Book: The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold

Entertaining vehicle for an interesting character

May 29, 2011

Lois McMaster Bujold

The Vor Game

Baen, 1990

ISBN: 0-671-72014-7

342 pages

Out of print; as of this writing, inexpensive used copies are readily available

The main character of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel The Vor Game is Miles Vorkosigan. He’s from a noble house, he’s the son of a famous military man, and he’s a friend of the planet’s emperor. But he was born with various birth defects and will never be accepted by the planet Barrayar’s people as a leader. So he’s in an interesting position: close to power, but never likely to wield much directly. He’s also very clever and often quite lucky. So he’s the sort of character who is likely to have adventures that are entertaining to read about.

As the book begins, Miles has just graduated from the planet’s military academy. He’s hoping for an assignment on a spaceship. Instead, he gets the job of meteorologist at a place that’s generally called Camp Permafrost. It seems that the powers-that-be hope that he will learn some humility there. (The lack of which is another thing that makes Miles an interesting character.)

Miles eventually clashes with the base’s commander, who has him arrested for mutiny. He is quickly and quietly returned to the capital where people have to decide what to do with him. Hoping he’d stay out of the way and learn some humility obviously didn’t work. He’s sent on another mission, during which he runs into the young emperor Gregor who had gone missing.

If you get the idea that the book is not exactly overflowing with dramatic unity, you’re right. It’s very much the adventures of an interesting character. And it manages to do a good enough job at that that it won the Hugo award for best novel in 1991.

I think that I’d have enjoyed the book a bit more if I had read one or another of the novels in the series that were published earlier so as to have a better feeling for what to expect. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.