Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cetaganda, by Lois McMaster Bujold

Continuing my reading of the Vorkosigan saga, working my way forward to this year's Hugo nominee Cryoburn--we'll see if I make it this year.  The latest read is Cetaganda, set in the empire of Barrayar's most implacable enemy.  This book takes place relatively early in Miles Vorkosigan's career, though it was written much later.  Bujold claims the right to write about Miles' career in any order she chooses, which is, I think, pretty wise. 

In this book Miles and his cousin Ivan visit the Cetagandan empire on the occasion of the empress's funeral.  He gets caught up in a plot to destabilize their empire, with Barrayar the intended culprit.  He of course foils the plot with his combination of intelligence, timing and general good luck.  Two things stand out for me in the development of his character, keeping in mind that he's already more than halfway developed when this book was written.

  1. The Cetagandan empire is sophisticated beyond belief--Barrayar is in way over its head trying to keep up with their civilization.  The invasion of Barrayar was a fairly big deal for the Cetagandans, but in truth seemed to get a less than full effort from them.  One might compare it to the US intervention in Vietnam.  Barrayar bled them out and they gave it up for a bad job.  I am reading a lot in here, this is not covered in the story, it's just sort of implied.
  2. Miles shows a flash or two of very broad ambition.  He treats the Cetagandan emperor almost as an equal.  His comfort at tweaking power continues to grow.
Good stuff, continues to be worth following.  3 stars

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