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Lois McMaster Bujold
Baen, 345 pages

Lois McMaster Bujold
Lois McMaster Bujold was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1949. She attended Ohio State and later worked as a pharmacy technician at the Ohio State University Hospitals. She has two children and now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her first novel, Shards of Honor, was completed in 1983 and published in 1986. Her first professional sale was a story in 1984 to Twilight Zone Magazine. Falling Free was her first Nebula Award. Since then she has won another Nebula, and 4 Hugo Awards.

Lois McMaster Bujold Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Brothers in Arms
SF Site Review: Ethan of Athos
SF Site Review: Falling Free
SF Site Review: The Warrior's Apprentice
SF Site Review: Barrayar
SF Site Review: The Sharing Knife: Beguilement and The Sharing Knife: Legacy
SF Site Review: The Miles Vorkosigan Saga
SF Site Review: Paladin of Souls
SF Site Review: The Curse of Chalion
SF Site Review: The Spirit Ring

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

After a gap of several years, Lois McMaster Bujold returns to her most famous character, Miles Vorkosigan, in Cryoburn. At the conclusion of the "love story" arc of Miles novels, he seemed poised for a fairly traditional role as recurring character in essentially a "detective series," given his position as an Imperial Auditor for Gregor, the Emperor of Barrayar, and his fairly settled personal life. And Bujold produced one novel that fit that template nicely, Diplomatic Immunity, before turning her attention to a couple of very satisfying fantasy series. There was nothing to complain about with those books -- I enjoyed them immensely -- but I'm happy to see Miles again. Cryoburn definitely fits the "detective series" template, though it also has a satisfying science fictional aspect, as Bujold is interested here in the social and economic impacts of cryogenic storage technology.

The novel is set on the planet Kibou-daini. Miles has come there ostensibly to attend a conference on cryogenic technology, but in reality to untangle some suspicious business dealings between Kibou-daini companies and interests on Komarr, one of the planets in Barrayar's Empire. But things go a bit pear-shaped when Miles and others are kidnapped. Miles ends up escaping and meeting an 11-year-old boy, Jin, a runaway, who has settled in a sort of squat for some similarly homeless people -- but this place also hides a secret cryogenic facility, aimed at serving a few of Kibou-daini's poor.

The driving force behind the social strains in Kibou-daini is their curious system of vesting the voting rights of people in cryogenic suspension with the companies that maintain their frozen bodies. This has been further complicated by a secondary market in these votes. And further still by some skullduggery involving this secondary market, as well as some complications in the maintenance of the suspended people. Jin is involved because his mother was an activist against the Kibou-daini system, and as a consequence she was arrested and forcibly frozen. Miles can take some action because his brief -- to investigate the Komarran dealings with Kibou-daini companies -- impinges on the secondary vote market, but Miles being Miles, he stretches his brief as far as he can.

So, we have a fairly interesting mystery story, nicely enough resolved. There is also a decent bit of social science fiction behind it, in the treatment of the Kibou-daini system of cryogenics. Though I will say I think there is a lot more one could do in investigating the impact of cryogenics on societies, and I felt that this novel hinted at more interesting questions than it really dealt with. There is also a nice personal story involving Jin and his family, as well as a hint of potential romance. Miles in a way is a curiously muted figure in this book -- not that he doesn't have a lot of scenes, and do some scheming. But his personal life is not a major factor -- we do get hints of his happy life at home, his four kids, etc. It is only at the very end that Bujold introduces some really significant news that hints at the next novel to come (or, arguably, puts a cap on the whole series).

Cryoburn is a fun read, a book I'm happy to have. But it's ultimately pretty minor work. One might compare it to its predecessor, Diplomatic Immunity, or to an earlier novel like Cetaganda: a bit of treading water, really.

Copyright © 2011 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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