Lois McMaster Bujold
The Vor Game (1990)
Winner of the 1991 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Reviewed: 1998-02-27

Lately, reading Lois McMaster Bujold has become something of a guilty pleasure for me. The Miles Vorkosigan series is ordinary space opera, rather unoriginal, clichéd, but very well written, highly entertaining, and ultimately addictive. There is a stack of more innovative SF sitting on my bookshelf and waiting to be reviewed, but here I am, reading Bujold again.

The Vor Game starts out slowly with a part originally published as a standalone novella, "The Weatherman". Ensign Vorkosigan, freshly graduated from the Imperial Military Academy, gets his first assignment. Since his superiors perceive of Miles as having a problem with subordination, he has been selected for an experience of particular educational value: weather officer for an infantry base on an island near Barrayar's arctic circle. After various minor (mis)adventures, Miles ends up in a quasi-mutiny, and, already having become untenable in other service branches, is transferred to Imperial Security.

On his first spy mission for dreaded ImpSec chief Simon Illyan, Miles is sent as an assistant of Captain Ungari to the Hegen hub, an important wormhole crossroads. Of course it doesn't take long for Miles to get himself into big trouble. Even bigger trouble, when all of a sudden the Barrayan Emperor Gregor Vorbarra himself becomes involved. Miles, who finds himself quickly at cross-purposes with the captain, must save his childhood friend Gregor, win back the Dendarii Mercenary Fleet, prevent an interstellar war, and deal with a woman who is his equal in sheer deviousness. A staggering series of plots and counterplots ensues.

The characters are very engaging, although somewhat more clichéd than in previous installments of the series, and Miles continuing chain of extraordinary luck stresses one's suspension of disbelief after The Warrior's Apprentice. Maybe less outstanding than Bujold's previous award winners, but solid fun.

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Christian "naddy" Weisgerber <naddy@mips.inka.de>