THE VORKOSIGAN COMPANION
edited by Lillian Stewart Carl & John Helfers
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Lois McMaster Bujold has built a vast following of fans on the strength of a series of novel based on an unlikely hero, Miles Vorkosigan. Bujold's long-time friend, Lillian Stewart Carl, and John Helfers have worked together to create an excellent companion to Bujold's series, using a combination of previously published articles, original essays, timelines, summaries, and a concordance of the books. Especially as Bujold's series grows longer and more complex, The Vorkosigan Companion is an invaluable resource for both established fans and new readers alike.
The volume is divided five sections and an appendix. Section I provides a look at Bujold as an author, including two essays by Bujold. The second section is an examination of different themes in the Vorkosigan series, whether looking at Bujold's use of romance or the science behind her stories. The third part allows Bujold's associates to talk about her as an individual and her specific works. Bujold's brother's introduction to Falling Free is included, which talks about their father, who happened to teach my own father in college. In fact, long before I had ever heard of Lois Bujold, I had heard of "Doc" McMaster. The fourth section is an examination of the fandom that has grown up around Bujold's writing. The fifth section covers the Vorkosigan novels themselves, with synopses of the novels (and stories), a concordance, and guides. Finally, there are three appendices which provide additional information.
In her own preface to the book, Bujold asks why anyone would waste their time reading a book about her and her works rather than reading the works themselves. The answer, of course, is that even if Bujold spent all of her time writing more Vorkosigan novels and short stories, she would not be able to keep up with the demand her fans have for her complexly realized universe. They want more. Failing Bujold's ability to provide them with those additional texts, her fans turn to fan fiction or to reading books like The Vorkosigan Companion, which provides new insight into the world and characters Bujold has created, perhaps even coming up with something Bujold, herself, hasn't previously understood about her creations.
Originally published in 2008, and nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Related Work, the paperback edition does not contain any updates, despite being published by Baen only a short time before the publication of Cryoburn, the first Vorkosigan novel since Diplomatic Immunity was published in 2002. Updating the volume to include a novel summary and concordance of the new novel in section 5 and Cryoburn in the timeline in appendix II would have made sense and not have been too onerous a task.
The Vorkosigan Companion is an excellent sourcebook for anyone who has read any or all of Bujold's Vorkosigan novels. The synopses help provide a reminder of the major characters and events of the books while the concordance gives specific details that prove helpful when reading through the intricacies of Barrayaran politics and society. The articles about Bujold or her world help expand the reader's knowledge and appreciation of the books, providing a context for them to be read in, and therefore adding another layer of complexity and reward for Bujold's novels.
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