Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Grover Gardner

Three spaceships in orbit in a red/orange space sceneWhy I read it:  This is one from my own TBL.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  A rich Komarran merchant fleet has been impounded at Graf Station, in distant Quaddiespace, after a bloody incident on the station docks involving a security officer from the convoy’s Barrayaran military escort. Lord Miles Vorkosigan of Barrayar and his wife, Lady Ekaterin, have other things on their minds, such as getting home in time to attend the long-awaited births of their first children. But when duty calls in the voice of Barrayar’s Emperor Gregor, Miles, Gregor’s youngest Imperial Auditor (a special high-level troubleshooter) has no choice but to answer.

Waiting on Graf Station are diplomatic snarls, tangled loyalties, old friends, new enemies, racial tensions, lies and deceptions, mysterious disappearances, and a lethal secret with wider consequences than even Miles anticipates: a race with time for life against death in horrifying new forms.

The downside of being a troubleshooter comes when trouble starts shooting back . . .

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  A year and a half has passed since Miles and Ekaterin wed in A Civil Campaign. They are enjoying the tail-end of a belated honeymoon and are planning to return to Barrayar in plenty of time for the birth of their twins – Aral Alexander and Helen Natalia – gestating away in uterine replicators. However the plan goes awyr, as Miles’s plans often do, when Emperor Gregor calls upon Miles to sort out a diplomatic disaster in Quaddie Space. (I first learned about quaddies in Falling Free and those who have read or listened to the book will recognise some of the names mentioned here. Falling Free takes place hundreds of years before Diplomatic Immunity and quaddies and downsiders from the first book have now become part of the quaddie cultural heritage.)

The plot is complicated and twisty, as I’ve come to expect in Vorkosigan books. Belle Thorn, formerly a captain in the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet is now working as Portmaster on Graf Station and it (Belle is a Betan hermaphodite and it is its preferred pronoun) and Miles work closely together to solve the underlying mystery; a tale which puts Barrayar at risk of war as it turns out.

At one point late in the story, things are looking very dire indeed – Miles’ life is at stake, as well as the safety of the 50,000 people on Graf Station and the 50 million people of Barrayar. So, pretty much, a normal day for Miles Vorkosigan.

It’s been difficult to really sink into stories since the US election (even though I’m in Australia the impacts of it are terrifying) so I am always grateful when a book delivers an immersive experience. It is nice to be able to take time away from the real world and relax into a gripping story. Vorkosigan books are usually ripping yarns and Diplomatic Immunity was no exception. The only downside is that there are only three books left in the series and I know (because reasons) that Cryoburn (the penultimate book – so far at least) might be a difficult one for me to completely enjoy.

What else? Grover Gardner displayed a wider variety of character voices than I’m used to in this book. I’m not complaining. They were all wonderful and it added immensely to that immersive listening experience I was after. As always, his narration was stellar.

This isn’t really a book for new Vorkosigan readers to really understand. But it is a delight for those of us who know the series.

Grade: B+

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