One of the great things about library conferences is that vendors, publishers, and authors eagerly handout books as you walk by. It is also the worst if you have no room in your luggage and don’t want to pay shipping to send a box home. At annual last year, I received Captain Vorpatril’s alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold during a talk that also included George R.R. Martin–all his freebies were gone by the time I arrived. Each speaker was good and since I didn’t know a thing about Bujold other than what I’d just heard, my hopes were up for the sci-fi book that I gladly packed in my luggage. Now having finally read it, I’m not sure it was worth hauling back.
To preempt any of her fans, apparently there are a lot, that might take issue with my review of the author, who has a few Hugo awards too!, let me be clear that this is the first book I’ve read by her. The world and characters are new to me and after checking out fan reviews online, there is enough agreement that this novel isn’t the best introduction to the series. It is the 15th in the series, by the way.
Heinlein is a favorite of mine and I love a good sci-fi book, even if it is pulpy. But Bujold didn’t hook me. The story felt too explanatory, dwelling on history and family, making connections and tying up loose ends for everything it seemed. Stilted describes it well. As in, they went here and this is why, how, and the necessary history related to it that you need to know. An info-dump as we called it in creative writing courses. Sci-fi and Fantasy are usually focus on adventure and action, a get-up-and-go sense of urgency for one reason or another. Bradbury’s Something wicked this way comes wasn’t fast-paced but made you lean in and intrigued to continue, and had many eerily cautious portions. Unfortunately, this novel lacked any of those aspects for me.
Usually I am completely agreeable and give benefit of the doubt to books but there are a few cases in which writing style turns me off. This is one of those times. And I probably won’t pick up another of hers, again fans of hers please forgive me, because I have too much on my shelves and other book lists to get to reading. I understand being a fan and reading everything someone writes, I love Terry Goodkind’s Sword of truth, but we all have our favorites.
Recommend?: For fans of Bujold and her Vorkosigan saga, also anyone who is looking for a massive inter-galactic space adventure series. From what I gathered, her world is as large and diverse, and complex, as Star Wars, which all of the different relations and planets.