Tags: lois mcmaster bujold

a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

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Ever since I heard there was going to be a new Cordelia Vorkosigan book I've had an itch to reread Cordelia's Honor. I don't have a particularly strong investment in the new book (apparently there were some people who already knew Jole was a character in previous books? I was ... not one of them) but I'm certainly invested in Cordelia Vorkosigan!

As I said on Tumblr, I'd forgotten how much Shards of Honor is one long exercise in:

Cordelia: I found this cute murderer in the enemy army and I’m going to keep him

Cordelia’s friends, colleagues, neighbors, certain constant readers: Cordelia no


For the record, by 'certain constant readers,' I mean myself at the age of almost thirty (as opposed to myself at the age of twenty-three, who apparently didn't bat an eye. This is when booklogging through the years starts to get fun.) But, like. In hindsight, we know it's going to work out fine! Three cheers for the most stable marriage on Barrayar. In present-sight, "Well, yes, his last marriage ended with him straight-up murdering two people in a jealous rage, buuuuut he felt really bad about it afterwards!" is not really a statement to inspire confidence. Were I advising Cordelia on her romantic options, I TOO WOULD BE QUITE CONCERNED. Maybe instead try a dating website?

(Other things you notice, reading Shards of Honor at the age of almost thirty: Cordelia like "I was afraid my opportunities for romance and children were OVER. No one will believe such a middle-aged officer could be bowled over by love! At my age!! OF THIRTY-THREE!!!" OK, maybe, if you didn't live in a society where people regularly freeze their eggs and live to 100 or more ... I mean, I love you and I get it, but.)

I mean, I do then appreciate how much of Barrayar is Cordelia waffling on the verge of "...I've made a huge mistake." Shards is deeply enjoyable on the id level, but Barrayar is a much more interesting book because it's in many ways about the consequences of eloping to live happily after and have babies in a culture that you don't understand and disagree with on like a million fundamental levels. This is an interesting and compelling story even if I happen to disagree with Lois McMaster Bujold (or at least the Lois McMaster Bujold of 1991) on several fundamental levels as well, like "the ultimate end of every heterosexual love story is children" (nope!) and the Clan of the Cave Bear logic of "the guy might think it was rape but if the girl thought it was consensual then it's pretty much fine, let's just hope these crazy kids work past this misunderstanding!" (oh, Kou and Drou. Oh .... Kou and Drou.)

On the other hand, one thing I fundamentally agree with Lois McMaster Bujold on is that it's important to talk about different kinds of female strength besides leading raids and ordering Bothari to execute major military figures. (I mean, I also appreciate that Cordelia herself is a female soldier whose soldiering expertise and identity has basically nothing to do with physical combat.) But yes, thank you, Bujold, for the focus on Kareen and Alys Vorpatril and their particular brands of heroism, much appreciated! In general and also in the specific that I love Alys Vorpatril and swear my allegiance to her forever.

Speaking of: I really did not intend to launch on a massive Vorkosigan reread, I really just wanted to read Cordelia's Honor, but now I'm started it might be hard stopping. WE'LL SEE.

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/410841.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comment count unavailable comments on Dreamwidth.
a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

(no subject)

I think it is more a comment on me than on the book that one of the main things that jumped out to me about Cryoburn is Lois McMaster Bujold's terrible ideas about interstellar fashion. Why does she have this obsession with formal harem pants? They wear bloused trousers with tight ankle cuffs as business professional attire on Kibou-dani, they wear the same thing as formal opera-wear in Quaddiespace, I'm pretty sure the style is explicitly mentioned in at least one other book and I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THIS IS A FASHION TREND IN VORKOSIGANVERSE, it sounds uniformly hideous. Most of her fashion descriptions sound pretty hideous, actually. Bujold is generally a skilled writer but she needs to hire someone to come up with planetary fashions for her that are a.) interestingly unique and b.) NOT TERRIBLE.

. . . that out of the way, I do have other things to say about Cryoburn I guess! Though not all that many things. It was a perfectly functional, enjoyable read, on the level of Diplomatic Immunity or Cetaganda - one of those "Miles visits strange planet, trips over wacky hijinks and cultural quirks, unravels labyrinthine plot, enables beta couple to find romance" books. This one involves less Ivan (always sad) and more spunky kid sidekicks, but I will agree that the spunky kid sidekicks were thematically necessary now that Miles has moved into the parenthood stage of his existence.

On the other hand, instead of having a book that displaced all the themes - both the parenthood ones, and the other spoilery ones - onto a different planet with one-off characters so that Miles can have relatively low-stakes hijinks, it would have been kind of nice have a book that dealt with those same themes by . . . actually having a plot in which Miles interacted with his family and addressed those issues for real? Ah well.

