Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Vor Game
Lois McMaster Bujold
Narrated by Grover Gardner, unabridged
Blackstone Audio, 11 hours, 02 minutes

The Vor Game
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: Cryoburn
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 Nicki Gerlach

Miles Vorkosigan -- crippled son of Barrayar's Prime Minister -- has just graduated from the Barrayaran Military Academy, and like every graduate is desperately hoping to be assigned to ship duty.  But instead of being put aboard the Barrayaran fleet's newest interstellar cruiser, he's assigned instead to the post of meteorology officer at a remote arctic training base.  But even in that far-flung outpost, Miles can't stay out of trouble for long.  After he steps in to diffuse a tense and deadly mutiny, he's shunted back to the capitol, where his superiors realize that Miles's quick thinking and problems with subordination mean that regular military life may not be the best fit.

Instead, Miles is dispatched to conduct a military intelligence survey of the Hegen Hub, a critical nexus in the wormhole system and the junction of the trade routes of some heavy political powers.  What he finds there is a surprising mishmash of plots and schemes, along with some very surprising people, including the Dendarii Mercenaries, a group that Miles assembled over three years previously. They are now under new -- but not improved -- leadership, and Gregor Vorbara, Miles's childhood friend and the current Emperor of Barrayar.

The Vorkosigan Saga novels are kind of like cupcakes: even when a particular one is not my favorite flavor, it's still pretty darn good, and I'll still be a happy camper after I've finished it.  Okay, that's a lie: I don't have a least-favorite flavor of cupcake.  But I do have some Vorkosigan Saga novels that I like better than others, and unfortunately, The Vor Game didn't quite measure up to most of the other books in the series.  Again, based on objective standards, it's still very, very good; it just didn't enchant me the same way that some of Lois McMaster Bujold's others have.

Part of the problem might have been that I'm reading these books out of chronological order.  If I hadn't already read later books in the series, The Vor Game might have been more successful at building up suspense regarding the fates of some of its key players. I'm usually okay with political scheming, particularly if it's Bujold writing it, but it's a lot better when I don't know exactly how things are going to shake out.  Likewise, if I'd read this book immediately after The Warrior's Apprentice (which is where it falls in the internal timeline of the series), I might have had the relevant details of the formation of the Dendarii fresher in my head.

However, a larger part of the problem was that I thought this book sticks a little too closely to the general Vorkosigan script.  Miles's big mouth and reckless streak get him into trouble, then his vast intellect and prodigeous gift for tactics get him back out again, lather, rinse, repeat until you've reached novel length.  While I don't mind that pattern in general -- it's the same as was used in The Warrior's Apprentice, Borders of Infinity, and Brothers at Arms, which I've enjoyed just fine -- The Vor Game didn't have enough going on around that basic plot to give it the depth and context I wanted.  The latter two-thirds of the book felt more-or-less like all scheming, all the time, and it started to lose its gloss by the end.  The one side story that I did enjoy was that of Gregor. The Vor Game takes him from a cardboard cutout to an interesting and multi-dimensional character, and I wish we could have spent more time with him.

I was also a little bit less taken with the narration in this installment.  Grover Gardner's voice acting is generally superb, and he really embodies the voice of Miles.  However, his pronunciation of Dendarii is back to his initial version of not pronouncing the second "i" which was disconcerting after finally getting used to hearing it the other way.  More damning, there were a few times in which he changed his pronunciation of Ky Tung's name within the space of a few paragraphs, which was distracting, and seems like an error that shouldn't have been allowed to slip through the cracks.

On the whole, though, The Vor Game is an entertaining story, with solid characters, quick-witted dialogue, and a fast-moving if not entirely ground-breaking plot.  It's not a pivotal installment in the Vorkosigan Saga, but once you're hooked, it's certainly an entertaining way to pass some time with Miles & company.

Copyright © 2011 Nicki Gerlach

Nicki Gerlach is a mad scientist by day and an avid reader the rest of the time.  More of her book reviews can be found at her blog,

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide