THE VORKOSIGAN SAGA
Lois McMaster Bujold
Publication dates 1986-present
Let me say at the beginning- I am decidedly not a fan of Sci-Fi in general. Until embarking on the Vorkosigan Saga I had read very little sci-fi, with the exception of some Ray Bradbury. There is nothing I dislike more than techno-jargon and reading endless descriptions of weaponry. However, I had for years heard about The Vorkosigan Saga and seen many rave reviews. I had a few extra audible credits so I decided to give SHARDS OF HONOR (Hugo winner) a try. I was immediately hooked by the meeting of Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan. Cordelia is a member of the Betan Survey Corps, a Captain, and Aral Vorkosigan a Commander in the Barrayaran Army. The two planets, Beta Colony and Barrayar could not possibly be more different. Beta Colony is a socially and technologically advanced, egalitarian society. Barrayar was isolated for hundreds of years and is a warrior, feudal society, considered barbarians by the more advanced planetary societies of the galaxy. Cordelia has stumbled onto the preparations for a Barrayaran invasion of the planet Escobar. Aral takes her prisoner but he has his own problems. A cadre of his men has staged a mutiny and has left him for dead. The two have to travel together to his unit so that he can take back command. During the journey the two bond and Cordelia finds that far from being the "Butcher of Komarr", Aral is a man of honor and conscience. He asks her to marry him but events intrude. She returns to Beta Colony but finds that it really isn't home to her any more. Home is with Aral and she leaves everything on Beta Colony to return to Barrayar. The two are married, the Barrayaran Emperor dies and Aral becomes regent for the child emperor, Gregor. Even though SHARDS OF HONOR won the Hugo Award, many consider it to be the weakest of the saga. I disagree in that I think it sets up the themes that recur though out all succeeding books.
The second book is BARRAYAR and covers the early, tumultuous years of the Regency. Barrayar is a political snake-pit; plots, betrayals, counter-plots and uprisings. Cordelia, now Lady Vorkosigan, finds the move very difficult. She thinks that "Barrayar eats it's own young". But she and Aral persevere through many challenges- the greatest being poisoned during her pregnancy. Their son, Miles, is born deformed and dwarfish-this in a society that in earlier years killed all "muties" or mutants at birth. He faces years of surgeries and medical treatment throughout his childhood, but is gifted with intellect, charm, and endless energy. Miles is the linchpin of the remaining books of the saga and his journey through young adulthood into maturity is quite a ride.
The major novels in READING not publication order are as follows:
The Warrior's Apprentice
The Vor Game
Borders of Infinity
Brothers in Arms
A Civil Campaign
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (coming November 2012)
There are several novella length stories available that serve to enrich and expand the main novels. The first four novels are published in omnibus editions, CORDELIA'S HONOR and YOUNG MILES, as well as single title editions. Or you could do what I did, listen to the wonderful readings by Grover Gardner available through audible and on ListenNJ as free downloads.
The Vorkosigan Saga can be read on so many levels, as pure adventure, as science fiction, as an examination of such themes as honor and conscience and genetic ethics. My reading is that of a very long coming-of-age story. I admit that I almost gave up on WARRIOR'S APPRENTICE. Miles was just too rash, arrogant and hyper-active for me. But I persevered and loved watching him mature. The characters are rich and varied and I became very emotionally invested in almost all of them. The science is definitely there, but embedded in such a way as not to become the whole point of the stories.
Highly Recommended for Sci-Fi Fans and those who aren't!