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Book Note: Lois McMaster Bujold, Cetaganda

I read this book about 31-Oct-2002. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1996. This note was last modified Friday, 02-May-2014 23:46:31 PDT.

This is book 7 of the "Miles Vorkosigan" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


A chronologically early book; Miles is an ImpSec lieutenant, on a diplomatic mission to Cetaganda. Strangely enough, he ends up over his head (admittedly easy at his height) in a covert operation anyway. Keeping the Cetagandan empire from splitting apart. (Hey, I said there were spoilers). In an effort to make the punishment fit the crime, he is rewarded by the emperor (the Cetagandan emperor) with their Order of Merit (a very high award in their system).

I like this a lot, though the first time I read it I missed the position in the time-line, which caused a bit of wondering. I just don't pay much attention to that sort of thing, so books published out of order sneak up on me regularly.

I very much like Vorreedi, the "protocol officer" who's in charge of ImpSec on Eta Ceta IV. He's smart, has initiative, and is deeply suspicious of Miles. (And I can't help noticing that one obvious way to pronouce the last part of his name matches the pronunciation of "Wrede".)

The fleshing out of the Cetagandan setup is also very interesting. They have an extremely weird cultural/political setup, a very interesting one. There's a serious "who's in charge" question, and the structure seems in fact to be built on a balancing of powers. We learn a lot about the haut, especially the women, and some about the ghem. Fascinating.

There's one serious problem, though. On page 245 (hardcover), when Miles and Pel are preparing to go up to Governor Kety's ship pretending to be Vio and her prisoner Ivan, he regrets their inability to take energy weapons. "Not even a stunner, Miles thought with morbid regret." On page 256, Miles worries that firing his stunner on the ship will set off alarms. Between pages 257 and 258, he fires it three times. Darned good thing he had it; I wonder where it came from?

There's also a small issue, that I can't now find (I really must learn to keep post-it notes handy whenever I'm reading), where a degree of genetic similarity between two sub-classes of people is mentioned that's unbelievably low (sixty-something percent). I find it unbelievable because the similarity between human and chimpanzee is in the high 90s last I heard. However, it is Cetagandans, and they've been tinkering for years. Perhaps it's supposed to indicate the degree of that tinkering (though if so, I find it unbelievable).

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David Dyer-Bennet