Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Cryoburn Cryoburn
by Lois Mcmaster Bujold
Baen Books

Supplied for review by Baen Publishing Enterprises

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

Cryoburn is back into Lois McMaster Bujold’s familiar world of Miles Vorkosigan, the thirteenth Vorkosigan book and the fifteenth in the cycle. Fortunately for the novice, the book can be read as a standalone although some of the nuances of the story will be lost for those unfamiliar with the back story.

As a fan of Ms Bujold’s I found it difficult to treat this book in its own right, as for approximately fifteen years Ms Bujold wrote almost exclusively in the Vorkosigan or related cycle (the exception being the mediaeval fantasy The Spirit Ring), before she sought some artistic freedom in the Chalion and the Sharing Knife series. So yes, I too champed at the bit for a new Miles Vorkosigan novel.

But back to Cryoburn. Previous Vorkosigan novels have been marked by an almost frenetic pace, matching the central character of Miles Vorkosigan’s manic personality: a hyperactive genius on speed. This book has Miles in a putative stimulants-anonymous environment (my name is Miles, I am grandeur incarnate), where he is desperately trying to stay at a mundane pace to stay under the radar so as not to spook the horses (or the villains). Restraint is Miles’ watch word and that spirit of restraint imbues the novel – I am still trying to resolve in my own mind whether this is a good thing or not, but probably it is; after all Miles is now middle aged with a dependent family so caution should be expected, but after twelve previous books of helter skelter activity a cautious Miles is a new experience.

But does Cryoburn work in its own right? Yes, it does. This is an action thriller, with a soupcon of political intrigue; with believable characters acting within their expected milieu. There are intrigues; there are twists; and Miles’ twin brother Mark drops by to make a financial killing. So a fun book, albeit without the super-charged pace: a merely high octane outing if not super-charged as well.

Spoiler alert for back-page readers: the author has also included five drabbles, or one hundred word compositions, based on the last three words of the novel. Technically, these are outside the novel, but within the scope of the book, and are possibly the best writing she has done in several years. At least one of these moved me to tears, but then I am an emotional chap. The drabbles alone are worth the price of the book (but read the novel first).

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