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June Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

the cockpit of a spaceship looks out over a planet to the right and Miles Vorkosigan's face superimposed in the background on the left.Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Grover Gardner – B Another strong entry into the Vorkosigan saga, (I’m getting close to the Miles romance books! Whee!!) which I am slowly making my way through. I listened to Borders of Infinity before Brothers in Arms and the former has a framing story around three novella length tales – I’m pretty sure at least one of those short stories takes place after Brothers in Arms so I did have a bit of cognitive dissonance when Miles was doing the business with Elli Quinn. I’m sure I’ve heard a story where Ellie falls in love with someone else. (Did I get that wrong? Am I confusing this series with something else?)

I enjoyed Miles’ ponderings on what makes family and I liked Ivan’s appearance in this one – he makes me laugh actually. Ivan strikes me as a fairly simple sort of guy, not at all stupid but a little lazy and almost Miles’ polar opposite. He makes a good foil for our hero. I also liked the way Elli and Miles hooked up here and how it was implicit that they were having, essentially, a FWB relationship. Appearances are another theme in this story – Miles’ appearance, Elli’s appearance and how it has changed since Miles has known her, the various consequences of their respective visages and bodies, not to mention the appearance of “Mark”.

Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Grover Gardner

EthanofAthosWhy I read it:  I’m continuing my Vorkosigan series listen and this one was next.  Or I’d skipped it.  The reading order is somewhat fraught I must say.  In any event, it’s kind of a tangent from the rest of the series so it fit where I was up to well enough.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Dr. Ethan Urquhart, an obstetrician on a planet forbidden to women, is Chief of Biology at the Severin District Reproduction Center and one of the busiest men on the planet Athos. Then a mysterious genetic crisis threatens Athos with extinction. Drafted to brave the wider universe for his cloistered fellows in quest of new ovarian tissue cultures, Ethan braces himself for his first encounter with those most alien of aliens–females of his own species.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  As is usually the case with books from the Vorkosiverse, I didn’t bother to read the blurb before diving in.  So I had no expectations at all except that very likely Miles would not appear in this one given the title. (I was correct.)

Ethan is a doctor at the Reproduction Centre in the Severin District on Athos.  It quickly becomes apparent that Athos is a very unusual place – there are no females on it. At all.  The babies are all created from sperm donations from the male inhabitants who have earned sufficient “social credits” to be a father and ovarian tissue which is cultured to create egg cells.  Once fertilised via an IVF-like procedure, the fetuses are gestated in uterine-replicators (just like the one in which Miles spent the latter part of his gestation).

The Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Grover Gardner

BordersofinfinityWhy I read it:  This is another from my personal stash.  I was in the mood for a little more Miles Vorkosigan and it was the next one in the series (which I am trying to listen to in order).

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  [A Miles Vorkosigan Story] Miles infiltrates a prison camp at Dagoola IV, where he plots from within to free the prisoners.  [Publisher’s Note: The Borders of Infinity was originally published as a stand-alone novella in the anthology Free Lancers in September 1987. It was then included in the novel Borders of Infinity (October 1989). For the novel, Ms. Bujold added a short “framing story” that tied the three novellas together by setting up each as a flashback that Miles experiences while recovering from bone-replacement surgery. Fictionwise is publishing these novellas separately, but we decided to leave in Ms. Bujold’s short framing story for those who may also wish to read the other two novellas (The Mountains of Mourning and Labyrinth).]

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  In this full length audiobook, the author has created a “framing story” to join the three novellas together.  Miles is recovering from bone replacement surgery and Ilyan, the spymaster, asks him about certain expenses he has incurred in some of his missions.  A rival faction is using a bean counter who is dedicated to counting beans to stir up trouble for Count Aral Vorkosigan and unseat him from the Prime Ministership – Ilyan wants to learn everything about these missions so that he can nip trouble in the bud – even if Miles is resentful of the unsaid accusation of misappropriation.

The Mountains of Mourning

This novella takes place when Miles is only 20 and is on leave shortly after graduating from the Academy.  A woman begs for justice for her murdered baby daughter and Count Aral Vorkosigan sends Miles in his stead to investigate the crime and mete out said justice.  The baby was born with a hare lip and a cleft palate but was managing to feed well enough. Simple plastic surgery could have fixed the defect (should Hara have been able to access the treatment of course) but on Barrayar, birth defects are not tolerated well.  It is particularly so in the remote villages where there is no good communication with the cities and where the people cling to old traditions.  Miles is, of course, a “mutant” himself and his own life was threatened on the basis of his defect before he was even born (see Barrayar).  Things are slowly changing on Barrayar but Aral wants Miles to sent a message that the killing of infants on the basis of a birth defect is NOT OKAY and will no longer be tolerated.  Miles has to use his ingenuity (as always) to sort out the truth and in the process he has to win over people (as always) who judge him on the basis of his physical imperfections.

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