Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of science-fiction novels and short stories by Lois McMaster Bujold, most of which concern Miles Vorkosigan, a disabled aristocrat from the planet Barrayar who creates his own private army at the age of just seventeen.
Stories are listed in order of story chronology, rather than of publication. Shards of Honor and Barrayar concern Miles' parents, while Falling Free and Ethan of Athos are set in the same universe as the other books but do not involve Miles or any of his family.
Falling Free is set about 200 years before Miles' birth. It relates the creation of the Quaddies, genetically modified people who have four arms and no legs and were created to live out their lives in space. Legally, the Quaddies are not classed as human but as "post-fetal experimental tissue cultures", and the company which created them treats them as slaves. Their access to information is tightly controlled, they can be ordered to have babies, and when a new artificial gravity technology renders them obsolete, there are discussions about killing them or sterilising them. Engineer Leo Graf, who is assigned to help train them, becomes concerned about their slavery and helps them make a successful bid for freedom. They eventually settle in an initially out-of-the-way system which gradually becomes a major part of the Nexus.
Shards of Honor
Cordelia Naismith, captain of an exploration ship from the extremely liberal and technologically sophisticated Beta Colony, is trapped on a newly-discovered planet with Captain Lord Aral Vorkosigan of Barrayar, notorious throughout human space as the "Butcher of Komarr". In this unwelcome situation, she finds Vorkosigan is not at all the monster his reputation suggests, and begins to fall in love with him. She subsequently undertakes another mission for Beta, successfully delivering new technology to an ally which results in a Barrayaran invasion being repelled with disastrous casualties, but is captured and again encounters Vorkosigan. Back on Beta, she is hailed as a heroine until her strangely sympathetic descriptions of Vorkosigan convince Betan authorities she has been brainwashed. Naismith then escapes from Beta and goes to Barrayar, there to become Lady and later Countess Vorkosigan. The dying Emperor Ezar Vorbarra appoints Aral as Regent-Elect for his grandson and heir, the four-year-old Prince Gregor . Aral, who is at the top of the list of succession after the Prince, at first refuses, but Cordelia convinces him to take the job.
As Barrayar begins, the Vorkosigans are expecting their first child, the Emperor dies, and Aral takes over as Regent. An unsuccessful plot to assassinate Aral with poison gas seriously injures Miles while still a fetus. An experimental treatment is available but extremely harmful to the mother, so Cordelia undergoes a placental transfer operation and Miles is transferred to a uterine replicator – an artificial womb acquired subsequent to the recent war. While Cordelia and Aral are recuperating, a palace coup occurs but the young emperor is rescued by the loyal security chief and flown to the Vorkosigans. They escape into the hills on horseback and hide Gregor amongst the rural peasant population. After Cordelia rejoins Aral at a military base they hear that Miles, in his replicator, has been taken to the Palace as a hostage. It seems certain he will die within two weeks for lack of proper maintenance, but Aral cannot bring himself to mount a rescue for one hostage, even his son, out of hundreds. Cordelia convinces her two bodyguards to follow her on a private expedition to rescue Miles and Gregor's mother, the Princess Kareen. Once in the Palace, Cordelia and her party are captured. They overpower their captors, execute the Pretender to the throne, and escape with Miles, but the Princess is killed. The coup falls apart without its leader and peace returns to the planet. The enlightened Betan Cordelia is given control of Prince Gregor's education, with far-reaching consequences for benighted Barrayar.
When Miles Naismith Vorkosigan is born, he is a dwarf, with extremely fragile bones that tend to break under any stress. This has particular consequences on Barrayar, where birth defects are common and were subject to infanticide during the centuries of the Time of Isolation, before Barrayar was rediscovered by galactic civilization. So-called "muties" are still reviled and shunned, and Miles, though genetically healthy, will deal with prejudice throughout his life.
The Warrior's Apprentice
17-year-old Miles fails to qualify for the Barrayaran Service Academy, breaking both legs during the physical test. On a visit to Beta Colony, in quick succession he obtains a ship, a pilot, and a smuggling mission, running guns to a beleaguered government. He captures another ship from the Oseran Mercenaries, somewhat unintentionally, and presenting himself as the commander of the competing Dendarii Mercenaries co-opts the crew through sheer improvisation. Under "Admiral Naismith", the Dendarii eventually take over the rest of the Oserans and win the war.
The unexpected arrival of Miles' cousin Ivan Vorpatril awakens Miles to the realization that the Council of Counts has charged him with maintaining a private army: capital treason on Barrayar. He returns home posthaste, reveals the real plot behind the charges, and escapes trial by recasting the Dendarii as Imperial forces. He is rewarded with admission to the Academy.
