Discussion Post: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is the latest and very last novel in our Vorkosigan Saga Project! This novel follows Cordelia and Oliver Jole — who has previously only been a minor side character — and takes place after Cryoburn, currently serving as the chronological end of the series.

You can read Katharine’s review of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen here, and Tsana’s review here.

 

Tsana: To me this book is a bittersweet ending to the series. The characters all get happy endings, but it’s not one of my favourites. There’s not enough action or comedy (either would do) for my liking.

 

Katharine: It certainly is a slightly odd addition as one of the more recent books. But it also such a nice balance to have Cordelia’s story at both the start and the end of the series.

 

Tsana:  I agree. It’s nice that Cordelia gets a happy ending and I certainly understand why Cordelia likes her new life, etc but it didn’t make for as exciting reading as most of the other Vorkosigan books. I remember the first time I read it I kept waiting for something “exciting” to happen — by the standards of the series — and so many disasters just utterly failed to come to pass.

 

Katharine: Especially with how much the party was built up, and then described scene by scene… and then while something did happen he was literally able to sit up and watch the fireworks later… but this is jumping ahead by quite a bit… Basically, I agree. But it was still interesting.

 

Tsana: I’m going to list all the things that didn’t happen as soon as the spoiler shield is up. But before we get to that, let’s talk a little bit about Jole. He’s mentioned in passing in some of the other books, but this is the first one in which he’s a main character. Not that there’s anything wrong with introducing a new character in the last book. And his presence does shine a light on events that happened in parallel with a lot of Miles’s stories but which Miles was entirely unaware of.

 

Katharine: Which means now I want to read back in the previous books to see if there were any hints to his importance in Aral and Cordelia’s life.

 

Tsana: He was definitely mentioned a few times as being in places and saying a few words to Miles or whatever. But I barely remember him from The Vor Game, even though that’s the most exciting event from his early career that gets brought up a lot on Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. Of course, this is partly because we saw events The Vor Game from Miles’s point of view and Jole was hanging out with Aral at the time…

 

Katharine: Ah yes, I’ve just re-read that bit. Miles ‘sighed in hopeless jealousy every time he ran across him’. I really like Jole – there’s something about people who are ridiculously capable.

 

Tsana:  Wait, which bit is that from? Why is Miles sighing and jealous of Jole?

 

Katharine: The bit about Jole in The Vor Game. I looked it up to see if there were any hints, and Miles’ sighing is amusing.

 

So Oliver Jole is Admiral, Sergyar Fleet and the other person almost in charge on Sergyar along with Cordelia, who is currently Vicereine. Aral passed away three years ago now and their jobs have kept them both incredibly busy.

 

Tsana: Compared with before Aral’s death, when they weren’t busy at all /sarcasm. But yes, they’ve been busy and sad enough that they haven’t hung out much except for work. Which is a bit of a departure from their lives before Aral’s death.

 

Katharine: Time for spoiler shield?

 

Tsana: Before we get into details, yes. But I think it’s relevant to mention that Cordelia, Aral and Jole were in a polyamorous relationship before Aral went and died on them.

 

<spoiler shield up!>

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Review: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen Books
ISBN 13: 9781625794802
Published: February 2016
Pages: 352
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

This was the first book I got to see released in the series, and how everyone reacted to the surprise there would be another to read – at this point I’d been meaning to read the series for at least a few years. I still regret I wasn’t there for the ride, but also slightly glad I didn’t have to pay for an eARC copy.

Spoilers lie ahead.

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Discussion Post: Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Cryoburn is the latest novel we’ve read in our Vorkosigan Saga Project and the second last in our chronological read-through. This novel follows Miles, accompanied by Roic, on Imperial Auditor business, and takes place after Flowers for Vashnoi and before Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

You can read Tsana’s review of Cryoburn here, and Katharine’s review here.

Katharine: Welp it’s going to be incredibly hard to discuss the book properly after an ending like that, but I’ll try anyway… Miles is off to Kibou-daini in his role as Imperial Auditor to do what he does best – investigate something strange by shaking things up and seeing what falls out.

Tsana: When we first encounter him, he is drugged and hallucinating and, having escaped his kidnappers, is wandering around in underground catacombs full of cryogenically frozen people/corpses. Which is super creepy, but a staple of life on Kibou-daini.

Katharine: Once he manages to get to the surface he runs into a very kind lizard-person who sneaks him into his home to rest and recuperate. Which is lucky, as Miles’ hallucinations could lead him pretty much anywhere, but in the morning he is safe, and the lizard-person is an 11 year old boy called Jin, who likes to adopt pets. And Miles is quite pet-like when he’s not hyperactively solving cases.

Tsana: It’s also fortunate that Miles is good with children because, once sober, he quickly asuages Jin’s fears around adults taking over and treats Jin respectfully rather than condescendingly like many adults apparently do. Which is an interesting insight into Miles’s personality in a few ways, I thought. On the one hand, it’s easy to dismiss “good with children” because, well, Miles has kids now so he’s had the practice. But on the other hand, I think he’s pretty much always been good with children, we just haven’t had as much chance to see that in other books. The first example that jumps to mind is in Komarr when he first meets Niki (now his stepson) and is perfectly happy bonding with him about jumpships (before he has any ulterior motives to befriend the kid).

