Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

From Anu Garg's "Word A Day" files: In heaven, the police are British, the chefs are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian, and everything is organized by the Swiss.
In hell, the police are German, the chefs are British, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italians.

Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, is reported to have said, "I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse."

Cryoburn is Lois McMaster Bujolds first Miles Vorkosigan novel in around 10 years, I believe, and those of us who are big fans of one of the few handicapped space heroes in existence are all a-twitter with glee.
Publisher's Weekly summarized the plot thus: "Only five days after arriving on Kibou-daini for a cryonics conference, interplanetary diplomat Miles Vorkosigan narrowly escapes kidnapping. Drugged, dazed, and alone, he is taken in by Jin Sato, whose mother was the leader of a cryonics reform movement until being declared mentally ill and involuntarily frozen. Now Jin lives in a building full of squatters running an illegal cryonics clinic. Under imperial orders to investigate the shady dealings of the cryo cartels, Miles connects the far-flung pieces and exposes a sneaky plot. Bujold introduces appealing characters to join familiar ones in exploring the ramifications of a planet-wide culture of postponing death, and her deft and absorbing writing easily corrals the complex plot and softens the blow of a tear-jerking conclusion."
Copyright © PWxyz, LLC

Though there were a lot more politics in this novel than I like, Bujold never let the plot lag with rants about any particular faction. She maintained the integrity of the characters throughout their trials and troubles, and Miles, as usual, comes out of this mess smelling like a rose. One of the things I admire most about Miles is his ability to think his way out of trouble, and view life like a situational chess match, where he's usually two moves ahead of his opponent. We get to see his clone-brother Mark in all his deal-making glory, too, though Miles comments that he wishes his brother would differentiate himself in some other way than being overweight. Personally, I found that remark a bit offensive, and I wanted to smack Miles in the head and say "Listen, Pookie, your clone brother has been through Hades and back, so at least allow him to be whatever size he chooses...let him make his life and his body his own." Yes, I know that calling someone of Lord Auditor Miles Vorkosigan "Pookie" would doubtless get me thrown in a Barrayar dungeon, but it would be worth it to see the look on his face. That's another thing I enjoy about Bujolds characters--they seem so real, you find yourself wanting to meet them.
Jin Sato was an interesting young character, though I enjoyed his spunky little sister more toward the end of the book. I found the whole "cryogenic suspension" business, with the buying and selling of contracts to keep people frozen, fascinating, and it was interesting to learn that those who'd be revived didn't often acclimate well in their new world/time. I would wish to be able to be frozen and return to life at at time when they'd found cures for many diseases and had some kind of rejuvenation process for old age so you could enjoy the new time you'd revived into. The whole idea of giving votes to the dead/frozen, however, was creepy,and I was happy to see that Miles thwarted the evil cryogenics company plan to take over his home world via cryo-corpse votes. The ending was nice and tidy, and it left the reader hopeful that Jin and his sister and mother had found a new father and a new home in the Barrayar consulate with a diplomat living there. Though Bujold mentions Miles wife and his children, we see little of them in this novel, which was one of my few disappointments with it, as I'd love to know about his home life and how he deals with his kids on a day to day basis. Still, it was a fast and satisfying read, and I sincerely hope that there's another Miles book on the horizon. A solid A for this science fiction novel that I'd recommend to anyone who has read the other Miles novels and who loves them as dearly as I do for not just their characters, but also the smart, witty prose and lightspeed plots that Bujold wields with ease.

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