on 27 September 2012
To really appreciate this book, you need to have read some of the preceding books in the series. However, you can still enjoy it on its own.
In this book, we meet Ekaterin Vorsoisson, unhappy wife of Etienne Vorsoisson, a Barrayaran administrator on conquered Komarr. It's her apartment where Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan comes to stay (with her uncle, Imperial Auditor Professor Vorthys) when investigating the origins of a planetary disaster: was it accident, incompetence - or sabotage?
Interestingly, in this book, Ekaterin is the main point-of-view character. In most of the other Vorkosigan Saga books, this is Miles, so this represents a change. But the change works extremely well. Not only do we get to see Miles as strangers see him, but we get the point of view of someone who does not routinely move in the same rarefied social, political and military circles as Miles. Ekaterin grew up in a provincial town; she has followed the socially-acceptable life path for a young Vor girl (wife and mother) but it has not brought her happiness. Now we get to see not only how the 'other half' lives, but also how Ekaterin reacts to Miles' famous forward momentum and you-can-do-anything-and-the-universe-had-better-get-out-the-way attitide.
As usual with Bujold's books, all of her characters are living beings. She manages to write people so that even the ones you never meet - who are only referred to in one line spoken by a walk-on character - seem to conjure up a whole image and personality. Bujold delights in the ridiculous, but she can be serious too, often by stealth. We meet Ekaterin's husband, a lonely, frightened man whose loneliness and fear are all his own fault, or the fault of his clinging to increasingly outmoded social mores. We get to see the effect of this self-destructiveness not only on Etienne himself, but also on his wife and son. We meet Komarrans, too. The inhabitants of a conquered planet, we meet the ones who have accepted the conquest and the ones who have not, and their different ways of dealing with the fact that their once-independent planet is now part of the empire ruled by the people they once dropped in the mire by allowing an invasion fleet through their wormhole. Along the way, Bujold manages to give us a whistle-stop tour of several important issues, but we also get hilarious scenes such as Miles' and Ekaterin's disastrous shopping trip.
This is one of my favourite books in the Vorkosigan Saga, and I've read it many times. There's enough social commentary in there to satisfy the intellect, but enough sheer fun that you always feel better after you've read it.
I hadn't read any Bujold (or SF) before but this was highly recommended and so I gave it a go - and really enjoyed it. The 'space' element was less scary than I expected and I really liked the sense of a whole real universe going on in the background complete with histories, wars and conflicts that the author didn't feel it necessary to spend endless pages explaining. Miles is a great character and I liked the fact that this wasn't a conventional romance with Ekaterin getting to know and like him without falling in love immediately. I am now intrigued to know all the back history but also want to know what happens next...so which do I read first?
on 31 December 1998
I was lucky enough to be able to buy the paperback version of Komarr in Australia just before Xmas (what a present for me). I read it and have read it again. Lois has done it again. I recommend this book to anyone who has watched Miles mature and grow in his world. Miles is growing into his power as an Imperial Auditor. He starts slowly at first, after all he is the son of the Butcher of Komarr, the youngest auditor ever and has only had his power for a short period of time, but by the end he is starting to become Miles Vorkosigan, Imperial Auditor. This is the book that is the transition from Lt Vorkosigan/Admiral Naismith to Lord Miles Vorkosigan - Imperial Auditor. I have just re-read the 42 reviews and have to say that many readers who have not liked the new woman in Miles life, saying she is weak or not strong willed have not picked up on the Vor character. Miles is a Vor, something that influences every decision he has made. Admiral Naismith only lived because Miles handed him over to Simon Illyan. A Vor cannot have a private army. Miles becoming an Imperial Auditor was because of his Vor heritage. He has to find out what happened to Simon and then he cannot take the bribe offered to him because he is Vor. None of the women in Miles life are Vor, except for his first love, Elena, who left Barraya. His mother is a Betan, Rian was a Cetaganden, Elli was a mercenary and could not even stomach the thought of being Lady Vorkosigan, Rowan and Taura were Jacksonian. Lois has allowed us into the mind and thoughts of a Vor woman. Ekaterin is a true Vor woman. She did not take her son to a doctor asap because she has been brought up to believe her loyalty is to her husband, then to her emperor. A Vor woman cannot be tried for treason because of that belief. Ekaterin believed her husband would take the treatment and do the right thing by her son. She married him in good faith and loyally stood by him. She only gave up on him when she realised he had disobeyed a direct order from an Imperial Auditor (the Emperor's Voice) and then found out his financial woes. She could not even betray him then. Ekaterin is a very strong Vor woman who can also see what is wrong in the Vor culture. She also could see Miles for what he is, not what he looks like. When Miles confesses what he would have done she answers "I'm Vor". Ekaterin is going to be a very interesting character to watch.
on 25 October 2005
Now a proper Imperial Auditor, Miles is sent to Komarr to investigate the destruction of the solletta array designed to warm up cold Komarr.
