Yep, I am a girl Scientist. Come for the breasts; Stay for the brains!
For as long as I shall live I will testify to love; I'll be a witness in the silences when words are not enough.
Quick Meerkat Update: I have been/probably will be around less for awhile. Real life interferes with fun sometimes.
Anyway somebody ask me about a suggested Lois McMaster Bujold book reading order a few weeks back. At the moment I cannot remember which thread that was in so I am just doing a new post.
First, two of her Sci-Fi books are truly 100% stand alone.
Falling Free is a book with excellent speculative science that explores some of the potential moral conflicts that this science might spin out. As a bonus a middle aged quality engineer gets the role of both hero and romantic lead.
Ethan of Atheos starts out on an all dude world. Very interesting look at what society might look like without gender variations, plus a great mystery angle for the plot. Lois said her original inspiration was that she wanted to explore how society might work out family issues if the for pay vs. free labor needed for any society to function did not fall heavily along gender lines.
The bulk of the rest of her Sci-Fi is part of the Vorkosigan series of books.
FYI Just to make this forum topical, (we wouldn’t want this post to get hijacked into Bacon Land) She is heavy on the Politics in a wonderfully complex way, delightfully suggestive but not explicit on the Sex and very very low key on the Religion in the Vorkosigan Series.
What I love about the politics is that she juxtaposes various political systems by having them reside fully functioning on different planets. From outside one can see the strengths and flaws in a variety of them. And while I could say which system I think I want to live under, it is impossible to see any of them as all great or all horrid.
Well except for perhaps Jackson’s Hole, an entire planet ruled by unbridled greed and an elaborate crime network is pretty hard to fathom as being a healthy place for sane people. Still it becomes clear though the series that even Jackson’s Hole serve a function for the universe at large or they wouldn’t exist.
She has taken a very interesting deliberate tact in her work. There are no “aliens” in her universe. She said she wanted to explore the concept of us becoming our own aliens if we were given enough time and space to do almost unlimited diversification. Her quote as clear as I can remember it off the top of my head was, “What if we go out and explore to discover there are no “others” only us. Will we eventually become the aliens we seek?”
Her characters are marvelously complex. Her heroes have flaws, big human ones. Her villains have virtues. Sometime her hero/villains are embodied in one being. A monster seeking a path back to a humanity he knows he should have but doesn’t. Even as crazy forgiving compassionate as I usually am, I never would have imagined myself weeping heartbrokenly over the struggles of a murdering sociopathic rapist before I read her works. And yet Bothari breaks my heart.
Even more interestingly is how different people react strongly to totally different parts of the body of work. One of my soul mate friends and I met on the Bujold Newsgroup long ago. We were discussing the books once and I mentioned how at XYZ place the first time I read it I literally threw the book across the room before breaking down and crying. He said that part didn’t get him, but in ABC scene from another book he threw the book across the room in fury and didn’t pick it up for quite a while. While I remembered the scene he had a strong reaction too, it just hadn’t hit me as being all that pivotal or emotionally charged. He hadn’t been crushed by the scene that got to me.
Different people react different ways, but about 75% of the people I know who have read her stuff are moved by it one way or another.
Back to book order:
Ok each book really can stand alone; they are not in any way an official series with cliff hangers or even a continuous story line. However some books are better if you have the background of the previous books to provide contextual richness to the characters.
Especially the “Miles” focused books if read in order by his “age” you get to see a great character growth arc. It starts when he is 17 and to date goes though his mid-thirties. This arc develops richly starting with Warrior's Apprentice, going through Mirror Dance, a book with some really dark parts that start an exploration in depth of the context by which we are redefining ourselves by choice verses what we are pressured/programmed and/or even genetically influenced to be. This arc peaks (In my opinion) with the next book, Memory one of the best books I have ever EVER read. I think I have reread Memory about 20 times now over the last 13 years. Every time things hit me again that make me take stock of myself and who I am choosing to be every day.
The books after Memory are still good, but Memory was the apogee of her work thus far in my opinion.
So if you are really interested in a starting place I would suggest one of the two omnibus collections they have published. Cordelia’s Honor is two books about Miles parents, Shards of Honor and Barrayar. Young Miles is three early Mile’s stories. The Warrior’s Apprentice, a short story entitled Mountains of Mourning, and then The Vor Game.
If you want a free taste, Mountains of Mourning is at the link below in its entirety, supplied by the publisher. If you click the other chapters on that page you will also find a chronological description of story lines done in plan English and one done in Haiku by a fan/friend of mine. Serious Bujold fans tend to be a creative, quirky and seriously bright bunch of people.
Just some quotes I have pulled out to be sig lines over the years to help spur your trips to Amazon.
"But pain... seems to me an insufficient reason not to embrace life. Being dead is quite painless. Pain, like time, is going to come on regardless.
Question is, what glorious moments can you win from life in addition to the pain?"
"Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart."
How could I have died and gone to hell without noticing the transition?
(From "The Borders of Infinity" as Miles is entering Dagoola IV Top Security Prison Camp)
Miles - "Ivan, one of these days somebody is going to pull out a weapon and plug you, and you're going to die in bewilderment, crying, 'What did I say? What did I say?'"
"What did I say?" asked Ivan indignantly.
(From The Warriors Apprentice)
"This is the most important thing I will ever say to you. The human mind is the ultimate testing device. You can take all the notes you want on the technical data, anything you forget you can look up again, but this must be engraved on your hearts in letters of fire."
"There in nothing, nothing, nothing more important to me in the men and women I train than their absolute personal integrity. Whether you function as welders or inspectors, the laws of physics are implacable lie-detectors. You may fool men. You will never fool metal. That's all."
Leo Graf teaches a class of Quaddies
(Lois McMaster Bujold, Falling Free)
"It's just a thing. You deal with it."
"As in, one damn thing after another?"
"Yes, very like. It works, as tactics if not strategy."
Miles & Ekaterin in Komarr
"Now, there's this about cynicism, Sergeant. It's the universe's most supine moral position. Real comfortable. If nothing can be done, then you're not some kind of shit for not doing it, and you can lie there and stink to yourself in perfect peace."
(From Borders of Infinity)
Try "I'm Sorry." Give up on justification, go for mercy. You'd be surprised what can happen.
For those of you who decide to give her a read, let me know how you liked it.
- Last edited Fri Feb 13, 2009 1:00 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Fri Feb 13, 2009 12:17 am
I've never read Lois' books, but she is truly a wonderful person. She lives here in the Twin Cities, and she's often at the sci-fi bookshops and conventions. She's very fun to talk to!
I believe that I've read most if not all of the Miles offerings. I really enjoyed them for the action sequences set out in a logical (to me) fashion and the characters actually build their lives in a reasonble fashion. I think the only character I really didn't enjoy as much was Mark who while allowing for some of Miles yearnings to be enacted I felt detracted from the books as a whole because he actually spoiled the story with his presence.
Wonderful books overall though... definitely worthwhile buying retail or finding in your local used books.
My friend is a big Bujold fan so I've read most of her books. They were good but they didn't have a big impact on me. Didn't she also do a fantasy series?
Her fantasy books are IMO nowhere near as good as the Vorkosigan series, with the exception of Curse of Chalion which I'd rank as good as a mid-ranked Vorkosigan.
They quickly devolve into more fantasy/romance with characters that I didn't find especially compelling.
Supposedly the next Miles book has been cooking for a while. We'll see.
Supposedly the next Miles book has been cooking for a while. We'll see.
I was wondering IF there would be a new Miles book given the way the last one ended.