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Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Vorkosigan Novel by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Ivan Vorpatril's Revenge

  • Nov 15, 2012
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Ivan Vorpatril is the cousin of Miles Vorkosigan and intermittently pops up in stories about Miles.  He is constantly used as the but of jokes and accused of being an idiot.  But overall it seems to be quite unfair.

So Lois Bujold has finally created a novel centered on Ivan.  Ivan does in one book what takes Miles three and causes more problems for ImpSec in one book than Miles did in nine.  It took the three stories, Komarr, A Civil Campaign and Winterfair Gifts for Miles to meet the girl, woo the girl and marry the girl.  Ivan does all that in six chapters and then things get interesting.  Of course he gets help from renegade Jacksonians and Miles never worked with them.

The tale begins with Ivan minding his own business on Komarr.   The troublemaker from A Civil Campaign, Byerly Vorrutyer, turns up to maintain his reputation.  He wants Ivan to meet a pretty girl.  How can Ivan object to that?  Of course Ivan knows there must be a catch.  But the trouble is not even Byerly knows how big the catch is.   Wait, Komarr is where Miles found his woman.  All trouble starts on Komarr. 

Thus begins the chain reaction with Ivan playing the role of pinball.  Every bounce makes a certain degree of sense but it just leads to more trouble.  Ivan helps Jacksonians invade Barrayar but of course they lie about why they want to do it.  Never trust a Jacksonian.

Oh, you don't know what a Jacksonian is?  That is the problem with this book.  You need to read at least half a dozen books preceding this one in the series to understand most of the nuances of this book.  Fortunately Komarr and A Civil Campaign are as good or better than this one.

A Civil Campaign is somewhat of a comedy like this one but this has a higher slap-stick factor and is more linear without intersecting side plots involving insects and sexual politics.  Without reading ACC Byerly is an unknown quantity and jokes about his no account cousin will go over the reader's head.  But Komarr and Mirror Dance must be read to comprehend ACC and Memory to explain Komarr and some of this book too, and Brothers in Arms to explain Mirror Dance.  I guess you should get Cordelia's Honor and start at the beginning to deal with the whole Vorkosiverse.  Skip Cryoburn until after reading this one though.

Most of the series is worth reading and this book is among the better and funnier ones.

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January 18, 2013
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The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of science fiction novels and short stories set in a common fictional universe by American author Lois McMaster Bujold. Most of these were published between 1986 and 2002, with the exceptions being “Winterfair Gifts” (2004) and Cryoburn (2010). Works in the series have received numerous awards and nominations, including winning four Hugo awards.

Bujold’s approach varies, sometimes crossing genres. All the novels include humor and comedy, sometimes very black and juxtaposed with tragic deaths or losses. She mixes military adventure, political thriller, romance, and the whodunit in various proportions.

The point of view characters include women (Cordelia in Shards of Honor, Barrayar; Ekaterin in Komarr and A Civil Campaign), a gay man (Ethan of Athos), and a pair of brothers, one of whom is disabled and the other a clone (Miles and Mark Vorkosigan). All these “outsider” characters belong to a socially prestigious class and are well-educated. In the last two works, we also get the point of view of Armsman Roic and the boy Jin, who are less privileged and articulate.

An important concern of the series is medical ethics. The author focuses on problems of personal identity, particularly the role of the physical in determining personhood. In this science-fiction context, identity may be affected by bioengineering, genetic manipulation, cloning, and medical technology allowing the replacement of failing systems and the...

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