Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my GIFTS AND GUILTY list.
Regardless of how many books are already queued patiently on my reading list, unexpected gifts and guilt-trips will always see unplanned additions muscling their way in at the front.
If you’ve never read any of Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga – what are you waiting for? They’re great! However, I wouldn’t recommend making this your first. It’s not the kind of series you have to start at the beginning (I came in at book nine and loved it) but, to me, Komarr has the feel of the middle book in a trilogy, a smaller arc within the bigger series.
If you’ve read one or two other books in Vorkosiverse - this is Miles’ first adventure since Memory, where he embarked upon his new career as a Galactic Auditor. He’s kind of like a trouble-shooting detective with the authority of the Emperor. Miles is still settling into his new role, trying to find the balance between effective use and reprehensible misuse of his power. In this case, Miles is called in to investigate a massive space accident that has damaged the planet Komarr’s soletta array (terrorist-with-secret-weapon shenanigans ensue).
If you’re familiar with the broad path of the series – this is “The one where Miles falls in love.” Miles has been in love before –at the end of Komarr he even reels off a list of all the people he’s fallen for in the past. But watching Miles falling in love has never been the main focus before, it’s always been a subplot or distraction – but Bujold handles it remarkably well, this isn’t a romance in any conventional fashion.
Ekaterin is no Quinn, nor is she a Taura - those are the wild girls from Miles’ past I was most fond of. Ekaterin is an unhappily married Vor lady with an eight year old son. She’s living on Komarr (not her home planet) and married to a Barayaran Administrator who is a complete tool, on both a personal and professional level. Miles meets her through the course of his investigation and is slowly bewitched by her. The perspective flip-flops between Miles and Ekaterin throughout the story as he tries to stay focused on his case rather than the dame, and she tries to change her life somehow.
The twist comes during an accident: her husband is killed and the case breaks. Both aspects of the story pick up the pace before combining in a climax dominated by Ekaterin, not Miles; it’s the last straw for Miles and he is irrevocably smitten.
My favourite quote came right at the end:
It was easy to enjoy Komarr: Miles is one of my favourite characters and hanging out with him is delight. But Ekatarin was new to me, and although she grew on me as the book progressed, it wasn’t love at first sight. She’s complex, brave and strong by the end – but she’s timid, scared, insecure and joyless at the start. So it took me a little longer than normal to become enthralled. At one point I wondered if this might be my first Vorkosigan Saga to get just three-stars from me, but then it pulled round on the upward curve and thundered past the finishing line a very strong four-star rating. I finished it on my break at work today and had a big grin in the canteen – very tempting to just read straight on to the next in the series as I know my wife has bought it!“She had met the enemy, mastered her moment, hung three hours on death’s doorstep, all that, and she’d emerged still on her feet and snarling. Oversocialized, hah. Oh, yeah, Da. I want this one.”
Bujold’s strongest card is her characterisation, closely followed by her dialogue – and they shine as brightly as ever here. Miles case just isn’t his most fascinating and the supporting cast isn’t half as strong – no Marc, no Cordelia, no Gregor, no Ilyan, no Dendarii, etc. So Komarr is not my favourite of the series (that’s still Mirror Dance), but I still enjoyed it thoroughly and highly recommend.
Komarr was a gift from my Grandmother-in-Law, along with two other Bujold novels she picked up for a combined price of £5 from a second-hand book stall. Thanks Nanny-B!
After this I read: Bear's Magic Moon