- Series: Vorkosigan Saga (Book 17)
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Baen; First Edition edition (February 2, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1476781222
- ISBN-13: 978-1476781228
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 724 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #489,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (Vorkosigan Saga) Hardcover – February 2, 2016
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About the Author
A science fiction legend, Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the most highly regarded speculative fiction writers of all time. She has won three Nebula Awards and six Hugo Awards, four for best novel, which matches Robert A. Heinlein's record. Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan saga is a massively popular science fiction mainstay. The mother of two, Ms. Bujold lives in Minneapolis.
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Not my favorite Vorkosigan book.
I found myself disappointed, both in Cordelia and Aral. I remember back in Shards of Honor when one of Aral’s enemies told Cordelia that Aral was bisexual. She said he “was bisexual, now he’s monogamous.” I was sad that Cordelia was wrong and that when she approached 50 Aral got himself a pretty young thing on the side. And eventually Cordelia and Aral’s mistress ended up cooperating to please and pleasure him. Very much like Zhang Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern which was about a rich man’s wives and concubines competing to please him. And don’t just say “She’s Betan”. Cordelia was Betan but both before and after Aral she never showed any indication of wanting more than one man, one partner, at a time. If she and Jole became co-wives, it wasn’t because Cordelia chose that. It was because Aral did.
The first half of the book was very slow, difficult for me to get into. The first time that had happened with one of Bujold’s books. I felt she was bringing contemporary PC issues into a universe where they weren’t relevant. What was the book about? About a widow taking up with her late husband’s mistress. Really very slow until Miles and his brood arrives, but still slowish after that. And it’s like Bujold has lost, not just Cordelia’s voice, but Miles’s as well because I didn’t recognize him either.
In Bujold’s early books it was all first person Miles. We lived through Miles’ view of his universe and himself. Inside he was insecure about his physical disabilities, about his crippled and deformed body, about what he could do and how he was viewed. But fiendishly smart and kind. He’d suffered and failed enough that he could relate to the fringe and freaks of his universe. Most of us could relate to Mile’s inner life. We too have been disappointed in ourselves, in our failure to become what we wanted to be or achieve what we wanted to achieve. But Miles had one skill most of us don’t have, a skill he cultivated all of his life, his ability to make most people like and even love him. He was even able to get the grandfather who tried to kill him as an infant to love him.
I don’t recognize the Miles we see through Cordelia’s eyes. True, Miles has grown up. He’s had amazing accomplishments. He has a large and loving family. He no longer has to prove, even to himself, that he can inspire love. Maybe in the past he was too often indiscriminate in making people love him. When Mark pretends to be Miles in Mirror Dance, he’s continually surprised by the affection Miles inspires. Mark “could always tell, instantly, when someone thought they were facing [Miles] They all had the same stupid hyper-alert glow in their faces…excited, breathless, watching eagerly, as if [Miles was] about to pull treats from his pockets.” This book’s Miles doesn’t seem to affect people that way. And Cordelia, I think Bujold redefined what Cordelia was as well.
The series of books that is the Vorkosigan saga has changed from book to book, morphing genres and literary styles with unusual fluidity. This book does not fit neatly any existing literary slot. It is still science fiction, although most of the science involves either human reproduction or ecology in this case. But if you are expecting action or mystery you will be let down. There is a bit of romance, an exploration of gender roles, and a revisit to the relationship of Aral and Cordelia that fills a lot of detail known neither to the reader or their son Miles. Miles himself arrives later, family in tow to assess and assimilate his mothers next step.
While this works as a stand alone novel, it could also function as either a last look at characters many readers have grown to love, or a jumping off point for a whole new set of adventures. As ever the answer lies with Ms. Bujold who often keeps her literary plans to herself.
While I am fine with this novels unique style, I did miss Bujold's usual humor, and found Cordelia strangely diminished during most of the novel. I hope this is side effect of grief rather than age, and that if we are lucky enough to get more books her trademark strength of character will be restored. It is because of these factors I withhold one star, although I consider every book written by this author cause for rejoicing.
Over against this, there are the bad points. (Spoilers coming!) The main one is, it's just not very interesting. Cordelia is strangely muted - perhaps because there is no life-or-death dilemma for her to grapple with. But much worse is the dilution of her love story with Aral by turning it into the three way romance between Aral, the young Jole and Cordelia. Yes, we all knew Aral was bisexual. But the idea that he was obsessed with anyone apart from Cordelia comes as news to series fans. Playing fast and loose with the canon in this way might be the author's prerogative, but exercising it like this, so late in the series, is simply an abuse of authorial power, in my opinion. Vorkosigan completists will want this book, but others will find it a waste of time.
Most recent customer reviews
Bujold seems to be exploring what a Betan will be comfortable with.Read more