Mountains of Mourning (short story)
A woman from the backward area of Silvy Vale has walked to Vorkosigan House to report the suspected murder of her baby, who was born with a hare lip and cleft palate. Miles' father sends him to investigate as his Voice, and Miles solves the mystery and exercises justice and mercy in appropriate measure.
The Vor Game
Emperor Gregor gets bored and runs away seeking adventure. Unfortunately it gets to him first; fortunately Miles is on hand to rescue him.
Miles and Ivan are sent to the homeworld of the Cetagandan Empire to represent Barrayar at an Imperial funeral. Unsurprisingly they become entangled in a struggle for power.
Ethan of Athos
Does not feature Miles except by reference, although Commander Elli Quinn of the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet plays a leading role. See Ethan of Athos for more information.
Labyrinth (short story)
Miles undertakes a mission to Jackson's Whole to recover experimental samples. Almost too late, he discover that the material has been injected into the leg of Taura, the result of an earlier attempt to create a "super soldier": wildly attractive, she is covered in hair and capable of breaking him into pieces without even breaking step. Miles is inevitably attracted to her and she joins his list of dangerous girlfriends. He rescues her whilst creating havoc on Jackson's Whole which will have repercussions.
Borders of Infinity (short story)
Miles manages to finagle his way into a maximum-security POW camp on Dagoola IV. With a little help from Suegar, a religious fanatic in the camp, and Beatrice, the leader of the woman prisoners, he reinstitutes order and civilisation in the camp and stages a mass breakout.
Brothers in Arms
Miles discovers he has a clone brother, who is trying to kill him. The assassination plot is foiled, and Miles' friends recommend that he should kill the clone. Instead Miles tells him that by Vor tradition his name would be Mark Pierre Vorkosigan (his creators have not given him a name of his own but call him "Miles"). He also gives him some money and invites him home to meet the family if he wishes to come.
Borders of Infinity (book)
Mark masquerades as Miles and dupes the Free Dendarii Mercenaries into a mission to free clones held "prisoner" on the planet of Jackson's Whole. When Miles finds out, he heads straight for Jackson's Whole to rescue his troops and his brother from the potentially disastrous consequences of this mission, but is killed by a needle-grenade. Although he is treated in the battlefield and put into a cryogenic hybernation chamber, it is lost when the assault team has to withdraw and an innovative medic hides the chamber in a freight-forwarding warehouse.
The Dendarii take Mark to Miles' parents on Barrayar. Cordelia accepts him as another son and convinces the Vorkosigans that he is a legitimate family member. After a while, Mark concludes that Miles is still on Jackson's Whole, and decides to go there himself to look for him, since Impsec do not believe him. Cordelia helps him by buying him a ship and convincing the Dendarii to take an oath of allegiance to him.
Meanwhile, Miles has been resuscitated by the employees of a planetary overlord, Baron Fell, though his memory takes some considerable time to return, and the doctors treating him do not know whether he is Miles, Mark, or "Admiral Naismith" (who is incorrectly believed to be another clone of Miles). Mark successfully finds Miles but is later captured by a rival overlord, held prisoner and tortured for five days before he kills his tormentor and escapes. Baron Fell rewards him with two million Betan dollars for killing his rival and accedes to his demand that the Durona Group of doctors be permitted to leave Jackson's Whole and go where they will. Between them, the two brothers manage to upset the balance of power on Jackson's Whole quite satisfactorily. However the side-effects of Miles' death and revivification will have serious repercussions.
"Miles hits thirty; thirty hits back." By the time of Memory, several years later, Miles' already weak body is showing the strains of his adventures. He suffers an epileptic seizure during a combat mission, injures friendly personnel and then falsifies the mission report to cover up his medical condition. He is caught lying by Simon Illyan, head of Imperial Security, and forced to resign from Impsec. After Illyan falls ill, Miles suspects that a plot to destroy Illyan's career and subvert Impsec is in the making. His attempts to investigate this are blocked, so he asks Emperor Gregor Vorbarra to assign an Imperial Auditor to the case to give him the necessary authority. Gregor instead decides to give Miles himself a temporary Auditor's appointment, and later this is made permanent.
