Monday, 18 December 2017

Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold

Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold is the latest book in my re-read of the Vorkosigan saga. It comes chronologically after Memory and before A Civil Campaign, nestled quite closely, chronologically, between the two. It is split in point of view between Miles and a new character, Ekaterin.

Komarr could be a garden with a thousand more years' work, or an uninhabitable wasteland if the terraforming fails. Now, the solar mirror vital to the terraforming of the conquered planet has been shattered by a ship hurtling off course. The Emperor of Barrayar sends his newest imperial auditor, Lord Miles Vorkosigan, to find out why. The choice is not a popular one on Komarr, where a betrayal a generation before drenched the name of Vorkosigan in blood. Thus, the Komarrans surrounding Miles could be loyal subjects, potential hostages, innocent victims, or rebels ready for revenge. Lies within lies, treachery within treachery, Miles is caught in a race against time to stop a plot that could exile him from Barrayar forever. His burning hope lies in an unexpected ally, one with wounds as deep and honor as beleaguered as his own.

I had forgotten, until I started re-reading Komarr, how unlucky Ekatarin was, in life, before the events of this book (or, well, Miles came along). Her past is heartbreaking, even though she often reminds us that it could be worse. She has a lot to overcome in this book before she can start to come into her own.

On the other side of the equation, we have Miles, who has tagged along with Imperial Auditor Vorthys (who happens to be Ekatarin's uncle) while he investigates a small disaster that happened in Komarran orbit. Miles is partly getting used to his new role, but he's also still Miles. While this book can't be mistaken for military SF like some of the earlier Vorkosigan books, it's still got a similar vibe, combining a mystery to solve and a reasonable dollop of action. Two of the main ingredients in a lot of the Vorkosigan books.

This was a very enjoyable read that made me laugh several times. It's not the most cheerful of the Vorkosigan books — that would be the next one chronologically, A Civil Campaign — and it has it's dark moments. But as with most of the Vorkosigan books, I had trouble putting it down and practically inhaled it once I got going.

This isn't the worst book to start with if you haven't read any Vorkosigan books before. It's the start of a new phase in Miles's life and hence doesn't rely too heavily on events of the past, although there are a lot of references to earlier events, they're only mildly spoilery for the earlier books and the story certainly doesn't hinge on any of them. That said, all the Vorkosigan books are good, so in general I recommend reading them in chronological order. But if you like intrigue and engineering, partially terraformed planets and clever dialogue, I highly recommend Komarr.

5 / 5 stars

First published: 1998, Baen
Series: The Vorkosigan saga, chronologically after Memory and before A Civil Campaign
Format read: ePub as part of the Miles in Love Omnibus
Source: Purchased from Baen several years ago

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