The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of science fiction novels and short stories by Lois McMaster Bujold, most of which concern Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, a physically disabled aristocrat from the planet Barrayar whose life (from before birth), military career, and post-military career is a challenge to his native planet's prejudices against "mutants."
The novels The Vor Game, Barrayar, and Mirror Dance each won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and "The Mountains of Mourning" won the Hugo Award for Best Novella; Falling Free, Memory, A Civil Campaign, and Cryoburn were nominated but did not win. Similarly, "Winterfair Gifts" was nominated for Best Novella.
The stories are listed in order of chronology, rather than publication date. Shards of Honor and Barrayar concern Miles' parents, while "Dreamweaver's Dilemma", 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.
Lois Bujold wrote two books (Shards of Honor and The Warrior's Apprentice) and was working on a third (Ethan of Athos) before The Warrior's Apprentice was accepted (after four rejections). On the strength of The Warrior's Apprentice, Baen Books agreed to a three-book deal to include the two other novels. It was the second novel written in the series, after Shards of Honor.
See Vorkosigan Saga timeline for the standard timeline of the saga.
Travel between star systems is by wormholes, spatial anomalies that exist in five spatial dimensions, that allow instantaneous travel from one star to another. Most trips between inhabited systems require more than one jump. The spaceships employ artificial gravity and can sustain large accelerations, allowing them to cross from one wormhole to another in a matter of hours or days. The inhabited systems are known collectively as the wormhole Nexus, reflecting their interconnectedness.
Life in the Nexus is tremendously varied. Some people live in space habitats with artificial gravity and never set foot on a planet. Aside from space industry, habitats are positioned near wormhole jump-points to manage interstellar traffic. The jump-points are also guarded by military stations, which also serve as customs enforcers.
It is possible to invade a system through a wormhole, though there are also ways to temporarily block access by sending a ship to destroy itself in transit on a suicide mission. Wormhole jump pilots are hard to replace, so this kind of tactic is rarely used even by cultures which, like Barrayar's, hold life relatively cheap. As Miles Vorkosigan notes at one point, the best way to capture a wormhole is from both sides simultaneously. This creates room for plots involving trickery and skulduggery.
The inhabitable planets of the Nexus are home to all kinds of sub-groups of humanity, from the monastic, all-male culture on Athos to the liberal, technologically advanced Beta Colony, to the hegemonistic Cetagandan Empire or the cut-throat, capitalistic Jackson's Whole.
Apart from the usual kinds of death by impact, explosion, fire etc., there are weapons which target the nervous system, such as the nerve disruptor pistol, which can kill or merely cripple for life with a single blast. The drug fast-penta, which removes all inhibitions in talking, renders lying to interrogators effectively impossible. Cetagandan agents employ chemical and biological agents when necessary, such as the one which reduces its victims to biological goo in the novel Diplomatic Immunity. Gangsters on the criminal planet Jackson's Whole will make genetic monstrosities for cash, provide any form of perversion for entertainment, and even raise clones of rich clients who then have their physical brains transplanted into a younger version of themselves, as an expensive and risky form of immortality. Beta Colony, in contrast, offers ethical genetic treatments and psychotherapy, but even their medical experts may wrongly think they have the right to intervene if they believe someone to have been subjected to mind-altering treatments. Beta also has draconian population control, requiring contraceptive implants for all, even as their sexual mores are among the most tolerant in the Nexus.
History of BarrayarEdit
The planet Barrayar is a terrestrial world with no large indigenous animals. It has some small animals – "horned hoppers" and some others that nonspecialists call "bugs"; and it has a wide variety of plants. There are larger animals in its oceans. Barrayaran life is not edible for terrestrial animals; indeed, there are many plant species to which many humans are violently allergic.
Barrayar was colonized by humans principally of Russian, English-speaking, French, and Greek ancestry about seven hundred years prior to most of the novels set on the planet. Shortly after colonization, the 50,000 settlers were isolated by a failure of the wormhole which connected Barrayar to civilized planets. During the following six centuries, referred to as "The Time of Isolation", the planet evolved a feudal form of government, in which the Emperor was supported by sixty regional counts and other minor aristocrats, identified by the prefix Vor- in their names. The Vor caste is a military one, and Barrayaran culture is highly militaristic and patriarchal.
Barrayar was eventually rediscovered by a different wormhole route connecting to the rich merchant planet Komarr. The Komarrans took advantage of this discovery by allowing the neighboring expansionist Cetagandan empire to invade Barrayar in return for commercial rights during the reign of Emperor Dorca the Just Vorbarra. Despite a significant technological advantage, the Cetagandan invasion was finally driven back after 20 years at a cost of over 5 million Barrayar dead, and in large part due to the actions of General Count Piotr Vorkosigan.
