Book Review: Cryoburn, by Lois McMaster Bujold

(Originally posted on Amazon 11/10/2010)


I’ve been reading Lois McMaster Bujold practically since she began, when a trusted friend shoved a copy of The Warrior’s Apprentice in my hands. I spent a good chunk of the 1990s eagerly awaiting the next installment, and in the months leading up to publication of A Civil Campaign, practically haunted the Baen website on an hourly basis hoping that just one more sample chapter had been posted when I wasn’t looking. Any new tale in the Vorkosigan universe is a big deal to me, especially since its now been eight years since the last.

So what’s the verdict?

I wouldn’t say Cryoburn was “worth the wait” of the last eight years, but it is a fun read. Its rather light and strangely devoid of action, certainly the least intricately-plotted of the Vorkosigan novels to date. But it is also full of the kind of wonderful character moments and societal extrapolation that Bujold loves, and for her fans I suppose that more than makes up for it. It probably will not satisfy those who are not already fans of this series, and I don’t think its the kind of book to hand to someone unfamiliar with the characters and universe, but for those of us who are fans of Bujold it will at least be a welcome new addition.

The story basically has Miles investigating what appears to be a slightly fishy business deal by a cryogenics corporation on the planet Kibou-daini, and then stumbling over a much larger conspiracy involving possibly defective cryogrenic procedures, kidnapping, murder, and even a slight side of political intrigue. Miles handles it all with his usual aplomb, and the joy of the story is in simply watching him not only unravel the mystery but the steps he takes in order to get there. Still, there is a theme to this book, namely the idea and concept of natural death as a necessary function of society — a concept which is brought unexpectedly home at the books very end, in a poignant scene that will bring any long time reader of this series to pause and maybe even shed a tear.

I sincerely hope that Bujold plans on following up Cryoburn in the near future. This book has certainly wet the appetite of her fans who have been waiting for years, and while I don’t think its a perfect new addition to the series, I do think it succeeds in reminding us how much we love these characters and are always wishing for more. Miles new status-quo at novel’s end begs to be explored, and it would be a shame if we had to wait another eight years before Bujold decides to follow up on it.

4 Stars out of 5 Stars