Katharine: Spoiler shields up so I can say a thing!

*klaxon klaxon klaxon*

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Review: Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen
ISBN: 1439133948
ISBN 13: 9781439133941
Published: October 2010
Pages: 345
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

A whole book about Cryo-sleep and revival, which has been here and there in crucial parts of the series to be sure, but now it’s all anyone is talking about. This time the planet setting is what one could pretty well call ‘new-Japan’ (especially as their money is nuyen… new-yen, goodness) and with every character given the suffix -san, -domo, -sama, etc it’s pretty clear. And quite well done, really.

Imperial Auditor Miles is there to investigate something there that isn’t quite right – something that Gregor’s (now not so new) wife has brought to his attention, and taking Miles’ personal experience in the business has picked him as the perfect one to despatch. He’s there to attend a conference, possibly shake some things up and see what falls out, when instead he and Roic are separated early on and it all pretty much goes to hell.

The start is a bit odd – partly because Miles has recently had a poor reaction to a drug attempted by his would-be kidnappers, a poorly organised group who are trying to make a point but just exist to royally stuff things up wherever they go. This leaves Miles out in the street hallucinating, where he is lucky adopted by an almost-teenager who loves adopting pets. Miles is small and hardly any different, and flourishes under his care. And then, Miles being Miles, rabbits on with relentless energy as soon as he’s waited out the allergic reaction through the three hundred plus pages through everything – losing his adoptee to the police, reviving the wrong woman but then the right one, capturing and losing kidnappers, and winning over yet another crowd of people to his relentless charms… or whatever it is that Miles’ possesses that allows him to win over people…

Overall the plot is good and doesn’t always go according to plan (Miles is involved after all), but the bits where it doesn’t go according to plan somehow make things easier or more possible, yet felt utterly realistic. Roic is miles ahead now of his previous uncertain and bumbling self – able to gently (or firmly) direct Miles when he’s trying to plan something and possibly not going about it in the best way possible – though still occasionally losing out.

What’s charming in this book is the young boy who has been hurt by so much in this world and just wants to care for his animals and try not to get hurt again. Whether it’s living in hiding in an abandoned building with a slew of people who also don’t want to be found, or refusing to allow himself to think that Miles may be an old lonely eccentric who just might adopt him (and his little sister who also tags along eventually), or then – well, I don’t want to spoil anything, but a certain worker in the consulate was good, and that all seemed very well handled, too.

The way this one ends is of no surprise (I’ve been dreading it happening the last few books…) and it’s handled superbly well. I appreciate the names mentioned where they are… and how they all react to it. Ivan’s last line – and how it includes Miles, is probably my favourite in how it captures the changes ahead. The part where Miles is about to go off script (literally) as he does but then looks at his children, and decides not to possibly for the first time in his life is just… it makes you bite your bottom lip just thinking about it.

Discussion Post: The Flowers of Vashnoi by Lois McMaster Bujold

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The Flowers of Vashnoi is the latest story we’ve read in our Vorkosigan Saga Project and the most recently published, with the ebook having dropped only days ago. This novella follows Ekaterin and takes place after Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance and before Cryoburn.

You can read Katharine’s review of The Flowers of Vashnoi here, and Tsana’s review here.

 

Tsana: Such perfect timing to have a new novella come out that fits perfectly into our chronological read-through!

 

Katharine: I’m actually here for a new book! It’s a weird feeling to be one of the first to read it and see how few reviews/chatter there is out there (I mean, still tons as heaps bought and devoured it first day of course) but it’s still all so fresh!

 

Tsana: And, OK, it wasn’t a super long novella, but still, yay. And it’s a story that’s all Ekaterin’s own, instead of alternating chapters with Miles like in the novels she’s featured in.

 

Katharine: And she was really able to hold her own. Not that there was any doubt on either her or Bujold’s ability, but it’s so excellent to see Ekaterin so relaxed and confident in her not-so-new life, when you think to how she was when she barely thought she deserved any kind of happiness.

 

Tsana: Right? This is the first time we’ve seen her properly after she’s had a chance to get used to her new life with Miles and of course she kicks arse because that’s basically a prerequisite for being around Miles.

 

Katharine: And I love how she’s so easily able to be loving and exasperated with both him and their kids (and the battle tactics on the poor cats). It’s almost as if it’s a realistic portrayal of a decent marriage – shock, horror!  

We also see the return of our favourite (well, only) scientist, Enrique Borgos. And the bugs.

 

Tsana: Yep. Although there’s two books that happen in between, The Flowers of Vashnoi seems to be a successor to A Civil Campaign, which introduces Enrique and the butterbugs (to much hilarity) and sets up the possibility for The Flowers of Vashnoi. I don’t think this new novella has as much impact without having read A Civil Campaign first (but I still hope people nominate it for a Hugo next year…)

 

Katharine: Agreed. So in this we see that the bugs have now been engineered to be able to assist with fixing the bit of land that’s still radioactive. It’ll be pretty incredible if it is possible, which does seem hopeful after their first visit to the area. However, they also find that some of the bugs, once again, have escaped the confines of their new habitat much to Miles’ disgust.

 

Tsana: Spoiler tag time!

<shields up!>

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