Miles is despatched to Komarr to investigate what appears to be a serious accident. He manages to defeat a plot to seal off the only wormhole to Barrayar, and falls in love with his hostess, Ekaterin Vorsoisson, who is in a very unhappy marriage. Her husband is emotionally abusive and has a genetic condition called Vorzohn's Dystrophy. He is so intent on keeping this secret that although it is curable, he has not had treatment or allowed their son to be treated. After she discovers that he has also been taking bribes, she tells him that she is leaving, but before she can, he gets himself killed in such a way as to point the finger of suspicion at Miles - this will have consequences in the next book. Ekaterin returns to Barrayar to stay with her aunt and uncle and train to fulfil her ambition of becoming a landscape designer.
A Civil Campaign
Miles sets himself the interesting task of wooing Ekaterin without actually telling her: he is fearful that her previous experience of marriage has put her off for life. His brother Mark also has relationship problems: he is in love with the warm and empathic Kareen Koudelka, but her parents disapprove of him, and while this did not seem to bother her on Beta Colony, the sexual mores of Barrayar are much stricter, and she feels that she has to keep their relationship a secret from her family.
Everything goes horribly wrong when Miles hosts a dinner party. Simon Illyan reveals that Miles has been courting Ekaterin in secret, and she walks out after he panics and asks her to marry him. Kareen's parents forbid her to have anything to do with Mark after they find out that he took her to the Orb of Unearthly Delights on Beta Colony.
Mark and Kareen's problems are solved after Cordelia talks to Kareen's parents and persuades them that the relationship is good for Kareen even though it does not follow traditional Barrayaran rules. Miles is finally saved by accepting Ekaterin's proposal of marriage.
A novella, published in February 2004, as part of the anthology Irresistible Forces (Catherine Asaro, editor).
The story relates the wedding of Miles and Ekaterin from the viewpoint of Miles' armsman, Roic, including Taura's first visit to Barrayar and an attempted murder of Ekaterin as an indirect attack on Miles.
Miles and Ekaterin set out to enjoy a much-delayed honeymoon whilst their first two children are approaching birth in their uterine replicators back on Barrayar. They are almost home when Miles is despatched to Quaddiespace to untangle a diplomatic incident. Not unexpectedly by this stage, the solution to the problem involves Miles almost dying (again) and averting an interstellar war by the skin of his teeth. Not least of his problems is the potential combined wrath of his wife and his mother should he miss the birth of his children.
Books in print
The earlier novels and the short stories have been repackaged in omnibus editions.
- Cordelia's Honor
- Shards of Honor
- Young Miles
- The Warrior's Apprentice
- "Mountains of Mourning"
This short story is also available from the Baen Free Library
- The Vor Game
- Miles, Mystery and Mayhem
- Ethan of Athos
- Miles Errant
- "Borders of Infinity"
- Brothers in Arms
- Mirror Dance
Bujold has done a good job of making most of the books in the Vorkosigan Saga comprehensible without reference to earlier books, but some subsets will make more sense when read in the right order.
- Barrayar is best read after Shards of Honor.
- Brothers in Arms, Mirror Dance and Memory should be read in order. Brothers in Arms tells the reader that Miles Vorkosigan has a cover identity as Admiral Naismith and that he told a reporter that Admiral Naismith was his clone before discovering his real clone-brother Mark. Mirror Dance and Memory make considerably more sense with this information.
- Komarr, A Civil Campaign and Diplomatic Immunity should be read in order because they show the development of Miles and Ekaterin's relationship.
The question of which book is the best starting point is a tricky one; the problem is that the later books tend to be better written, but they also depend on earlier books for their full effect. Two obvious starting points are Shards of Honor, the first book involving any members of the Vorkosigan family, and The Warrior's Apprentice, the first book about Miles himself. However, many Bujold fans consider these to be among her weaker novels. Shards of Honor was Bujold's first novel and has some elements of formula romance: Cordelia and Aral fall in love at first sight, and at the end, Cordelia abandons her career and her home to marry him. The Warrior's Apprentice is an action-packed book, full of life and energy, but its plot is rather too founded on coincidence. If Miles had not happened to run into all the right people to make up his crew, he would not have been able to create the Dendarii.
The collection Borders of Infinity is the most commonly recommended starting point among Bujold fans on the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written. It gives a good sampling of Miles' adventures in a range of styles, and the first story, "The Mountains of Mourning", is available online at the Baen Free Library.
Another possible starting point is Komarr, especially for readers who are more attracted by detective fiction or the theme of searching for identity than by space opera. Although this book comes fairly late in the series, it shows Miles at the beginning of his second career, and is partly from the viewpoint of someone who has never met him before.
- The Bujold Nexus - semi-official website
- Catalog at Baen books
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