The Vor Game - Lois McMaster Bujold
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 HUGO WINNERS list.

This is the reading list that follows the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I loved reading the Locus Sci-Fi Award winners so I'm going to crack on with the Hugo winners next (but only the post-1980 winners, I'll follow up with pre-1980 another time).


Long-running series should, ideally, be read in the internal chronological order. Unfortunately, Maestro Bujold did not write her epic Vorkosigan Saga in the obvious order – she’s jumped back and forth in the timeline with each successive book. Under these circumstances, fans that have been with her since the beginning will have experienced the full story in publication order, which also makes perfect sense. Being the contrary and ornery individual that I am, I am reading this wonderful series in neither chronological or publication order, but rather a semi-random and illogical sequence of my own devising! (Faye uses the word ornery a lot in older QuestionableContent issues I’ve been reading and it got lodged in my head.)

I began with Book Nine (Mirror Dance) and then jumped back to Book Two (Barrayar) – both read as part of my Locust Quest. These stories caught me hook, line and sinker: I declared myself a loyal reserve in the Emperor’s Vorkosigan Fan-Club Army.

Next, I found my way here to Book Four, (The Vor Game) as it was flagged for my attention as a Hugo winner from 1991 (more on that later). And I’ve now been given Books 8, 10 and 11 (Borders of Infinity, Memory and Komarr) as Birthday presents. Hurray!

I love a big fat series. Discworld. Dresden Files. The Dark Tower. Pliocine Exile/Galactic Milieu. Foundation. Night’s Dawn. A Song of Ice and Fire. Catch my drift? To me, the Vorkosigan Saga is the best thing I’ve discovered since I began the Locus Quest (and that includes Neal Stephenson, who I now adore). It took a great effort of will to not tear into Barrayar the moment it arrived, and another to resist the allure of The Vor Game for weeks and weeks until my reading list said I was allowed to! (I’m very strict with my reading lists – once the list is made, the list is boss.)

Whereas Barrayar focuses on Miles’ mother around the time of his birth, and Mirror Dance focuses on Miles’ clone-brother when they’re both in their late twenties. The Vor Game focuses exclusively on Miles in his late teens, just after graduating – and more Miles equals more fun! He’s a terrifically likeable lead and Bujold has a real flair for character which isn’t common in sci-fi.

This is a classic book of three acts. Miles starts in the military, gets assigned to some backwater Arctic camp, and has a massive personality clash with the commander, which gets them both fired. He gets re-assigned as a spy, and out in the field, under-cover, he bimbles around for some time, getting a feel for the territory on one mission before he bumps into his old childhood chum, The Emperor, who is on the lam incognito! Miles has to rescue his friend, foil the intergalactic plot that threatens his home-world, defeat his old Arctic-camp nemesis, and dig some other mercenary buddies out of the hole he left them in during his last adventure! It’s a light-hearted, whirlwind adventure in the best traditions of Space Opera. Miles is a fast talking, faster thinking, marginally psychotic, loveable little scamp!

It was one of those books where I spent the whole time reading it with a huge grin plastered on my face, and strangers in coffee shops looked at me with a worried squint. (Or maybe they were just curious if it was really ‘sugar’ I was putting in my drink?)

A quick note on the cover: I seem to have a copy of The Vor Game that was a short-lived edition. I can’t find the correct cover on GoodReads, and I’ve searched high and low on the internet, and the only version I could find anywhere was an e-bay pic of a guy’s hand holding the book. I now cannot even find that! (I shall add a pic to this review when I find my camera). So apparently this is rare – maybe it would be worth something if my copy wasn’t battered to frack. I take my books wherever I go, in whatever pocket they can be crammed – I am not kind to covers and spines.

Another quick note: After seeing how much I was enjoying this series, my darling wife has now gotten in on the fun, and agrees that Miles is utterly adorable and the books are awesome. We are now a family of Vorkosigan fans together! Double-hurray!

As far as I can tell you can jump into this series at any point because they’re all superbly written, stand-alone novels as well as linking together into an epic sci-fi adventure series. So you’ve got no real excuses – just grab the first one you spot and get involved!

P.S.
The Vor Game won the 1991 Hugo Award. The Locus Sci-Fi award that year went to Dan Simmons' The Fall of Hyperion (which is awesome) and the Nebula went to Le Guin's Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea (which I haven't read yet). I've given both Fall and Vor Game 5-stars, but of the two I'd give Simmons the nod as an outstanding achievement.

After this I read: Angelmaker