Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cetaganda doesn't have the manic energy of The Warrior's Apprentice, which retains top spot as my favourite Vorkosigan book so far. It lacks that pell-mell, out-of-control sense of urgency that I absolutely fell in love with. But it is still a solid entry into the series, and Miles remains an incredibly appealing character to read about.

In Cetaganda, Miles and his nice but a little dim cousin Ivan are sent to Cetaganda to attend a major ritual as part of ongoing diplomatic efforts (after, you know, Miles thwarted the Cetagandan invasion in a previous book). The Empress has died, and her funeral is a big deal on this highly stratified world of genetically-altered haut nobles, ambitious ghem courtiers, and a large underclass. (Actually, we don't hear much about the underclass, just the haut and the ghem.)

But when Miles is met at the airlock by a servant to the former Empress and is left with a strange artifact, and then that same servant shows up dead beside the Empress' coffin, something is definitely afoot.

Cetaganda is awash with conspiracies, and Miles is thrown in at the deep end. He becomes embroiled in the machinations of a bunch of haut women, who are rarely seen outside their opaque bubbles, but who may control more than initially meets the eye.

This is fun, but I felt too certain from the beginning that Miles would come through unscathed. Some of the first events seem like they should spark repercussions, but really don't. And in a world where genetic engineering is everything, I would have liked those themes to be explored in a little more depth.

While this is fun, it ultimately feels a little slight. Too little urgency, too little danger, too little exploration of deeper themes. But still, if you are looking for a good mystery where the detective is baffled up to his neck, this does fit the bill.

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