A lot of the book is written from the point of view of Ekaterin Vorsoisson both before and after the death of her husband which gives it an unusual air. As Miles comes to terms with his appointment as an Imperial Auditor and the powers appertaining thereto, he makes a number of blunders that have serious consequences. Komarr, the book, marks a change of pace from the earlier books, changing the focus of action from fleet sized action to a more personal level of interaction (though not necessarily less intense!).
on 22 October 1998
I'll probably come in for a bit of flak from the die-hard fans of Ms. Bujold. This is the first book I have read by this author. Yeah, I can see why she is so famous. There is great scene setting and vivid characterisation. But there were loooong periods where I was thinking - please get on with the story. I really didn't have all that much time for the philosophising of the lead female Ekaterina Vorsoisson. I could easily see this book as a thoughtful movie. Personally Ikept wanting to flip pages to get past the parts I found boring....What a Philistine....
on 17 February 2014
Can't get enough of Miles Vorkosigan! A hero who is all too human but who doesn't let a lack of height stop his rise to the top!
Komarr, second world of the Barrayaran Empire, is slowly being terraformed over the course of centuries. Key to the terraforming effort is an orbiting soletta, a massive mirror which increases the amount of sunlight being directed onto the surface. When the soletta is damaged by a spacecraft collision, the future viability of the planet is put in jeopardy. Newly-anointed Imperial Adjudicator Miles Vorkosigan is sent to investigate whether this was an accident or deliberate sabotage.
Komarr is the first novel in the series to focus on Miles Vorkosigan in his new role as an Imperial Adjudicator. Bujold wanted to freshen things up by taking Miles away from his support network of thousands of loyal soldiers and a fleet of powerful starships and it's a move that could have been mishandled. The loss of most of Miles's supporting cast from the Dendarii Mercenaries (who only warrant cameo appearances and the occasional mention from now on) is a blow and it was initially unclear if Miles as a (mostly) solo investigator is a compelling enough idea to replace the military SF feel of the earlier novels.
Komarr lays those fears to rest. This a well-written, crisply-paced and masterfully characterised novel. Bujold develops a new POV character in the form of Ekaterin Vorsoisson, a young woman and mother married to a difficult husband involved in the terraforming project. Komarr has the reputation of being a "romance novel", with Ekaterin brought in as a serious love interest for Miles, whose relationships up until now have mostly been more like casual flings and friends-with-benefits arrangements. However, it would be a serious mistake to dismiss Komarr as a light or frivolous book because of this.
Instead, Komarr is a serious book about adult relationships, motivations and fulfilment, and it layers those themes into a thriller storyline involving betrayal, murder and intrigue. Bujold has said she enjoys writing about "grown-ups", and the romance in the novel is between two adults who have been through the wars (literally and figuratively) and find something in each other they like and respect, but have to overcome personal issues before they can turn that mutual attraction into something more tangible. It's an approach rooted in character that works effectively without overshadowing the SF thriller storyline, which has all the required twists and turns of a solid mystery before Miles and Ekaterin can resolve the problem.
Komarr (****) is a solid entry in The Vorkosigan Saga which sets the books on a new course and does so effectively. It is available now as part of the Miles in Love omnibus (UK, USA).
on 2 December 1998
Komarr gives this lovely look at what Miles is like now that he's actually grown up, or at least just this side of being a true adult with all the characteristics and all the consequences of his youthful impetuousness. And all his old experiences really, really do come back to, if not haunt him, at least stay with him and give him the room to learn more, to be more, and to do better yet. Old failures leading to new successes.
The viewpoints switch mostly between Miles and that of Ekaterin Vorsoisson, the wife of a Barryaran Administrator on Komarr, and it follows Miles and his fellow Auditor (who is also Ekaterian's uncle) Vorsoisson as they investigate the destruction of the majority of Komarr's main sunlight reflector, which the planet needs as an energy source for the terraforming that is necessary to bring it up to livable standards.
Unlike the other Vorkosigan novels, there isn't quite as much action. It reminds me, in some ways, of Cetaganda, but entirely a different mystery and Miles, himself, is extraordinary in this one. One thing that Bujold said during the interviews was that the things that happened in Memory were, in part, that she felt that Miles should finally get some consquences, lasting consequences, from his actions. In Komarr I got to see Miles as he was after dealing with those consequences, facing them and trying his best to work with them, now, and not simply deny them or push them off.
