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Vorkosigan Series

A series of science fiction novels and short stories by American author Lois McMaster Bujold.

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Review of Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold

  • Jan 27, 2010
Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series has to rank among the best in science fiction.  I have read most of the Foundation series by Asimov, the Honor Harrington series by Weber and the Bolo series by Kieth Laumer.  I have liked most of the books to varying degrees in all of the series but for the entire series I would have to rank Bujold's as the best.  I consider the second book in Weber's series, Honor of the Queen, to be that best and on par with Barrayar by Bujold.  But in retrospect I think Weber's series slowly declined for the next six books and even more so from there.

Admittedly there are other series which I have not read, like Elizebeth Moon and C. J Cherryh so I must admit that my dataset is incomplete.  But considering the Hugo Awards that Bujold has won I think I can be excused on that score.

Strictly speaking the series starts with Shards of Honor where the eventual parents of Miles Vorkosigan meet.  The last book in series, so far, is Diplomatic Immunity, which is the first story after Miles' marriage.  Off hand I don't know of any other series that covers a single character's life like this.  In many ways it is most similar to David Weber's Honor Harrington series.  But Honor is on some medical treatment called PROLONG, like everyone in her culture, and her life is kind of stretched out and there is a kind of sameness that extends through Weber's work.  Like things are constantly happening around her but no one is really changing.

The entire series has been reviewed by Russ Allbery and he uses a ranking system from 1 to 10 so I am going to use the same method.

Mr Allbery considers Shards of Honor to be the worst in the series and gives it a 4.
I consider Warrior's Apprentice to be the worst and rank it at 5.  Warrior's Apprentice is not the first in the timeline of the stories but it is one of her first books.  She admits that it was submitted and rejected 4 times.  Fortunately things got MUCH better.  But although WA is not nearly the best it is one of the most important.  Many major characters that are used in later books are introduced there.  This book cannot be skipped.  A nice position for a weak story.  LOL

Mr Allbery and I agree that Komarr and A Civil Campaign are the best books in the series and we both rank them at 9.


Falling Free is part of the Vorkosigan universe but not really of the Vorkosigan series of stories since it precedes Miles' birth by about 200 years.  It could be important to read for a couple of other reasons though.  It introduces a "species" of genetically engineered humans who pop up in later stories, especially Diplomatic Immunity.  It also puts in a perspective on SCIENCE which a lot of so called SCIENCE FICTION books no longer do.  Genetic engineering is an issue that the human race has to confront NOW!  There may not be much radical engineering of humans soon but we do have TERMINATOR SEEDS which are of economic significance.  Bujold's father was an engineer as is one of her brothers.  I am inclined to wonder how much the Leo Graf and Professor Vorthy's characters are like her father.  Or her idealized father?

Bujold creates characters better and more interesting than just about anybody and puts them in fascinating and thought provoking situations.  But most reviews concentrate on the characters and ignore the science that she puts into her books and the characters that do the science.  Barrayar is the book that got me hooked on the series and it is the Vagaan character that is ultimately responsible for Mile's existence.  Bujold created one scene where Cordelia and Vagaan first meet that spoke volumes about the thinking of tech type people but the mundanes don't get.  In Civil Campaign it is Enrique that is the sci/tech guy and much comic relief.

Sophisticated genetic engineering of human beings is a common thing in Bujold's universe 400 years in the future but it has to start somewhere.  Of course it will be tested on animals first.


We live in a Geek driven world but the normals pretend they are not important.  But the lives of the normals are affected by the products of the geeks.  There are still thousands of nuclear weapons in this world that are products of some geeks at Los Alamos.  This global warming business is being argued about though most of the geeks claim they agree.  So the 21st century may be the result of not listening to the geeks.

But overall Komarr is my favorite of the Bujold series.  This story involves the discovery of NEW PHYSICS involving the imaginary physics that Bujold created.  I have not seen a single review discussing this.  We need SCIENCE to make REAL SCIENCE FICTION.  Most of the stuff out there that gets called science fiction AIN'T.

