The Vor Game

by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cover image

Series: Vorkosigan #4
Publisher: Baen
Copyright: September 1990
Printing: September 1999
ISBN: 0-671-72014-7
Format: Mass market
Pages: 342

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Reading The Warrior's Apprentice before this book is strongly recommended. Bujold does a good job of explaining the necessary details without getting in the way, but there's still a lot of background that you'd be missing without the previous book.

Rather than the light farce of The Warrior's Apprentice, The Vor Game takes a more serious approach. Miles, as the previous book makes obvious, clearly has a problem with not following orders and deciding to do his own thing. So the book opens with him being given an assignment to test his ability to follow orders, in an environment where he's not particularly welcome and has to figure out as he goes. Miles also has to deal with the Barrayar dislike of the abnormal, and the assumption that due to his damaged body, he's some form of genetic mutant.

It's a setup ripe for character development, but unfortunately less happens than one might hope. Instead, the story follows the same general direction as the last book. Miles ends up running into things that no one anticipated, solving problems through individual initiative. He then gets sent out into a more complex situation, a military build-up and possible war in a strategic wormhole complex, with strict orders to obey his commanding officer this time. Of course, he quickly gets embroiled in the situation, gets separated from his commanding officer, and goes off on his own again.

There's more meat to the story this time, and quite a few more twists and complexities, but the basic structure is still the same. Miles gets in way over his head, makes a bunch of seat-of-the-pants decisions, manages to be a little smarter than everyone else, and pulls out an elegant solution in the end. The plot was a bit less coincidental this time, but it's still a little hard to swallow except as a light-hearted farce. It was also a bit disappointing to not really get anything new, just more of the same from the previous book.

Those disappointments aside, the story is good, fast-moving political intrigue and manuevering, with satisfying complexity and lots of sides. It's not military SF exactly, in that there's very little actual combat, but it's the political equivalent. I still wish for fewer coincidences and a bit more real character development, but the pacing is excellent. Good, entertaining fluff, although I hope this series doesn't turn out to be a one-trick pony.

Followed in series chronological order by Cetaganda.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-08-19

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21