This entry is cross-posted at Livejournal from http://skygiants.dreamwidth.org/245265.html. Please feel free to comment here or there! There are currently comments on Dreamwidth.

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While I was backing up old files on my laptop the other day, I discovered my proto-booklog from 2006, before I actually got brave and/or self-important enough to Share My Thoughts With the Internet! Becca-from-five-years-ago apparently had this to say to herself about Diplomatic Immunity:

Not exactly the slapstick comedy of the last one, and I don’t think quite as strong, but still pretty riveting (the disease plot was creepy, and I like Bel, but what on earth happened to the whole character of Ekaterin?)

Future Becca - who does not have an eyepatch or a goatee or an all-leather outfit, how have I been wasting these past five years? - finds herself pretty much in agreement with Past Becca's commentary. I like creepy galactic plague plots, I like the quaddie society, I like that Bel gets to be much more of an independent person (and with less of the problems that twitched at me about the way the narrative talks about Bel in previous books, too) but where on earth is Ekaterin for most of the plot? Given that this book is marketed as 'Miles and Ekaterin fight crime together!' I feel like Ekaterin is a bit underused.

(Also, as always, I miss the Barrayaran cast of characters.)

Still, it is a perfectly decent Vorkosigan book, and now I am officially caught up and ready for Cryoburn when it comes in for me at the library.
a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

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So I guess it is Yuletide reveal time! First of all: thank you forever to genarti, areyoumymemmy, newredshoes, batyatoon and dictator_duck for various levels of betaing and support and handholding; y'all are awesome.

For my original assignment, I wrote Etude: Composition, a postcanon fic which has the dubious distinction of being the only Princess Tutu story that I am aware of to incorporate the phrase "Aliens Made Them Do It." For this, I am sorry. (Sort of.) It's also postcanon Fakir-tries-to-write-Duck-back-to-a-girl fic, which I once swore I would never do and therefore am somewhat sheepish about, but I have to admit was a total guilty pleasure to write.

Then, feeling a little worried that ambiguous genre-play might not in fact be what my original recipient was hoping for out of her Yuletide Princess Tutu fic, I also wrote the treat Entr'acte, a small and relatively fluffy piece about the changing dynamic between Fakir and Duck set right after the end of the first season.

My other Madness treat was Catherine's Fairy-Tail, a ridiculously wordy Northanger Abbey ficlet that really is just a prologue to a greater unwritten story - I saw an amazing prompt for Catherine getting to have real gothic/fantasy adventures, and wanted desperately to write something for it, and realized very quickly that if I kept going it would end up a MILLION YEARS long. So maybe I will come back to this over the course of the next year.

Lastly, in other travesties for which I am not really sorry, my other full-length story (for a pinch-hit) was The Barkosigan Saga: Mirror Dog. Hilariously, this is by far the most popular Yuletide fic I have ever written, but I can't really claim any credit for it - my recipient jmtorres came up with the brilliant idea to do a Vorkosigan episode of Wishbone, the 90's television show of my childhood heart about a Jack Russel terrier enacting great works of literature, and I just elaborated. (Well, and picked Mirror Dance specifically, which may make it extra special, but hey - I watched a lot of Wishbone to research for this story, and if they can do Count of Monte Cristo without killing anyone off, I can absolutely do a G-rated Mirror Dance.)

Also hilariously, the day that I snatched up this particular pinch-hit, genarti signed online and said "Hey, Becca, I saw a pinch-hit on the list that reminded me of you!" This is probably proof that Gen knows me too well. (To be strictly fair, she was actually talking about jmtorres' other request, which was a really cool Girl Genius prompt that I probably would have written if I had had time to bone up more on canon.)

AND SPEAKING of genarti: it seems it has become a tradition with us that on the occasions I kidnap her, it is time to watch RIDICULOUS THINGS. This time around: Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend The Movie! In which former Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi plays this guy:

For a lengthy writeup, see over here. All I can tell you is that watching this was an AMAZING LIFE DECISION.
a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

(no subject)

Miles in Love was only half a new read for me - I'd never read Komarr, but A Civil Campaign is one of the first Vorkosigan books I ever read. (Basically the secret reason I embarked on this big read/reread of the whole Miles Vorkosigan series is because I wanted to reread A Civil Campaign, because wacky slapstick Regency-ish rom-com sff is one of those things that's specifically targeted to fill me with joy. I'm not fishing for recommendations for other wacky slapstick Regency-ish rom-com sff, but - okay, yeah, I'm totally fishing for recommendations for other wacky slapstick Regency-ish rom-com sff. Any takers?)

