Book Review of Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Cyroburn”


© James Pyles

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I feel like this book review requires a bit of an explanation. I thought “Women in SciFi Month” was in March, but according to this, it’s in April, so I’m not late.

Actually, thanks to Cora Buhlert (she and I are very different people but she’s one of the few folks who doesn’t take it personally) and the twitter hashtag #FiveSFFWritersWhoArentBlokes, I compiled a list of female SFF writers I want to read (a lot more than five). I’m usually against “you have to read these authors or you’re racist, sexist, misanthropic, whatever…” but I am also aware there are tons of science fiction writers I simply don’t know about. After all, if not for twitter, I’d have no idea Adrian Tchaikovsky even existed, let alone have read and reviewed his novel Children of Time (it has issues but overall, a great book).

Because my list is alphabetical, I started with Lois McMaster Bujold. I found out that a bunch of her books were at my local public library just a few miles from where I live. I shot on over but hadn’t looked any of them up first. I set aside anything that looked like fantasy and drilled into her science fiction works. I settled on Cryoburn because the blurb was interesting:

Kibou-daini is a planet obsessed with cheating death. Barrayaran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan can hardly disapprove—he’s been cheating death his whole life, on the theory that turnabout is fair play. But when a Kibou-daini cryocorp—an immortal company whose job it is to shepherd its all-too-mortal frozen patrons into an unknown future—attempts to expand its franchise into the Barrayaran Empire, Emperor Gregor dispatches his top troubleshooter Miles to check it out.

On Kibou-daini, Miles discovers generational conflict over money and resources is heating up, even as refugees displaced in time skew the meaning of generation past repair. Here he finds a young boy with a passion for pets and a dangerous secret, a Snow White trapped in an icy coffin who burns to re-write her own tale, and a mysterious crone who is the very embodiment of the warning Don’t mess with the secretary. Bribery, corruption, conspiracy, kidnapping—something is rotten on Kibou-daini, and it isn’t due to power outages in the Cryocombs. And Miles is in the middle—of trouble!

I belatedly found out that the book is number 14 in a 16 book series and hoped that reading so late in the sequence wouldn’t damage my perceptions (it’s happened before).

It did take me a few chapters to get oriented, but after that, I adored Bujold’s writing. I’m not one to fawn over someone just because they’ve won awards or pass some sort of social justice litmus test, but I really, really don’t care about her politics or opinions (I haven’t bothered to look them up because what’s the point?). Her writing is fabulous and I love the character Miles Vorkosigan

True, the story takes place pretty much on the planet “Japan” (she borrowed heavily from Japanese culture and language, but Firefly did that with Chinese), but setting that aside, it’s terrific.

I’m glad Bujold included family oriented content. So much of modern science fiction, modern literature in general really, either pretends people don’t belong to families, or if they recognize that, the families are universally dysfunctional. But in this book, people are actually good parents and the kids are likeable and not psychopathic brats. They are also essential to the plot.

True, the book was first published in 2010 and a certain “fanzine” has chided people before because they read science fiction that is more than five years old (* bleep * their bad attitudes anyway).

If “Cyroburn” was selling some sort of political or social agenda, I didn’t see it, which is good. Commentary should make a subliminal rather than in-your-face impact on the consumer, so good on you, Lois. You wrote an adventure I could truly enjoy without slapping me in the face with your opinions and knocking me forcefully out of the narrative.

I need to read some other authors in an attempt to round out my experience, but I am absolutely coming back to the Miles Vorkosigan saga. Definite five stars on Amazon for you.

Next up for “Women in SciFi Month” from the library, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: The Complete Trilogy

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