Just Reviewed Bujold’s “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance” at SBR
Folks, if you’re looking for a good, farcical military SF adventure with romance, look no further than Lois McMaster Bujold’s newest novel, CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE. This, the fifteenth book in the long-running saga about Miles Naismith Vorkosigan and his family and friends, is full of biting wit, thrilling adventure, and good romance.
Tej Arqua is a “galactic,” meaning she’s from Jackson’s Whole (a planet that exemplifies the phrase “capitalism run amok”), while Ivan Vorpatril is a Barrayaran Captain who works in Ops as an administrative professional (read: paper pusher, or perhaps the less-flattering term “REMF,” which I did use in my review). Ivan, you see, is a guy who’s smart, talented, good-looking and interesting — but he can’t hold a candle to his brilliant cousin Miles, nor can he hold a cousin to his brilliant (albeit cloned) cousin Mark, either. Plus his mother is the formidable Lady Alys, and his quasi-stepfather, Simon Illyan, is the former head of Barrayaran Imperial Security (ImpSec, for short) . . . in other words, Ivan has spent his whole life falling short of the mark, even though he’s quite good when taken for himself.
Tej is a child of similar circumstances, albeit from a completely different background . . . she, too, has had much expected of her. And while she’s a perfectly good person in her own right — interesting, funny, and sweet by turns — she’s not a genius, doesn’t want to be, and doesn’t particularly want anyone to attempt to make her into something she’s not, either. So when she meets up with Ivan in a most unusual way, sparks fly . . . and the two of ’em just might be right for each other after all (go read my review to find out why).
As this is a Bujold romance, think “Georgette Heyer in space” rather than the more overt military SF/romance of Linnea Sinclair or even Catherine Asaro. Both Sinclair and Asaro are great writers, too; I’ve reviewed several of Sinclair’s novels and will certainly be reviewing Asaro’s in the near future as well. But they are much more graphic than Bujold tends to be; Bujold likes to hint rather than give flat-out exposition, such as when Ivan tells Tej how odd it feels to be married and to have sex with her, the first time, as a married person — he mentions this, then she says something about one of her names meaning “Light,” and he says, “Well, then, illuminate me” — best paraphrase, that, as I don’t have the book in front of me. Fade to black.
Anyway, everything works in this novel, but it’s not a full A-plus because Bujold herself has written better novels in this series — several of them, to be exact (MIRROR DANCE, the two-book set CORDELIA’S HONOR, THE VOR GAME, the short story collection BORDERS OF INFINITY, etc.) — and that has to be factored into the decision.
Besides, Ivan and Tej are both past masters of conflict avoidance, which makes it tough to see their virtues at times. (Tough, but possible. And well done — oh, so very well done.)
But don’t let the lack of an A-plus review stop you from appreciating this fine and funny novel. Go read my review, then go grab the book, either as an e-copy at Baen Books, or as a hardcover via the usual places.