Komarr could be a garden with 1,000 more years' work, or an uninhabitable wasteland if the terraforming fails. Now, the solar mirror vital to the terraforming of the conquered planet has been shattered by a ship hurtling off course. The emperor of Barrayar sends his newest imperial auditor, Lord Miles Vorkosigan, to find out why.The choice is not a popular one on Komarr, where a betrayal a generation before drenched the name of Vorkosigan in blood. Thus, the Komarrans surrounding Miles could be loyal subjects, potential hostages, innocent victims, or rebels ready for revenge.Lies within lies, treachery within treachery - Miles is caught in a race against time to stop a plot that could exile him from Barrayar forever. His burning hope lies in an unexpected ally, one with wounds as deep and honor as beleaguered as his own.
"Bujold retains the wit, intelligence, action, and great character development that have made the Miles Vorkosigan series so superior. In Komarr she proves once again that it is possible for the latest book in a series to be as good as the first." (Voya) "As usual, Bujold tells a fast-moving story that combines just the right amount of action and wit as Miles continues to mature in a manner unusually complex for a series protagonist....[Bujold's] work remains among the most enjoyable and rewarding in contemporary SF." (Publishers Weekly)
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This one (in the series) has the feel of a set up for the rest of the books that come after it. On its own it is a good book, but if it is taken as a piece of the large picture of the series then it really keeps your interest. It still has some good action, mystery, and suspense. The characters introduced and developed end up playing key roles in the plots to come in future books. For these reasons, I have to take a starr off my review even though I loved the book. I love the series! If you like the 'Prince Roger' series by David Weber and John Ringo then you will love these too!
Roughly the eighth book featuring Miles Vorkosigan in Lois McMaster Bujold's ever-entertaining space opera series the Vorkosigan Saga is Komarr (1998). It opens about three months after the events of the last one, Memory (1997), when the brilliant, curious, hyperactive, and independent Miles apparently found his calling as an Imperial Auditor, a detective/diplomat/judge/paladin who speaks with "the Emperor's Voice." Because Miles and his eight fellow Auditors wield the authority of the Emperor without rules as they solve unusual, challenging, and politically delicate cases, it would seem to be an ideal gig for Miles. And it is, but for one small drawback: it tends to put him on the defensive and to deny him his "forward momentum" that has entertainingly (for us) helped him get into and out of so much trouble in past novels. In this one Miles has traveled to Komarr with his older Auditor colleague Vorbathys to investigate the accident which may be sabotage by which a freight space ship crashed into the solar mirror system vital to the ongoing terraforming of the harsh planet. And it just so happens that Vorbathys and Miles will be staying with the family of the older man's niece, Ekaterin Vorsoisson, whose husband Etienne is the administrator in charge of terraforming in the part of Komarr most affected by the accident/sabotage.
Bujold alternates chapters told from the points of view of Miles and Ekaterin, whose husband is a domineering, serial job-changer who refers to Miles behind his back as "the Vor dwarf" (readers familiar with the series know that an assassination attempt on his parents while he was inside his mother's womb made Miles unnaturally short and large headed). The most interesting parts of this book depict Ekaterin's unhealthy relationship with her selfish and manipulative husband (sex with whom is a nightmarish labor for which she must "hypnotize" herself via ugly fantasies into being able to respond with "natural" passion to avoid his resentful guilt-trips), her curious feelings about Miles (how did he receive and survive the myriad scars on his stunted body?), and his attraction to her (which involves sensual dreams, wistful conjugal fantasies, asides like "Down boy, don't even think about it," and rhetorical questions like "So what is this thing you have about tall women and unrequited love?") It's neat for the lonely Miles to take a back seat every other chapter to a potentially strong but hitherto "self-effacing and self-erasing" woman as she wonders, "How did I grow so small?" and begins to realize that she owns herself.
All of the above is complicated by the fact that Miles, Vorbathys, and the Vorsoissons hail from Barrayar, the homeworld of the Empire that some decades ago violently absorbed Komarr so as to be able to control the planet's many wormhole jump points, which still makes some of the native Komarrans resentful if not rebellious. And by the fact that Ekaterin's husband and their young son Nikolai have a genetically-transmitted, AIDS-like adult-onset disease, her husband having refused thus far to be treated for it because of the attendant shame on being perceived to be a "mutant" in the still too macho and patriarchal Barrayaran culture. Bujold highlights that culture by having her Barrayaran characters think of, allude to, or talk about apt Barrayaran sayings, fairy tales, epic poems, legends, and such that emphasize their dread of mutants and their celebration of self-sacrificing women and heroic men.
Throughout the novel, Bujold writes plenty of her trademark witty lines of dialogue and italicized inner thoughts:
"Tien with a plan was about as reassuring as a two-year-old with a charged plasma arc."
"How could you be lovers with someone and yet feel that every moment alone with them intruded upon your privacy, your dignity?"
"I spent a career fighting the powers that be, now I am them."
"Marriage was not an experience she cared to repeat."
Grover Garden gives his usual professional reading of the novel: nothing fancy, a limited number of voices, none of which are very different from each other, but all easy to listen to (and only his voice could belong to Miles!).
Although to move her plot forward Bujold has Miles act a few times in ways that are, given the situation and his character, unbelievably obtuse or reckless, she tells an involving mystery and an appealingly awkward romance, and I recommend Komarr for fans of entertaining, political, cultural and psychological space opera who don't require violent, large-scale, and pyrotechnic action.