This is a review of Cryoburn, but since I have not yet reviewed any other books in the Vorkosigan Saga it is bound to become a review of the whole series. Let me start by saying that the Vorkosigan Saga is one of my favorite science fiction series ever, if it doesn't just plain top the list right out. I can't think of any other that would take the top spot right now, but I've just surfaced out of the Vorkosiverse so I have no distance.
The series is unusual in that it's not a trilogy or decology or whatever that tells one story arc. In that way it is completely unlike the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (yay), even though there are about as many books (if less hefty). Each book is a stand alone story that you could read out of order, in fact they were written out of order, but there is much more pleasure to be had by reading them somewhat in
order. The only other science fiction series I know that does that is the Skolian Empire one by Catherine Asaro, one I also really enjoyed, by the way. I understand that many detective series work that way, but those bore me, so I wouldn't know.
So what is so appealing in these books, besides the fact that Lois McMaster Bujold is a very talented writer? The answer is short: Miles Vorkosigan. Who happens to be short too (under 5 feet). And deformed and smart and bipolar and much like a force of nature. His brain has trouble keeping up with his mouth, never mind the people around him whom he leaves flailing in his wake. I think there is a part of my brain (located somewhere under the rational part, of course) that believes Miles is real. Somewhere he must exist, because he is too real to me not to.
So after years of silence (in which Lois McMaster Bujold wrote in other worlds), it was a long anticipated pleasure to catch up with Miles again in Cryoburn. One of the things that makes Miles such a realistic character is that he was always developing. Miles at 17 was a different person than Miles at 30, even if he is essentially the same, if that makes any sense*. Now Miles is 39 and different, but the same, again. The only thing I would have liked to see different in Cryoburn is that, to me, Miles never really was in a lot of personal danger and everything developed just a little bit too smooth. I like it more when Miles gets in over his head and starts flying by the seat of his pants, but I am a sucker for conflict that way. Just as I was about to be slightly disappointed, the book ended with 5 drabbles (100 word scenes) that were just absolutely awesome in their simplicity and moved me to tears.
Then there is the fact that this first printing of the book comes with a CD-rom. What is on it? This:
"You are about to start playing with a new Baen CD-ROM. Welcome! It includes not only the latest book in the series, Cryoburn, but the ENTIRE Vorkosigan Saga in several electronic formats—and The Vorkosigan Companion—all of it beautifully unencrypted and unencumbered. But wait, there’s more! Also on this disk are interviews with author Lois McMaster Bujold, and various other interesting tidbits including a sample of the French language Miles Vorkosigan graphic novel! More than fourteen novels for free—and with no stupid codes to work around. Think of that. What’s the catch? This disk and its contents may be copied and shared, but NOT sold. All commercial rights are reserved. That’s it."
How utterly awesome is that?!?
So, now that we have established that you must allow Miles in your life, where do you start? Probably not at the beginning, because Miles isn't born yet and you need to meet Miles first. You should start with The Warrior's Apprentice included in the omnibus Young Miles, to truly appreciate Miles (and to see if you can stand him in the long run). Then, when you have decided you must read everything about Miles, I would go back to Shards of Honour, which are published together in Cordelia's Honor, so that you can better appreciate Miles's background. Then, just follow the timeline after The Warrior's Apprentice......
And if you have a nook or a kindle or an Ipad or whatever, I have this spiffy CD-rom now and I would be happy to share the books with you.
* One of my favorites in the series is [b:Memory|61880|Memory (Vorkosigan Saga, #10)|Lois McMaster Bujold|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51N5YVDFA5L._SL75_.jpg|3036720], in which Miles loses everything that defines his identity, and has nobody to blame for it but himself, and is forced to redefine himself through all that he has rejected in the past. Not only did Lois not just skim along on past successes and let Miles just repeat and play at whatever he was so good at, she transformed the story in a way that was gut wrenching and great at the same time. The King is dead, long live the king!