So here is my ranking for the entire Vorkosigan series:

Falling Free          7/10
Shards of Honor        6/10  
Barrayar           8/10   
The Warrior's Apprentice    5/10   
The Vor Game    7/10      
Cetaganda             6/10    
Brothers in Arms            7/10
Mirror Dance     8/10   
Memory          8/10   
Komarr             9/10 
A Civil Campaign        9/10   
Diplomatic Immunity      8/10
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance    8.5/10
Cryoburn   7.5/10

If starting off consider getting Cordelia's Honor.  It is an omnibus containing Shards of Honor and Barrayar.  The first ten chapters are free on the net.


The Mountains of Mourning is a novella which occurs between Warrior's Apprentice and The Vor Game in the Vorkosigan timeline is also available on the net.


Here is a review of Komarr and A Civil Campaign that I mostly agree with.


Is omnibi the plural of omnibus?

Many of Bujold's books come in multiple story versions.  Besides Cordelia's Honor there are:

Young Miles: Warrior's Apprentice/The Mountains of Mourning/The Vor Game
Miles, Mystery & Mayhem: Cetaganda/Ethan of Athos/ Labyrinth
Miles Errant: Borders of Infinity/Brothers in Arms/ Mirror Dance
Miles in Love: Komarr/Civil Campaign/Winterfair Gifts
Miles Mutants & Microbes: Falling Free/Diplomatic Immunity

A (not so) new book will be available soon, Cryoburn.  The first 5 chapers are free.


I have now read Cryoburn.  It is very different from previous books but all of the books of the series are rather unique.  This is a story of Miles investigating corporate malfeasance on another planet where he has no authority as an Imperial Auditor.  There is murder and kidnapping and grand theft but the story is slower than most other Vorkosigan adventures.  I don't it is as well as Diplomatic Immunity but still worth the read.

The latest book, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance has been out for a year naw and the sample chaperts are available here:

Review of Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold Review of Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold

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January 27, 2010
Hey there, great review!  I'd really love to read your reviews on the individual books in the series.  @cdbaker has already written a few which you can read here, you should check them out.  Thanks for sharing! :)
January 28, 2010
Now see, you want me to do a bunch of work. I was thinking about doing a review of Komarr but decided it did not make sense because it was so far back in the series. Anybody that read that far must like Bujold a lot already, so there wasn't much point. So I decided that a review of the entire series with comparisons to other series made the most sense. Have you read any or much of it? How did that Wiki get created? Did you do that?
January 28, 2010
Haha, you can write as few or as many reviews as you'd like! :) I have yet to read any Bujold, but I've read all of @cdbaker's reviews on them and may just pick one of the novels up.  And yes, I created that Wiki for you.  You can see the source at the bottom fo the wiki, it's from Wikipedia.  I also added a few tags, so that they'll end up in the appropriate communities, like Books and Science Fiction, for instance.  Hope that clears things up, and let me know if you have any questions! :)
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The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of science fiction novels and short stories by American author Lois McMaster Bujold. Most of them concern Miles Vorkosigan, a physically disabled aristocrat from the planet Barrayar whose life (from before birth), military career, and post-military career is a challenge to his native planet's prejudices against "mutants."

The novels The Vor Game, Barrayar and Mirror Dance each won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, while Falling Free, Memory, and A Civil Campaign were nominated but did not win.

The stories are listed in order of chronology, rather than publication date. Shards of Honor and Barrayar concern Miles' parents, while Dreamweaver's Dilemma, Falling Free, and Ethan of Athos are set in the same universe as the other books but do not involve Miles or any of his family.

Lois Bujold wrote two books (Shards of Honor and The Warrior's Apprentice) and was working on a third (Ethan of Athos) before The Warrior's Apprentice was accepted (after four rejections). On the strength of The Warrior's Apprentice, Baen Books agreed to a three-book deal to include the two other novels. It was the second novel written in the series, after Shards of Honor.

Source: Wikipedia
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