Thursday, 4 January 2018

A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold

A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold was my favourite book the first time I read the Vorkosigan saga. Chronologically it falls after Komarr and before the novella Winterfair Gifts (or the novel Diplomatic Immunity if you don't feel like counting novellas). It's quite a departure from the more military aspects of many of the earlier novels, and is instead a comedy of manners with some political machinations on the side.

The recently widowed Ekaterin Vorsoisson returns to Barrayar, following the events described in KOMARR, and finds herself under siege from several suitors, including Miles Vorkosigan. Miles’ initial attempts at courtship result in colossal disasters, affecting as well Miles’ brother Mark, who is forbidden from courting his own ladylove by the girl’s outraged parents. Some nasty political maneuverings by ambitious Vor aristocrats create new trials for Miles while he wages his campaign for Ekaterin’s heart. Intrigue, wit and high hilarity make this Hugo and Nebula finalist a must for readers of science fiction and romance alike.

The most important question, for a re-read of a favourite book, is did it hold up? The broad answer is yes, although it was quite different to re-read than to read for the first time. The main reason for this is that there was quite a bit of humour that depended on surprising revelations which, of course, weren't as surprising the second time around. I found myself laughing more at miscellaneous interstitial scenes that hadn't stuck in my head as clearly than I did at the big key scenes I remembered most clearly from my first read through.

Even if it was a little less funny the second time around, this was still an excellent book. The point of view changes between Miles, Ekaterin, Kareen, Mark, and Ivan, giving us insights into all of those characters as they strive towards their goals. The background setting of the lead-up to Emperor Gregor's wedding provides a bit of chaos and a lot of cause for schemes from third parties. Even so, between Miles secretly courting Ekaterin (secret from her, not from anyone else), Mark trying to sell his new business venture to investors, Ivan being bossed around by everyone from his mother downwards, and Ekatarin and Kareen striving for self-actualization, there's a lot of room for entertaining scenarios just between the key players.

A Civil Campaign is still one of my favourite Vorkosigan books and also books in general. I spent a lot of this current re-read of the series looking forward to this book specifically and probably hyped it up a bit too much in my mind. I was disappointed that I laughed less than I did the first time I read it, but, really, I only laughed a little bit less.

5 / 5 stars

First published: 1999, Baen
Series: Vorkosigan Saga: chronologically after Komarr and before Winterfair Gifts
Format read: ePub as part of the Miles in Love omnibus
Source: Purchased from Baen several years ago

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