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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Miles, Mystery & Mayhem - Lois McMaster Bujold

This ombinus contains two novels (Cetaganda and Ethan of Athos) and a short story (“Labyrinth”) that all involve genetic manipulation.     Cetaganda is the first chronologically, but was written last, which left me with a few questions that were answered by the author’s afterwards, once I figured out the written order.

The Cetegandans are one of the villains of this series – presented as ruled by a warrior class of ghem lords.   However, this book reveals that the haut lords rule all of Cetaganda, and it’s the haut women especially that weald this control, by owning and controlling the genetic history of their entire race.    Miles Vorkosigan is mixed up in this when he and his cousin Ivan are sent as emissaries to the Empress’s funeral.     They’re attacked when they arrive, but their attacker flees, leaving a weapon and a mysterious staff behind.     What the staff actually is is a fascinating glimpse into Cetagandan society.

Ethan of Athos only peripherally involves Miles – Ethan is a young doctor on the planet Athos, which was settled by men.   Only men.     They’ve been on their own long enough (and with enough government censorship of outside sources) that they believe women to all be evil.    But, even with the uterine replicators that allow them to create new children, they still need ovarian stock, and the stock they brought with them is failing.     After an order placed at great expense to Jackon’s Whole comes back filled with trash, Ethan is drafted to personally place a new order.     He ends up at the nearby space station, and finds an entirely strange world (heck, there are women!) where he’s mixed up in a genetic mystery.    (The story “Labyrinth” deals with some of the fallout from this story, and does feature Miles.)

These stories were amazing – really thought provoking about what humans could do once we truly gain the ability to be complete masters of our genetic destiny.     This is what I find to be great sci fi – taking something we have some control over today, and chasing it out to its logical extremes.      Really great read.

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