Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold


Science FictionKomarr by Lois McMaster BujoldKomarr
Lois McMaster Bujold
; Baen 1998

No longer with the military, Lord Miles Vorkosigan is now a Barrayaran Imperial Auditor. These trusted men go where needed for Barrayaran Emperor Gregor. Miles is young for the job but his health and political issues made him leave the military. He joins Imperial Auditor Vorthys when the terraforming mirror orbiting Kormarr is badly damaged by an accident with an ore ship. But was it really an accident or an act of sabotage?

Miles and Vorthys stay with Vorthys’ niece Ekaterin and her husband Etienne Vorshisson. Vorshisson is an administrator of some of the continuing work to help the Komarrans with their terraforming project, now centuries old, as they try to turn Komarr into a safe, self sustaining planet. Komarr is the planet at the worm hole gateway to Barrayar. It is strategically important. Vorthys and Miles are visitng officially to determine the cause of the accident, then see what repairs are needed.

Although he’s no longer a soldier, Miles still thinks like one. He also carries the responsibility of being Vor, the ruling class on Barrayar. As a tactition, Miles looks for subversion around every corner. The mirror damage was too efficient in its damage, leading them to wonder if the ore ship crashed it on purpose. If so, why? Who would want to damage the spacial mirror that is critical to terraforming?

Kat is unhappy. Her husband is hiding a genetic disease that doesn’t appear until a Barrayaran is older. Once upon a time he would have been killed for the disease but now it can be treated. If they start treatment immediately, they can prevent their young son from developing the disease. The Barrayarans have a prejudice against mutant diseases, though, and Etienne keeps the disease hidden until they can get the money for the treatment. He has grown distant, shutting her out. Her marriage is shaky, but as a Vor, she is bound to stay with him. Something is bothering him. Does he know something about the mirror accident?

As a reader following through the series, it is odd to see Miles out of the military. He worked so hard to overcome his disabilities to get in, then loved what he did, especially the undercover, unofficial work he often did. Now he has been moved to a paper shuffler. But this is Miles Vorkosigan. If there’s trouble around, he’ll stumble into it.

Lois McMaster Bujold switches the point of view in Komarr between Miles and Kat. Throughout the series the matter of being Vor and more responsible has appeared. It is addressed deeper in Komarr as Kat considers the ramifications of leaving or staying with her husband. Does she stay because Vor women always do what the men say, or does she leave the husband she no longer loves and get the necessary treatment for her precious son?

Miles is certain something more is going on in Komarr. Bujold twists the novel around, raising his suspicions. His protective instincts also kick in with Kat Vorshisson. He knows something is wrong but is not allowed to help her. It is only when both Komarr and Barrayar are both threatened that he is finally able to do something for the planets and for the Vorshissons.

Bujold continues to give the reader good space opera with flawed people. Miles is barely 5 feet tall due to an attack on his mother before he was born. The Barrayarans are still a very male dominated society with women only recently allowed into positions outside of the home. After years of dealing with genetic diseases, they are still mutation-phobic. Many babies are still killed at birth if they show signs of genetic mutations. While native Komarrans are not slaves, it is the ruling Barrayarans who run the world of Komarr. Bujold deals with injustices honestly – showing their evils but also showing the difficulties and slowness of change.

Politics and intrigue and inter-family relationships and a touch of romance rolled together into rousing space opera – that’s Komarr.

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