After a short reign of Emperor Yuri Vorbarra, who was deposed by Ezar Vorbarra, and the subsequent maturing of Vorkosigan's surviving son Aral Vorkosigan, the decision was made to invade Komarr, both for Barrayar's protection and as payback for the Komarran collaboration in the Cetagandan invasion. A nasty incident in which 200 Komarran leaders were executed during a truce, without Admiral Vorkosigan's knowledge or consent, earned him the nickname the "Butcher of Komarr" and caused significant problems administering the captured planet -- and for Barrayar's reputation.
"Dreamweaver's Dilemma" is a short story set in the Vorkosigan universe at the beginning of the age of space colonization and genetic manipulation. It is published in the book also entitled Dreamweaver's Dilemma which is a collection of short stories and essays by Bujold.
Falling Free (1988) is set about 200 years before Miles' birth. It relates the creation of the "Quaddies", genetically modified people who have four arms, the second pair appearing where unmodified humans would have legs. They were intended to be used as a space labor force, not only superbly adapted to zero-gravity but unable to function "downside" in any but the lightest gravitational field....
Diplomatic Immunity further explores the Quaddies society after some 240 years. It takes place on Graf Station, named for Leo Graf, who is hero and father-figure to the Quaddies.
Bujold has stated in the notes of her reprints that Falling Free was the first half of the intended story. The unwritten, second story was to tell how the Quaddies settled into what would be known as "Quaddiespace".
Cordelia Naismith, captain of an Astronomical Survey ship from the technologically advanced Beta Colony, is exploring a newly-discovered planet when her base camp is attacked. While investigating, she is surprised by a soldier, hits her head on a rock, and awakens to find that, while most of her crew has escaped, she is marooned with an injured crewman and Captain Lord Aral Vorkosigan of Barrayar, notorious throughout human space as the "Butcher of Komarr"....
As Barrayar begins, the Vorkosigans are expecting their first child. When the crafty old Emperor dies, Aral takes over as Regent. An unsuccessful plot to assassinate Aral with poison gas seriously threatens the lives of him and his pregnant wife Cordelia. The antidote to the poison, while quite effective, is a powerful teratogen which attacks the bones of their unborn son, Miles. In a radical procedure for Barrayar, the fetus is transferred to a uterine replicator – an artificial womb to undergo an experimental recalcification treatment that may repair some of the damage to his bones....
Seventeen-year-old Miles fails to qualify for the Barrayaran Service Academy, breaking both legs during a run over an obstacle course. 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 blockading Oseran Mercenaries, somewhat unintentionally, and representing himself as "Admiral Naismith", commander of the non-existent Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet, co-opts the crew through improvisation, sheer audacity and luck. Under Naismith's brilliant leadership, the Dendarii eventually take over the rest of the Oseran fleet and win the war....
While on leave from the Imperial Academy, Miles is at home at Vorkosigan Surleau with his parents. A woman from the isolated village of Silvy Vale walks three days to Vorkosigan Surleau 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 to gain experience. Miles solves the mystery and exercises justice and mercy in appropriate measure....
Miles graduates from the Academy, and is upset to learn he is being sent to replace the weather officer at the Empire's winter infantry training base on remote Kyril Island, to see if he can handle the discipline and military routine. Miles refuses to obey what he deems a criminal order by the base commander, who has him arrested for mutiny, and as he is Vor, treason. He is quickly returned to the capital and sequestered in the bowels of Barrayaran Imperial Security by Simon Illyan, who, along with his father, conclude that Miles had behaved correctly, but has larger problems than insubordinate Vorlings....
The first several chapters of The Vor Game (Chapter 1 through part of Chapter 6) were originally published in a slightly different form as a novella entitled "Weatherman" in the February 1990 issue of Analog magazine. The story covers Miles's assignment to Kyril Island through his arrest and the beginning of his detention at ImpSec.
Miles and Ivan are sent to the homeworld of the Cetagandan Empire to represent Barrayar at the Imperial funeral of the dowager Empress. They soon become entangled in a byzantine plot....
This novel does not feature Miles except indirectly; his eventual girlfriend, Commander Elli Quinn of the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet, plays a leading role. Doctor Ethan Urquhart goes on a special mission into the galaxy in search of suitable ovarian cultures for the planet Athos....
Miles takes the Dendarii cruiser Ariel on a mission to Jackson's Whole ostensibly to buy weapons, but also to smuggle geneticist Dr. Hugh Canaba away from his current employer (almost certainly House Bharaputra) and into Barrayaran hands. Canaba throws a wrench into the works when he refuses to leave without certain experimental samples which he has injected into one of his earlier projects, a prototype "super-soldier" created from human, wolf and horse DNA. Even worse, it has been sold to the paranoid and sadistic Ry Ryoval whom Miles has recently offended....
Miles goes undercover as a Marilacan soldier, allows himself to be captured by the Cetagandans, who have invaded and occupied Marilac, and is deposited in a maximum-security POW camp on Dagoola IV. His mission is to get a single man out of the camp, but he has to improvise when his target proves to be comatose....