Komarr I didn't find as constantly compelling as a lot of the other Miles books - andI missed the regular cast - but I did really appreciate the emphasius on Ekaterin's development and her choices and her own particular brand of heroism. Again, I am not sure how I feel about the portrayal of the Komarran rebels. I like it infinitely better than the way they're dealt with in Brothers in Arms, I'll say that; they're presented as sane and even sympathetic, although of course Ekaterin and Miles find their goals horrible. Collapse )

A Civil Campaign - I don't have to talk about how much I love A Civil Campaign, right? Seeing as I basically said it all above. (Oh, okay, I have one more thing to add, which is that on this particular read I especially loved Miles getting knocked off his calculated Nice Guy pedestal. THANK YOU.)

However, I do totally have a few more people to add to my list of Barrayarans I Would Date now:
1. Lord Dono! True, when it comes to Dono's actual sexuality, Bujold kind of utterly fails on delving into any kind of complexity, but for the purposes of this discussion: whatever the gender, Dono is hot.
2. Martya Koudelka. Why Martya, you say? First of all, because she is The Snarky Koudelka and I find that hilarious; second of all, because as far as Koudelka love interests go, she totally gets shafted. And this is in a pool of love interests that includes Mark.
3. ARMSMAN PYM. *________*

. . . okay, I would have to wait thirty years or so first, but that is no barrier when one is discussing fictional dates!
EAT YOUR HEAD (with love!)

(no subject)

After I read Mirror Dance, batyatoon and I had a conversation in which I argued that no one should ever date Miles Vorkosigan, because he is kind of a TERRIBLE BOYFRIEND. Batya defended him valiantly and with many good arguments, but I was unconvinced!

I was still thinking about this for the first thirty or forty pages of Memory, during which I sort of wanted to smack Miles in the head ("MILES STOP BEING A JERK TO QUINN AUGH I TOLD YOU SO"). And then Miles got back to Barrayar and I forgot to be grumpy about that because all of a sudden Memory got AMAZING. I completely understand why everyone likes this one (along with Civil Campaign) best now! Themes about self-reinvention and rebuilding your life when everything seems to have fallen apart and changing Barrayaran culture, along with some detective work and a healthy dose of slapstick; it's all the things that Bujold does best and I enjoyed it enormously.

(It was nice to get a focus on the Barrayaran characters, too, who tend to be my favorites. Lady Alys! Gregor! Galeni, who is not technically Barrayaran but I am counting him anyway! Lots and lots of Ivan! \o/)

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I'm still firmly convinced Miles is a terrible boyfriend, though. Actually, Batya and I had a great deal of difficulty coming up with any people in the Vorkosiganverse that we would actually want to date. A half hour of brainstorming or so gave us this very short list:

Cordelia Naismith
Ky Tung
Duv Galen (crossed out because I suggested him initially, but I am not sure he is still on my list after a demonstration of just how terrible he is at the dating thing in this book.)

Bel Thorne would be on there, except no one in their right mind would ever want to be the rebound girl/guy for someone who had previously been head-over-heels for Miles Vorkosigan. I admit I would date Ivan, but only in a Koudelka way, by which I mean: platonically, and largely for the joy of rejecting him when he eventually panicked and proposed. >.> It would be funny!

Other Vorkosigan readers, you should weigh in! Whose sterling qualities are we overlooking?
a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

(no subject)

I just started trying to write up a review of Lois McMaster Bujold's Mirror Dance, and realized it's kind of impossible without massive spoilers for the entire Vorkosigan series. So instead, I will just say that Wednesday was a very frustrating day for me, because I was halfway through the book and thought I had no post-work plans and instead got surprise work-related event sprung on me when all I wanted to do was be curled up on my couch tearing through the rest of the pages.

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a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

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Brothers in Arms has the distinction of being the first of the Vorkosigan books that I had not read before. (Well, unless Ethan of Athos counts. But I think it only half-counts.)

I think my favorite thing about Bujold is her ability to combine high-stakes dramatic tension with super space slapstick - this book contains some of the funniest fight scenes I've read, not to mention a very high pitch of dramatic irony. Converging secret identities! Lies twisting around so far that they actually become true again! I knew about the existence of [spoiler character] from reading A Civil Campaign, so I saw the dramatic irony coming a mile away, but possibly that made it even better. (I also love the bit where Elli Quinn ends up accidentally rescuing Miles based on a complete coincidence.) And after the way the ending of this book plays out, I am now even more curious than I was before to see what happens with [spoiler character] in Mirror Dance and Memory. (Okay, mostly I just really want to see [spoiler character] meet Cordelia.)

