cover of A Civil Campaign: A Comedy of Biology and Manners, by Lois McMaster Bujold
'A Civil Campaign'
by Lois McMaster Bujold.
A review

. . . I didn't want to put the book down much, while reading it.

Having read 'Komarr' I was, reasonably enough considering the way that book ends, anxious to go on to the next item in the Vorkosigan series. ( - Which is of extraordinary persistence: I guess you could call it a "dekalogy" by now, 'A Civil Campaign' being the tenth book with Miles in it . . . an odd thing to point out is, the way two other books relate directly to the main line of Miles' annals - one, 'Shards of Honor', being about Miles' mother and father's meeting and pairing-off - the other about one of his circle of formidable females ('Ethan of Athos').      . . . Um, a troubling thought:  If these books never run out of steam - or interest and salability - we may expect to be hearing a lot about the grown children of Miles and Mark in some works yet to come!)

Will the series fold? 'Civil Campaign' shows some flagging of interest, since the butter bugs are very predictably a source of trouble from the instant they appear, and even if you haven't got an impression, from reading the end of 'Komarr', of how "Miles + Ekaterin" is a matter of destiny, you won't feel much worry about her falling for anyone else. [How could she? now that Miles is no longer hunchbacked, brittle-boned and youthfully fierce, & is also talented-&-respected-Lord-of-the-Manor on very good terms with & employed directly by the Emperor of Barrayar, who in their senses would settle for less? Given that his father is old and long/happily/stably married, and his only other male relative is cowardly/murderous and grossly fat, [-and the Emperor's bespoke too-] the possibilities aren't endless.

With aplomb the author completely forgets to mention the hordes of worshipfully smirking young ladies who presumably would be taking up a lot of Miles time [in the position of Sigried Farnon in the first few chapters of 'All Creatures Great And Small'!]

Little suspense. Good character delineation. Some drama. A little of the "action" typical of the early entries in the series, but largely flawed by repetition of "gross bugs" humor: a running gag that might be compared to an economically used small incident in Frederik Pohl's 'O Pioneer!'   Repetitiveness here is reminiscent of 'Mirabile' - How many times can you hear the term 'kangaroo rex' without feeling very un-thrilled!?,* as well as the genetic-engineering stuff being largely 'magic'.

But, as in 'Komarr', Ekaterin is central and a good draw, almost too good. So, maybe the Vorkosigan series ended with 'Memory', really... and has become the Vorsoisson series, the way 'Shards...' and 'Barrayar', largely, were really the Cordelia Naismith series

- But I didn't want to put this book down much, while I was (holding it in my hands and) reading it.

*[ditto for (the phrases) "crow girls" or "animal people" in Charles de Lint's 'Someplace to be Flying']

[R.H., April 27, 2000.]

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