Miles and the Dendarii arrive on Earth, fleeing Cetagandan retribution and desperate to repair the damage suffered by their ships. Miles visits the Barrayaran Embassy so the Dendarii can be paid for their last mission. There he finds his cousin Ivan Vorpatril working for the distinctly hostile Captain Duv Galeni, who turns out to be a Komarran related to one of the alleged victims of Miles' father. Miles is reassigned as Third Military Attache, once more a mere lieutenant, and worse, technically under Galeni's command. As if this weren't enough, Miles discovers he has a clone brother, who is trying to kill him at the behest of Komarran terrorists, who want to send the clone to Barrayar in Miles' place....
The three short stories "Mountains of Mourning", "Labyrinth", and "Borders of Infinity" were reprinted with an untitled framing story in which Miles reports to Simon Illyan, head of ImpSec. The framing story emphasizes an audit -- both financial and political -- of ImpSec which questions Miles' activities and expenditures during the previous adventures....
Mark masquerades as Miles and dupes the Dendarii Free Mercenaries into a mission to free clones held "prisoner" on the freebooter's planet of Jackson's Whole. When Miles finds out, he attempts to rescue his troops and his brother from the mess Mark creates, but is killed by a needle-grenade. Although he is put into a cryonic chamber, it is lost when the assault team is forced to withdraw....
By necessity, this novel was told from two viewpoints, those of Miles and Mark. This was the first novel in the Vorkosigan series to be written this way, though not the first time Bujold wrote such a novel, the first being Falling Free.
"Miles hits thirty; thirty hits back." Miles suffers an epileptic-like seizure--a lingering side effect of his recent death, and cryo-revival--during a combat mission, seriously injuring the Barrayaran courier he was sent to rescue, and then falsifies the mission report to cover up his medical disability. He is caught in his lies by Simon Illyan and forced to resign from ImpSec....
Miles has asked to observe Auditor Professor Vorthys's investigation of a serious accident on Komarr. Once there, he manages to defeat plotters who seek to seal off the only wormhole to Barrayar, and falls in love with his hostess, Ekaterin Vorsoisson, who is trapped in a very unhappy marriage....
The backdrop to this story is Gregor's impending marriage to the Komarran heiress Laisa Toscane. The tough and resourceful Lady Alys Vorpatril, in charge of all the arrangements, demonstrates the power of the Vor ladies social network in making sure that nothing is allowed to spoil the proceedings....
A novella, published in February 2004, as part of the anthology Irresistible Forces (Catherine Asaro, editor). Bujold wrote this after completing Diplomatic Immunity and this was the most recent work she had written in the series, until the publication of Cryoburn.
The story relates the wedding of Miles and Ekaterin from the viewpoint of Miles' armsman, Roic, including Taura's first visit to Barrayar and the attempted murder of Ekaterin as an indirect attack on Miles.
Miles and Ekaterin are enjoying a much-delayed honeymoon while their first two children are approaching birth in their uterine replicators back on Barrayar. They have just left Earth to begin the journey home when Miles is dispatched by Gregor to Quaddiespace to untangle a diplomatic incident in his capacity as the nearest Imperial Auditor....
The fifteenth book of the series takes place on Kibou-daini, a planet obsessed with cheating death through cryopreservation. The book was released in October 2010....
The sixteenth book of the series, which is chronologically a few years before Cryoburn, takes place on Komarr and on Barrayar. The book was released in November 2012.
Ivan Vorpatril gets married.
A novella, published in May 2018 as an ebook, tells a tale from Ekaterin Vorkosigan's early days as Countess of the Dendarii District.
The seventeenth book of the series, approximately three years after the events of Cryoburn, takes place on Sergyar. The book was released February 2016.
Cordelia Vorkosigan decides to raise six daughters. Admiral Jole makes career decisions as well.
Books in printEdit
The earlier novels and the short stories have been repackaged in omnibus editions.
- Cordelia's Honor (June 1, 2000)
- Shards of Honor
- Young Miles (June 1, 1997)
- The Warrior's Apprentice
- "The Mountains of Mourning"
- The Vor Game
- Miles, Mystery and Mayhem (August 1, 2003)
- Ethan of Athos
- Miles Errant (September 1, 2002)
- "Borders of Infinity"
- Brothers in Arms
- Mirror Dance
- Memory (October 1, 1997)
- Miles in Love (February 5, 2008)
- A Civil Campaign
- "Winterfair Gifts"
- Miles, Mutants and Microbes (August 1, 2007)
- Falling Free (200 years before Miles's birth)
- "Labyrinth" (also printed in "Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem")
- Diplomatic Immunity
- Cryoburn (October 2010)
- Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (November 2012)
- "The Flowers of Vashnoi" (May 2018)
- Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (February 2016)