Rereading Vorkosigan

I’ve been re-reading the Vorkosigan Saga lately.

That’s not wholly accurate. I’d read most of the books before, in ones and twos, all out of order. There are several I’d never gotten to. I happened to find one such in my possession about a month ago and figured I’d go ahead and read it — and then decided, hell, why not go start to finish and read them in order?

Lois McMaster Bujold is a master of the craft. Her prose is delightful, her characters magnificent. I can’t overstate this. There are any number of series I’ve greatly enjoyed over the years, authors I’ll come back to again and again. Rarely, if ever, have I found a series or author whose books I can read straight through, one after another after another, without getting a little … tired. Without starting to crave a little more variation, something different. Not so with Bujold. I’m halfway through the series now and devouring each book as voraciously as the first.

The Vorkosigan books are not easily defined. They’re military sf, or maybe political thrillers, or possibly mystery novels. Oh, there’s at least a couple romances – and a comedy of manners that is one of the more delightful entries. The Saga evolves as it turns, changing while staying the same. It’s a magnificent achievement.

And what one doesn’t get — at least, not fully — when reading them piecemeal and out of order, is how cohesive the background is. There’s this whole epic space opera taking place in the background, with most-common-protagonist Miles only tangentially involved in it. I had certainly missed, the first time through, the connection between some offhand comments in Cetaganda and the later events of Borders of Infinity … but it’s there.

As I said, I’m about halfway through. And in addition to finally reading the series in complete form, I’m also finding there are ones I’d thought I hadn’t read which I actually had — my memory not being what it once was. (I’m almost to Memory, in fact. Heh.)

books are often self-referential, glossing over previous events in ways that relate to the current plot. Potentially mind boggling is the fact Bujold didn’t write them in order, either, so quite a bit of that self-referential backstory was actually written before the stories it’s referencing. Miles’ in vivo injuries sustained in Barrayar are fully explained in The Warrior’s Apprentice, written five years earlier.

Bujold has gone back at times to flesh out these bits of backstory. Re-reading the series now, I’ve noticed at least one fairly major such incident, referenced a handful of times but never fully described. I’d thought Bujold was finished with the series after the most recent novel, but now … I hope I was mistaken.

Anyway: if you’ve not read them, I can’t recommend the Vorkosigan novels highly enough.

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