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Komarr

Komarr
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Published by Baen Books, 1998
Amazon.com: hardcover, paperback
Amazon.ca: hardcover, paperback
Amazon.co.uk: hardcover, paperback
Highly recommended by: Greg Slade
[Komarr]

Book Rating
Rated 3 (Highly Recommended) by: 4 people
Rated 2 (Recommended) by: 6 people
Rated 1 (Suggested) by: nobody
Rated 0 (Reviewed) by: nobody
Total Votes: 10 people
Average Rating: 2.40 (Recommended)
Score: 2.40 (Recommended)

Komarr is set in the world of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan. Miles comes from a feudal, militaristic, technologically backward planet called Barrayar (which is pronounced something like "barrier", and Miles has faced plenty of those in his life.) Due to its turbulent history since colonisation, the people of Barrayar have an aversion to genetic mutations, and abortion and infanticide are practised on a regular basis in order to stamp out mutants. So Miles, who is not a mutant, but was poisoned in utero and ended up a hunchback under five feet tall, has battled prejudice all his life. (The fact that he is third in line to be Emperor of Barrayar makes people's mistrust of him, if anything, even worse.)

The setting allows Bujold to explore all kinds of moral issues in the course of her story-telling: abortion, infanticide, and prejudice being only three among many. But essentially, all the choices boil down to this: are people going to do what's right, or what's easy, or safe, or to their own personal benefit? Every major character (and many minor ones) faces up to that choice eventually, and the results are instructive as well as entertaining. In fact, at some points, Bujold, or at least her characters, are strongly reminiscent of the writings of C.S. Lewis. For example, Miles has this to say about doing the right thing, even when it's difficult:

It's not as daunting the second time. I wished later I could have started with the second time. But the only way to get to the second time is to do the first time. Seems paradoxical, that the fastest way to get to easy is through hard. (p. 223)

In Komarr, Miles is sent, in his new role of Imperial Auditor, to Komarr, the planet that his father conquered before he was born. Now, he faces the additional burden of working with people who distrust, and even hate him, not because of how he looks, but because of whose son he is. Try as he might to avoid it, the past seems determined to reach out and scrape raw all the emotional scars carried by Miles, and, indeed, by two worlds.

On several levels, this book was extremely enjoyable for me. It works as a science fiction work, police procedural, adventure story, and character study. Long-time Bujold fans will appreciate the way this book begins to tie up a few loose ends which have been troubling Miles for some time. Those who have not encountered Bujold before should enjoy this book thoroughly, but if, like me, you insist on beginning at the beginning, you may prefer to start with Falling Free or Cordelia's Honor. (September, 1999)

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