Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So I read my copy of Bujold's new book, Cryoburn, mostly while waiting on PepBoys to finish working on my car. It wasn't the cheapest maintenance I've ever gotten, and when you're dealing with a tiny little clown car, even basic maintenance "feels" pricy. As for the book...

It isn't her best work. In fact, I'd call it the weakest since Ethan of Athos. She clearly has run out of things to do with Miles Vorkosigan. Overall, the book feels like a first draft, or written from the gutted remnant of an unsatisfactory, largely discarded outline. There's little emotional arc to the story, and it isn't really thematically fleshed out. She obviously went into the project wanting to talk about the politics of suspended animation - the story's set on a planet where they took Chesterton's aphorism about tradition being the democracy of the dead way, way too seriously. But somewhere along the line, the emotional resonance got lost.

Part of it might be the dispersal of the viewpoint among three characters, none of whom are real moral actors in the story. In fact, there is no real moral point to the story - things just happen damned thing after another, and the solution to high-handed corruption of corporate mores is, apparently, high-handed illegalities & exploitation of corporate mores on the part of the good guys. The threats are mostly bloodless, and the resolution is kind of low-impact.

There are signs that the book originally was cast as some sort of heavy-handed allegory in favor of universal government monopoly on healthcare cryogenic storage, but that an editor complained & Bujold (who always has been a big lefty, at least when it came to socialized universal healthcare) dialed it back in consideration of her rather right-wing Baen audience.


Mark said...

The new novel was announced back when Jim Baen died, as a sort of tribute to him. I kinda get the feeling that Bujold is done with the Vorkosigan series, and just wrote this one out of a sense of obligation.

Honestly, Diplomatic Immunity was really phoning it in too. Not sure there was any reason to continue the series past A Civil Campaign and Miles's marriage; everything was pretty much resolved by that point.

Mitch H. said...

Diplomatic Immunity was kind of fun, if unnecessary, and at least it had some of the freewheeling Dendarii Mercenary feel to it. CryoBurn is more of a copy of a copy, and a washed out copy at that. Miles has no real reason to be where he is, and no urgent reason to do the things he does.

And writing a disguised pro-socialized-health-care book as a tribute to your fiercely libertarian editor and publisher is rather... eccentric to put it kindly.

Mark said...

DI had the problem that it was about the quaddies, who are the most boring people in the Universe. It was also unnecessarily cruel to Bel Thorne and to Miles to hit them with that mutagenic thingie; I know Bujold's philosophy is "what's the worst thing I can do to these characters" but the point was always to see them bounce back better than ever, not kick them in the stomach and leave them on the ground.

It also inadvertently made the case that the Cetagandan Empire needs to be sterilized from orbit at once. Those freaks can't seem to go for six months without one of their nutball genofixed servants going crazy, stealing the plague ships they have lying around for some reason and trying to wipe out all human life. Because Bujold has been trying to humanize the Cetagandans from their initial description as just generic villains, this ends up spoiling a lot of her efforts.

Also also if there's one single thing that still needs to be wrapped up in the Vorkosigan series, it's Ivan and his future. I'm guessing he's not even in this one?

Ah, heh heh, well. I can go on...