Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!


Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 8, 2010

I’m gonna shift gears for this post from games to another form of high-quality geekly entertainment, science fiction novels. I just finished Cryoburn this weekend, by Lois McMaster Bujold, and was quite impressed.  I felt like sharing.

I feel that one of the main purposes (if any be needed) of science fiction and fantasy is to hold a mirror up to ourselves with enough of a fanciful disguise that we can think about aspects of “real life” more objectively. And the really good fiction, in my opinion, withholds overt judgment so that the reader can be allowed to make his or her own at the end of the journey. Lois McMaster Bujold writes extremely good science fiction. (I intend to read her fantasy, too, as I’ve been told its just as awesome).

Cryoburn is her latest novel in the always entertaining series about a universe that contains one nearly unstoppable Miles Vorkosigan. The setting is a world where cryonics – the freezing of people to be resuscitated at a much later date (ostensibly when medicine has advanced to the point where their life can be extended) – has become a central fixture of their culture over several generations. In that, the book explores issues of sustainability, hot in the news while it was being authored, but also touches on issues of mortality, death, and the whole cycle of life in several ways. All in a high-action detective thriller filled with comedic moments that had me literally laughing out loud (dangerous when I was reading late at night when the rest of the family was asleep).

I loved how Bujold took a central concept and really exploded it to explore – if briefly – so many ramifications of the technology. One minor character is a man who was revived to discover he was penniless, friendless, out of his own time, and discovered that no cure had been found for his condition.  There’s mention of neighborhoods catering to people born in a particular era, where at least they’ll “get each others’ jokes.” There are explorations of the legal, political, social, and even religious aspects of a society where the elderly rarely die to make way for the younger generation. What happens when people’s lives are suspended indefinitely in a state that is neither dead nor alive? What about their rights as people?

Carried forward over centuries, things get interesting. And “unsustainable.” What happens when those who are indefinitely not-dead-but-not-alive outnumber the living? What about their property rights — if there’s no inheritance because the currently-not-breathing fully intend to retake possession of their property upon their revival? What of their rights as human beings? What about voting rights? What parties benefit from a Ponzi scheme of byzantine legal constructs founded upon their control of the rights of a silent population utterly incapable of protest? And to what lengths will they go to maintain the status quo even when it has become clear that the end is inevitable – albeit capable of being postponed, much like the deaths of those in their charge?

And that’s where Miles Vorkosigan, the physically deformed, hyperactive Imperial Auditor, comes in. He’s been sent by the Emperor Gregor to investigate the expansion of the massive cryonics industry of the planet Kibou-Daini into the empire. And those familiar with the novels know that his brand of investigation involves causing lots of chaos to bring the truth up to the surface – which really pisses off the bad guys. The book should be pretty accessible if you haven’t read the other books in the series.

But if you’ve never read any previous books in the series, do yourself a favor and borrow The Warrior’s Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold, from a friend or the local library. It’s a “quick read” in the best meaning of the term.  I “accidentally” re-read it earlier this year when I intended to just look something up in it. It’s the first book in the series in which Miles is the main character, and it’s good old-fashioned space opera with a lightly comedic touch.

Filed Under: Books - Comments: 6 Comments to Read

  • cycletronic said,

    My local libraries don’t have any of the suggested books (or they have an eternity of holds), so I poked around, and found this! http://www.webscription.net/p-1290-warriors-apprentice.aspx13

    It’s a legitimate free ebook of The Warrior’s Apprentice. Before you say “there’s no such thing as legit free ebooks,” it’s a site that sells ebooks, but also has a few books from several authors that are offered as a free sample. I guess they added The Warrior’s Apprentice to the free list to promote Cryoburn.

  • Joe Larson said,

    Dang it. Will you STOP beating me to the punch. First, you do a quick post on how middle earth is getting old just as I’m scripting my video about how middle earth is getting old. Then you break format and review a book just as I start animating my format breaking review of “And Another Thing.”.

    Seriously, get out of my head!

  • Peter said,

    Actually you can do better – Baen’s released the (almost) entire Vorkosigan saga as legitimate free ebooks as a CD bound into the hardcover of Cryoburn (all the Vorkosigan books – including Cryoburn itself – are included except, due to oversight, Memory). If you don’t know anybody with a copy of the hardcover/CD, you can download – with Baen’s blessing – ISO images (or zip files containing the contents) from http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com

  • WCG said,

    I highly recommend The Curse of Chalion, if you want to try some of Bujold’s fantasy.

    I recently read, and blogged about, Cryoburn, myself. It’s a superb series, that just got better and better as it went on. I don’t think the latest book is quite up to her best – like Mirror Dance, Memory, or A Civil Campaign – but I really liked the deeper implications of the theme.

  • Valambrian said,

    I highly recommend The Curse of Chalion and its sequence, The Paladin Of Souls. Both books are excellent.

  • Paul said,

    I can recommend ANYTHING Ms Bujold has written. It’s all good stuff.