Friday, 1 January 2016

Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

*Mild Spoilers Below*
Dammit, are there any handy people out there who can tell me why this blogging site has suddenly started posting the picture so far down the page? There are no spaces above it! And I'm doing exactly the same thing I've always done, on the computer I've always done it on. 

Okay, to the book! I picked this up at our local library's big sale in the fall, and I think it brings me up to date on Vorkosigan books, with the exception of the first two from before Miles' birth, which still elude me. I've read a lot of Lois McMaster Bujold the last couple of years, and have loved every single one of them. 

Cryoburn doesn't knock my socks off within that pantheon, but it is still better and more engaging than most books I read. As I always say about Bujold, she has a knack of putting what would be the end for other people about two-thirds in, or as my husband says when I mention it, "she has an actual third act!"

In this case, Miles is on a planet that has built its entire economy and culture on access to cryo-freezing. People are getting (if they can afford it) frozen younger and younger with less and less wrong with them, in hopes of a future where aging has been cured. In the meantime, their votes still exist, given as proxies to the companies who hold their bodies. With more frozen people on the planet than warm ones, this has led to certain abuses, and a heavily stratified society of those who can afford to be frozen, and those who can't.
One of the companies is thinking of opening a branch on the second planet of Gregor's Empire, so Miles, as Imperial Auditor, is sent to see whether or not this smells. Of course, it does, but it's not the only thing that does. He finds a world where dissidents have been frozen without due process, to keep them from making things difficult for those who run the world. It might be a little out of his purview, by when has that ever stopped Miles?

Along for the ride this time is long-suffering Roic, Raven, (one of the Durona group doctors), and an ambassador from Barrayar who is shocked and exhausted by Miles' tactics. He also picks up an entourage of two children, one of whom is a perpetual runaway from an aunt and uncle who took him in after his mother was involuntarily frozen. He also discovers an illegal freezing organization that attempts to make the service accessible to the poorer people who are otherwise doomed to die permanently. 

Without ever quite overtly going there, it's also a meditation on a world where the prolongation of life is valued above the quality of life while you have it. Is it something Barrayar wants in large amounts? And what happens when you're watching your own parent fail, and this is something that could keep them alive, but not present? 

It's an excellent caper, with some heavier thoughts and a painful ending. All things Bujold excels at, and for which I love Miles.


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

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