The Miles Naismith/Vorkosigan Series
by Lois McMaster Bujold

Sheldon Brown photo

by Sheldon Brown

The Miles Naismith/Vorkosigan Series is a set of science fiction novels following the career of Miles Vorkosigan (a.k.a. Admiral Miles Naismith) a secret agent for the government of the planet Barrayar. The universe described is one of multiple star systems that have long been settled by Earth colonists, no alien life forms are involved. There is faster-than-light travel, with no tedious explanations of how it works, aside from the mention of wormhole nexi. It appears that after the initial expansion, there had been a contraction of human exploration, and some outlying systems, including Barrayar, had been cut off from contact with the rest of Humanity for some hundreds of years.

Barrayar is a system accessible only by a single wormhole junction, so it's a dead end on the way to nowhere. During the "Time of Isolation" it had reverted to feudalism, torn by civil wars and dynastic conflicts. The planet is divided into 60 counties, and is governed by an emperor and a "Council of Counts."

As the series begins, Barrayar is recovering from a long guerilla war against the neighboring star system Cetaganda, and is gradually rising in industrial level up from the feudal barbarism of the Time of Isolation. Nevertheless, to the universe at large, Barrayar is seen as primitive and militaristic, a throwback to an earlier time. As a result of the use of nuclear weapons by the Cetagandans, Barrayaran society develops a great fear of mutations, expressed in infanticide and general bigotry against those of divergent appearance.

Another important system is Beta, a highly sophisticated planet specializing in the life sciences and the Good Life. Beta has highly liberal sexual mores (unlike Barrayar which remains quite primitive in that regard.) The series begins with the meeting of a female Betan captain with a Barrayaran count, in the novel Cordelia's Honor. After various complications, they become the parents of Miles Vorkosigan.

Young Miles is nearly the victim of infanticide, because he is born damaged by a chemical attack on his mother. He never will reach normal adult height, and suffers from extremely brittle bones. Although born into the "Vor" aristocracy, he doesn't fit the mold of this warrior caste, and he is the constant target of scorn from his countrymen. It is commonly believed that his rise in power and position is only due to nepotism...but actually he is a fiendishly clever secret agent working for the Department of Internal Security.

The series is quite captivating, with well drawn characters and plausible cultures on a number of well-imagined star systems. Highly recommended! The series consists of:

Cordelia's Honor a compilation of Shards of Honor and Barrayar
Young Miles a compilation of 2 books and one novella: The Warrior's Apprentice, Mountains of Mourning, and The Vor Game .
Miles, Mystery and Mayhem a compilation of 2 books and a short story: Cetaganda, Ethan of Athos and Labyrinth
Miles Errant a compilation of 3 books: The Borders of Infinity, Brothers in Arms and Mirror Dance
Memory
Komarr
A Civil Action
Winterfair Gifts
Diplomatic Immunity
Borders of Infinity collection of short stories includes tales that take place before The Vor Game and others extending past Brothers in Arms.
The novella by the same name is included in Miles Errant.
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