This is Marion’s review of Memory, Komarr and A Civil Campaign. Kat’s thoughts about Komarr are at the bottom.
In Memory, Komarr and A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster Bujold turns the VORKOSIGAN SAGA from space opera to planetary politics.
Miles Vorkosigan has always been a risk-taker. Usually the person he puts at risk is himself, but in Memory, Miles’s choice injures a crew member. Miles compounds the problem by procrastinating and then outright lying in his report. Even hundreds of years in the future, the cover-up is often worse than the original act, and the consequences for Miles are serious. He must give up the mercenary fleet and the alter ego “Admiral Naismith.”
Miles, though, is too valuable an instrument to leave on the shelf, and Emperor Gregor soon makes him an Imperial Auditor. At first this sounds punishingly tedious to Miles, but Gregor points out that an Auditor is an Imperial inquiry agent, and the unique traits that make Miles so, well, Miles-like are exactly what Gregor needs.
Komarr is a futuristic detective novel. Komarr, a neighboring planet in the Barryaran system, is being terra-formed, and there has been an incident with the equipment that might have been sabotaged. The name Vorkosigan is met with hatred on Komarr, where Lord Aral Vorkosigan brutally put down a rebellion decades earlier. Political skullduggery, criminal conspiracy and a love story all unfold. In Komarr, Miles finally meets a woman he may be able to be happy with. After his exotic liaisons and hook-ups with galactic tough-girls, Ekaterin is something of a surprise; a conventional Vor woman. She has a son with a genetic condition, and Miles soon bonds with the boy. Ekaterin is well-drawn and believable, a good match for the Vorkosigan scion and the secretly lonely hero.
A Civil Campaign is a book with many subplots. Back on Barrayar, Miles continues his courtship of Ekaterin, who is trying to make her own way under very difficult circumstances. Miles’s clone-brother Mark is pursuing a business venture with madcap results. Emperor Gregor is involved in a royal wedding — his own, to a Komarran, a match that will finally join Barrayar and Komarr in peace. And a young Vor lady brings information to Gregor that will change the political landscape of the whole planet.
Mark’s butterbug marketing scheme was the least successful storyline here as far as I was concerned. The Vor books are filled with dry wit and slapstick humor, but this Three-Stooges-style farce, especially the predictable dinner party scene, didn’t work for me. I also thought that Gregor, who comes to the aid of a nine-year-old-boy at the eleventh hour, was too good to be quite true. Yes, he had told the boy to call him if he were in danger. Yes, Gregor must be a man of this word, and yes, I do understand that we must see Gregor as a protector of children in order to recognize how different he is from his sadistic, insane father. Still, Gregor has a planet to run and a wedding to plan. I would have expected a snappish comment or an acerbic remark directed at Miles, at the very least.
Still, there is so much here to like. Miles and Ekaterin are poignant as two vulnerable people trying to be together in the face of huge odds, and the subplot involving gender politics hits all the right notes.
Early in the Vor Saga, Bujold gave herself a huge canvas and filled it with an extended ensemble of characters. From Cordelia and Aral, Miles and Mark, to their very Vor cousin, to family retainers, to Gregor and the royal court, she has left herself plenty to work with, and deploys these interesting people with skill, humor and panache. At the end of A Civil Campaign, Miles is no longer a space pirate/undercover operative. He has found a woman to share his life, and a way to be Vor and still be fulfilled. And has he truly settled down? Only time will tell.
There is a mystery to solve on Komarr and Miles is sent in his new role as Imperial Auditor. There he befriends a Vor woman who has an unhappy marriage and a son with a genetic disorder. Each of them learns a lot from the other and Miles specifically has some insights about his own body image. To enjoy this story fully, you should read The Borders of Infinity first.