Kibou-daini is a planet obsessed with cheating death. Barrayaran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan can hardly disapprove—he’s been cheating death his whole life, on the theory that turnabout is fair play. But when a Kibou-daini cryocorp—an immortal company whose job it is to shepherd its all-too-mortal frozen patrons into an unknown future—attempts to expand its franchise into the Barrayaran Empire, Emperor Gregor dispatches his top troubleshooter Miles to check it out.
On Kibou-daini, Miles discovers generational conflict over money and resources is heating up, even as refugees displaced in time skew the meaning of generation past repair. Here he finds a young boy with a passion for pets and a dangerous secret, a Snow White trapped in an icy coffin who burns to re-write her own tale, and a mysterious crone who is the very embodiment of the warning Don’t mess with the secretary. Bribery, corruption, conspiracy, kidnapping—something is rotten on Kibou-daini, and it isn’t due to power outages in the Cryocombs. And Miles is in the middle—of trouble!
From my first read, I remembered this as being quite dark read, but it's not really. Maybe it's a bit less funny than some of the other books in the series, but it's only the very end that punches you in the gut. The rest of the book, for all that it's about death and delaying death by freezing and hoping for a better future, isn't actually dark at all. Funny how an ending can make such a strong impression. I am also really glad that this isn't the last chronological book in the series any more.
I forgot how much Roic was in this book too, and after A Civil Campaign and Winterfair Gifts it was nice to see him confident in his position and silently judging Miles (or m'lord). It's nice to see that kind of character development over several books. Same with Kareen Koudelka, but she didn't make as much of an appearance in Cryoburn or have any point of view sections so the effect is lessened. Speaking of seeing characters from others' points of view, I also enjoyed Jin's impressions of the grownups around him. I didn't have a very strong memory of him from my first read through (I only really remembered that he existed), but getting to know him again was fun. He and his family have joined the list of one-book Bujold characters that I wouldn't mind reading more about, at least in passing.
Cryoburn actually stands alone as a novel pretty well. While there's a lot of background that can inform the story, it mainly only informs Miles's past, which isn't as critical to this book as to some of the others in the series. It's not a bad place to start the series, although it's not completely representative of some of the other books. On the other hand, the series has become so diverse in styles that no single book is representative of it all. In any case, Cryoburn is not a book to miss if you're a fan of the series or science fiction generally.
4.5 / 5 stars
First published: 2010, Baen
Series: Vorkosigan Saga, second last book chronologically, third last story in publication order
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from Baen's online shop several years ago