Ekaterian's story is marvelous, frightening, in some ways as I've way too much empathy for it and her feelings. Her loyalty to a husband who limits her and protects her and does his level best to keep her the way he thinks she should be kept is something that resonates at some level; and how she breaks free, first in desperation, then by necessity is an amazing story in and of itself. I love her, utterly.
What's so lovely about her is that Bujold make her a living, breathing, frightened, loving, confused human being. Real in so many ways. As she does with so many of her characters, but I think the baseline of what makes Bujold's books so interesting is that she makes them real, flawed human beings that are put into extraordinary circumstances; and in those circumstances, they respond. They do the right thing, they do the loving thing, they do the loyal or the frighteningly brave thing, the thing that makes my heart go to my throat or make me cry kind of thing that usually involves showing just how much human beings are capable of doing.
on 18 September 1998
I would not give this book to someone new to the series - as a standalone book, it is very subdued, and for those people it would only rate 2 stars. However, if you have read the series and have really grown to care about Miles, then it is a teriffic book. Several reviewers seem to miss the no-holds-barred Miles, but they've missed the point. He has to grow up sometime. At one point Miles says, "I used to always fight the powers-that-be, but now I am them." That, and his new love interest, is what this book is about.
The real delight of this book is to see Miles through a newcomer's eyes, but it takes some getting used to compared to the other books. Had I reviewed the book after my first reading, I would have given it only 3 stars. But the depth of Bujold's characterizations and her gift for staging some truly incredible scenes show no signs of weakening here. With subsequent readings, you develop an even better appreciation of exactly what Bujold has wrought.
I must take strong exception to those who disdain Ekaterin as a potential partner for Miles. The true achievment here is that Bujold has crafted a character that is truly believable as a possible partner for Miles, a task that I thought impossible after finishing "Memory." Ekaterin starts as an apparently weak person, but that appearance grows from the underlying strength of her character. She is a study in contrasts, but that's nothing new for Miles lovers, eh? No "normal" woman would put up with what she does, but she stands by her committments, and above all, to paraphrase, she's Vor.
When relieved of her crushing personal circumstances, she begins to blossom into her potential. This is a consistent theme throughout this series, that Miles is the ultimate enabler of others to be their best. Even while this growth is occuring, however, she remains consistent with her core beliefs. Ekaterin is a truly remarkable achievment.
So, why not 5 stars? Because the story line is somewhat weak, and does mainly serve as a backdrop for this new character development. There are portions that flare with the same intensity of the rest of the series, but the resolution does seem a bit too simplistic, and curiously lacking in real planet-gripping edge-of-your-seat drama. Again, this is why this story is not a good one to start the series with.
If you feel you know Miles inside and out, though, then various scenes throughout the book (especially the last 4 pages) are a sheer delight to read. Ekaterin provides a perspective on Miles that beautifully sharpens the reader's picture of him. I felt I could see the intensity on his face as he says, "The next number up is one." Want to know what the heck that means? Read the book!
Relative to the rest of the series, I would place this book at the lower end, but not the lowest ("Cetaganda" claims that spot - the only book I skipped on my last trip through the series). Still, that puts it in pretty good company, since the series overall is 5-star by me...
on 25 May 1998
Every time I pick up a book by this author, I expect to be carried away for several hours, and then wonder why the story ends so quickly. Komarr is no exception to this rule. It went down like candy and I'm still hungry. The worst thing I could say is that it may be another two years until the next dessert. Bujold is an expert at creating page turning stories, and in Komarr, you cover a lot of ground in a very few pages. Those who love Miles Vorkosigan will be thrilled that he may (get that, MAY) have finally found his love. Guess we'll have to wait two more years to find out. Hint, hint!
The story is a look into the potential for intellectuals on a conquered world to rebel in their own fashion, only they make interesting mistakes. Their plot could strike a larger blow than any war in history. Miles has to use mind against mind, unlike earlier books where he uses mind against might. There are some nice new charactors, and some of the book is told from the perpective of the love interest, which is fresh, like the parts of Mirror Dance told from Mark's and Rowan's points of view. Moreover, the book shows us where Miles' charactor must be headed, given his medical issues and need to fill his father's shoes. I was quite pleased to have a potentially ongoing new female charactor to hear from, as Cordelia's tales in Shards and Barrayer were second to none.
The only minor issues in this book were that it was somewhat more 'playfully' written, and not as intense as some of her earlier works, and there were a couple of all to convient deaths.
All in all, another outstanding work from the best sci fi writer there is.