the door with another oath, makde her want to run screaming.
Miles, after his introduction to his brother Mark's Butter bugs:
"Bug vomit," said Miles, working through the implications. "You fed me bug vomit." He touched his hand to his lips, and hastily poured himself some wine. He looked at the butter bug, looked at the remaining fragment of curd, and drank deeply. "You're insane," he said with conviction. He drank once more, carefully swishing the wine around in his mouth, for a long time before swallowing.

"It's just like honey," Mark said valiantly, "only different." 
Kareen, when Mark convinces her to help with his butter bug scheme:
Put like that...besides, Mark was giving her that pleading-puppy-eyes look. In his own strange way Mark was almost as good as Miles in drawing one into doing things one suspected one would later regret deeply. Infectious obsession, a Vorkosigan family trait. 
"Was this the trick of it? Secrets so dire as to be unspeakable, thoughts so frightening as to make clear young voices mute, kicked out into the open with blunt, ironic humor. And suddenly the dire didn't loom so darkly any more, and fear shrank, and anyone could say anything. And the unbearable seemed a little easier to lift."
And the last one..Ekaterin and Miles talking about honor:
"To use Kareen's Betan psychology terminology," she said a little breathlessly, "I have this thing about oaths. Why you became an Imperial Auditor, you took oath again. Even though you were foresworn once. How could you bear to?"

"Oh," he said, looking around a little vaguely. "What, when they issued you your honor, didn't they give you the model with the reset button? Mine's right her." He pointed to the general vicinity of his navel.

She couldn't help it, her black laughter pealed out, echoing off the beams. Something inside her, wrapped tight to the breaking point, loosened at that laugh. when he made her laugh like that, it was like light and air let in upon wounds too dark and painful to touch, and so a chance at healing. "Is that what that's for? I never knew."
This is a book I own multiple copies of in multiple formats -- hardcover, paperback, ebook and audiobook. You can get your own copies at Amazon -- hardback, paperback or audiobook. The ebook is available from Baen Books for only $4.00.

1 comment:

  1. I love the Vorkosigan saga too. Immensly quotable. I also adore what Baen is doing. When I bought my last Vorkosigan novel, Cryoburn", they included a cd-rom with all the books in the series in several different e-book-formats and told you to go ahead and share them with your friends (as long as you didn't charge anyone for it of course). Will I by more books from Baen? Oh yes!


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