bookrev: The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
Winner of the 1991 Hugo Award
When I did my list of the science fiction / fantasy authors with the most number of Hugos and Nebulas in the novel category, I was somewhat surprised the Ms. Bujold topped the list with six (4 Hugos and 2 Nebulas). I had not read any of her works, and picked up The Vor Game to add to my reading stack.
Of the her five novels on the list (one won both awards) four of them feature Miles Vorkosigan, his parents and his worlds. The Vor Game starts with Miles graduating from the academy (at about 20 years old) and, instead of getting a ship assignment, he gets sent to man a weather station in a cold, icy location. I had no background in the character reading this book, but the reader rapidly finds out that Miles is friends with the emperor and that his father is the emperor’s main battle strategist. Miles apparently has demonstrated a problem with insubordination, and this is why he gets sent away.
This book almost lost me at this point, as, other than some brief character introduction, the first 84 pages have a very un-exciting plot. One of the characters shows up later in the book, and the trouble that Miles finds (more insubordination) at the weather station gets him an assignment into the Imperial Security force.
But the plot did speed up once Miles is out on a mission. Miles in a previous novel had managed to take over mercenaries using the identity of Admiral Naismith. He is recognized, and falls into this identity again; add in an “escaped” Emperor that Miles finds, and a couple of intertwines plots to divide the mercenaries and to start a war, and you have an interesting plot. The politics, intrigue and characters are well done and enjoyable. There is some suspension of belief required on the character of Miles, who seems to be able to figure out complex strategies and execute them at the ripe old age of twenty.
Though this is a good and enjoyable book, it won the Hugo beating out The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, which is a great book. Perhaps they didn’t give it to Simmons because Hyperion had won the Hugo the year before….but then Ms. Bujold won the Hugo the next year with Barrayar (another Vorkosigan novel) over Xenocide by Orson Scott Card (another great book, IMHO). Hugo winners and nominees are chosen by the members/attendees of WorldCon, so I guess it’s just a matter of who shows up and votes.
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