Diplomatic Immunity

by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cover image

Series: Vorkosigan #12
Publisher: Baen
Copyright: May 2002
ISBN: 0-7434-3533-8
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 311

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Diplomatic Immunity takes place a year and change after the conclusion of A Civil Campaign. It stands alone about as well as any Miles story, but it adds a lot of depth to the story to know the people and previous episodes mentioned in it.

After the very non-traditional subject matter of A Civil Campaign, Diplomatic Immunity is a return to Miles doing his thing (albeit as Imperial Auditor). It's told exclusively from Miles's point of view, there's a mystery mixed with cascading failures with serious implications for Barrayar, each minor revelation leads to a new danger, and Miles saves the day as always with sheer persistance and forward momentum. This means it's not quite the story Komarr or A Civil Campaign were, both of which broke new ground, but it's a fun and satisfying investigation.

Perhaps best of all, Diplomatic Immunity avoids the stock Miles problem resolution scenario. Miles does not start off by making a horrible, cringe-worthy decision that he spends the rest of the book digging his way out from under. I never wanted to smack him upside the head, which as far as I'm concerned is a significant improvement over the previous Miles-formula stories. There was quite enough plot tension and suspense without adding yet another case of protagonist stupidity, and I like being able to respect Miles's competence.

This time, the plot deals with the Quaddies (introduced in Falling Free, set in the same universe but not part of the Miles sequence). Miles is sent to their region of space after a Komarr trade ship and its Barrayaran military escort have gotten entangled in an escalating conflict with the local officials. Once there, he discovers the situation was set off by an apparent murder. With the help of an old friend of Admiral Naismith, Miles starts tugging at the strings, the investigation leads to increasingly startling conclusions, and by the end of the book, the peace of the galaxy, or at least the local portion of it, is once again in danger.

As in Komarr, part of the fun is seeing Miles make full use of his Auditor powers and impress people with how he handles situations. It's fun watching his competence and hyperactive thought processes tackle a challenging problem. His companions are also woven into the story effectively: Miles's reactions to and observations of Bel Thorne are worth a few grins, and Ekaterin fits well into the story (and in a role all her own). This is a good payoff for readers of the rest of the series, a showcase for character growth and an interesting example of how differently Miles goes about tackling one of these problems than he used to. There's a lot more talking and less guns blazing.

This has been the last Vorkosigan book for about five years now. Another has apparently been promised and purchased, but it's not clear when we'll see it. It's a good (although hopefully temporary) end to the series, returning to previous themes, weaving the different corners of Miles's life together, setting up some potential future protagonists and another perspective shift, and providing for me a sense of thematic closure without shutting the universe down. I did miss the skillful use of multiple perspectives from the previous two books, but this is a Miles story, not a story of his ensemble cast, and the perspective is appropriate for the book.

This isn't as good as Komarr or A Civil Campaign, the best books of the series in my opinion, but it's a solid entry that will please any fan of the series.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2007-11-04

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