I do have to say, though, I found myself twitching at the way that the book casts the Resistance Against An Occupying Power as absolutely, one hundred percent the bad guys. I mean, yes, I get that there are practical reasons why violent resistance does not always work, and also that the whole premise of the series centers on offering the Barrayaran perspective, but . . . it would be really, really nice to have it recognized that the decision to rebel rather than assimilate is an understandable and moral choice. I spent a lot of time closing my eyes and telling myself that this was Miles' biased viewpoint and not Word Of God, but it did not always help. (I also find myself having to do this every time the Vorkosigan books stop to remark on how the hermaphrodites are a bizarre failed experiment of a culture. I love Bel Thorne! He's an awesome character! Why is it then necessary to constantly diss his identity and origins ;_;)

One last comment: David, with his aunt Rebecca, dealing with themes of being from an outsider culture and trying to assimilate and having to change his name and work twice as hard as everyone else to get ahead within the system while facing accusations of thievery and being involved in labyrinthine conspiracies? Three guesses what my mental canon on the Galens is!
a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

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Miles, Mystery and Mayhem is kind of an odd collection as far as the Miles omnibi go. It's got Cetaganda packaged with Ethan of Athos, which was written ten years before it - which means that you get the interesting and complicated Cetagandan culture that Bujold came up with after rejecting the concept of Stock Cetagandan Bad Guys, followed immediately by some Stock Cetagandan Bad Guys. Which creates a little bit of cognitive dissonance.

I'd read Cetaganda before, but not Ethan of Athos or "Labyrinth", the short story that is included in the package. I liked and still mostly like what Bujold is doing in Cetaganda, though I have some issues with it, but I am not really sure how I feel about either of the other two. Ethan of Athos follows a doctor from an all-male planet on his first interaction with the wider world as he negotiates for new egg cultures to keep their society going. Bujold is trying really hard in this book to deal with a thorny issue in a thoughtful way. It's very interesting to see, and I like some of the things she does - Ethan's attraction to men does not vanish the first time he comes into contact with a woman, for example, which I was very nervous about, and he does not immediately switch all his ingrained prejudices, either - but I am sort of weirded out by the way that Ethan and everyone from his planet reads to me as a bit childlike (though Ethan does get better as the book goes on). I mean, part of that is the culture clash, and I do like how she deals with that, but his planet seems to have no twisty politicans or suspicious schemers or rule-breakers or anyone who has any kind of conception of or curiosity about the wider world AT ALL, which might fly for a small isolated village, but this is an entire planet! I don't think she's deliberately trying to say that no women ------> lack of maturity, or no women -------> A MORE INNOCENT TIME, but there's definitely a kind of 'coming of age' feel to (middle-aged) Ethan's first interactions with gendered society, and I'm not sure I like the implications there. Thoughts, if anyone has read, would be appreciated!

In less academically-overthinking news, though, I do really like how she creates a believable and well-thought-out picture of a space station community, and I love Elli Quinn and her badassery and her five zillion old friends and cousins.

"Labyrinth," on the other hand, is a well-written story about Jackson's Whole and moral dilemmas that unfortunately hits several of my DO NOT WANT buttons, involving as it does a relationship that is statutory rape on one side and not really consensual on the other and thus squicks me in two directions at once. D:
a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

(no subject)

Before I read the Young Miles omnibus this weekend I was convinced that I hadn't read The Vor Game before . . . but, um, that turned out to be a lie! It seems that I have in fact read all of Young Miles before, because I remembered almost everything about the Kyril Island bit, and apparently I just managed to completely and utterly blank out the second half of the plot of The Vor Game to the point where none of it when described to me rang any bells at all.

Anyway, some brief thoughts on what, it turns out, is a complete reread of Miles Vorkosigan's early, hyperactive years:

- Gregor never stuck in my head much before as a character, but despite several acts of idiocy, he really grew on me this time! I think it is an automatic fondness for characters whose main descriptor is 'glum'; I found myself just wanting to pat Gregor on the head and introduce him to Eeyore, Puddleglum and Marvin the Paranoid Android for a tea party.

- Ivan remains my favorite from the beginning, but it is very interesting to watch him growing on everyone else after being initially introduced as highly unsympathetic.

- The much-invoked concept of 'forward momentum' is also a good way to describe the zippity readability of the prose in the series. I always zoom through the books much more compulsively than I expect to.

- I like Tung, but - and I might not have noticed this if I hadn't been reading with an extra eye out for race stuff due to recent incidents - it disturbs me that he is constantly referred to as 'the Eurasian' like he is the only one in existence. (And as far as I can tell, in this universe, he is . . .)