Monday, 23 February 2015

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

*Some Spoilers Below*

Huh. Just looking for an image of the cover of the edition I had, I see comments on the oversexualization on the cover. I don't disagree. Couldn't we at least have seen a bit more of Ivan? It's an issue, and it continues to be an issue. It's not one cover - I'd like to see a point where science fiction can a) contain sex without people freaking out, which this one does, and b) where oversexualization of women on covers is not such a common issue that we could have the occasional cover that acknowledges sex without it being this.

At any rate, let me tell you a tale of how I picked this one up. I thought I was done my intense Vorkosigan rampage, as I'd finished all the books my lovely friend Nele sent in the best care package ever. (Well, second best. The box of small wrapped gifts my mother sent me a month before my comp exams, with one to be unwrapped every three days was probably the absolute best, as it got me through a very tough month.)

I intended to get to the two more recent books eventually, but no hurry. I'd by then read all but the first two and the most recent two.

However, I forgot to pack a book one day when I was going over to campus, intending to grab lunch between time working in the library, and my archives shift in the afternoon. Panic! I ran over to the campus bookstore, trying to find a cheap mass market to buy to read over lunch. This was in trade paperback, but I kept coming back to it, because it was the only thing I saw that I was really dying to read. I gave in. I am weak.

Also, the very idea of a book focused on Ivan was appealing - he's always tried so hard to stay out of the pulse-pounding situations, and I was sure it would be amusing to see what would happen in that case. I was not disappointed. It's not quite the wonderfulness of Miles, but it was very entertaining to see Ivan thrown in at the deep end, and really make quite the impression, which, he fears, might lead to a promotion and more responsibility.

He is asked by Byerly Vorrutyer to look into two young women on Komarr. Byerly can't blow his cover to protect them himself, but he knows of threats to them, if not why. Ivan is promptly knocked out and tied up by the two women, when he comes skulking around. Eventually, though, they end up holed up in his apartment, all three of them, surrounded by security forces and potential assassins. How to extend his protect to Tej and Rish? Why, by marrying Tej, of course! Ivan assumes a divorce will be easy to obtain.

So yes, this is vaguely spoilery, but it all happens in the first hundred pages. As I have noted before when it comes to Lois McMaster Bujold, she is an expert in having the story just begin where most stories would end. She does it again here, and it is, as always fascinating, and much more complex than that expected ending would have been.

Tej, it turns out, is the heiress to a recently attacked and dismantled House in Jackson's Whole. This becomes particularly relevant as we have two people try to get used to each other, one of whom is from a society that is pretty much run by gangsters and capitalists, the other of whom is from a distinctly feudal society. Their economics alone clash in interesting but not simplistic ways, and we see how those economics affect all their dealings with each other and the world.

Also, by the end of the book, Simon Illyan is laughing his head off. I mean, really, he is. I never thought I see Simon laugh like that. It's very entertaining.

As for the rest, I won't give it away. Suffice it to say, Ivan has to decide whether or not he wants to remain married, and whether or not Tej would agree. Not to mention the wheeling and dealing involved in joining two families, and the ever-present threat of more responsibility.


I read this book as part of an attempt to read all the Hugo Nominees

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