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"War or peace?"

Anna Hodosh

Review of Lois MsMaster Bujold's novel ?A Civil Campaign?

A long-expected dream of all Bujold's fans came true. In September, 1999 a next book of Vorkosigan Saga was published in the USA. This is a direct sequel of "Komarr" named ?A Civil Campaign?.

Its plot begins immediately after the last chapter of "Komarr" and ends with the Emperor Wedding, three month later. Miles has a cunning plan to win a favor of a charming widow Ekaterin, and from the first page of this novel he is at this crafty purpose.

At first sight this novel can be described as "book about love, engagements, and weddings". Contrary to her habitual "what's-the-worst-possible-thing-I-can-do-to-these-people?" Lois at last took pity and decided to settle down her heroes' private life and happiness. But in my hard opinion this novel is really about the Barrayrian society, rather than about love (although love affairs take the main place in nearly all characters' lives). It's about the Vorish high life and the position of Vorkosigans' prodigal son in it.

Miles was seventeen when he escaped from his home planet and from his own destiny searching for military glory. Now he is over thirty; he returns home and assumes the right place that was destined for him by birth. Discharged, he tries to use his wide military experience in a new civil life. He organizes an allied coalition, carries out a reconnaissance, makes offensive plans, and musters his troops before the final battle.

Of course, the thirteen-year Military service makes itself felt; Miles usually describes his feelings and all happenings in martial terms. This is what he thinks before a conclusive Counsil Session:

" He felt a twinge of his old familiar adrenaline-pumped prebattle nerves, without the promised catharsis of being able to shoot at someone later if things went really badly. "

Perhaps these analogies are quite in their place in respect of politics. But Miles was nearly defeated in his love-affair trying to act as "General Romeo Vorkosigan, the one-man strike force". He had to learn at first hand his parents' sage counsil: a ?militarian? approach to the romance leads to the utter rout, and your only one chance to win is to surrender at discretion of your beautiful enemy. Besides in this situation you can't exclude a chance of friendly fire...

This is not only Miles who wages his war. However paradoxically it is, but ladies are most bellicose characters of this novel. Ekaterin fights for her son, using the physical violence to the offender without hesitation. Martya and Kareen Koudelkas bombard unbidden visitors like furious Valkyries. Their sister Olivia manages to kill three armed goons on the spot. Donna / Dono Vorruryer opposes all Barrayarian society at the risk of her (his?) life. Lady Alys heads a covert conspiracy. Protecting Mark's interests Cordelia makes a real punishment to Kou and Dru. Without mentioning an such an incidental character as Countess Vormuir...

Bujold justly gave to her last novel a subtitle of "A Comedy of Biology and Manners". An easy style full of humor lets us find peace of mind after tense anf full-of-deprivation events of "Mirror Dance" and "Memory". Here's one example:

"... the garden I?d hired her to make in the lot next door."

"Is that what that crater is," said his father. "In the dark, from the groundcar, it looked as though someone tried to shell Vorkosigan House and missed, and I?d wondered why no one had reported it to us."

"It is not a crater. It?s a sunken garden. There?s just? just no plants in it yet."

"It has a very nice shape, Miles," his mother said soothingly. "I went out and walked through it this afternoon. The little stream is very pretty indeed. It reminds me of the mountains."

"That was the idea," said Miles, primly ignoring his father?s mutter of ?after a Cetagandan bombing raid on a guerilla position?

And the comedy situation is only intensified by other character's behaviour. Ivan, the dissipated Miles' cousin, has no any more luck in love and moreover, he is involved in a rather juicy situation. And Miles' brother Mark developing his business activity causes a real ecocatastrophe. Driven by best motives, he managed to deluge Vorkosigan House with ugly, huge, ghastly bugs. (You could play jokes on this situation: "Vorkosigans gave themselves airs; even theirs cockroachs are livered...")

Reading former Bujold's novels we look usually through the eyes of one, or rarely two main characters. But this time she uses five ones: Miles himself, Mark, Ivan, Ekaterin Vorsoisson, and a Koudelka's daugther, young Kareen. That lets us see all the episodes "from the outside" and estimate the Barrayarian high life from different - and at times completely unexpected - points of view.

For the first time we look over such an all-embracing panorama of the Barrayarian society. It includes both metropolitan Vor lords and provincial servicemen, Progressives and Conservators from the Council of Counts, splendid Counts and theirs lowly but very informed Armsmen... This society changes, getting rid of old superstitions, stagnancy, cruelty.

Almost all characters of the new Bujold's novel are young: from youthful twenties to golden age of forty. I could say that first of all this book is about a new generation of the Barrayarian politics. They didn't grow up in the common old Barrayarian athmosphere of violence, wars and deaths. Ulterine replicators (which seem an outstanding invention to me) have become a natural step towards the real equity of sexes for them. They will be a support for Emperor Gregor during his long rule. And, besides it - this is a book about the final reconciliation: between Barrayar and Komarr, between the barrayarian traditions and galactic customs, between Vorkosigans and Vorrutyers... Not without reason there are two positive (though quite caustic) characters named Vorrutyer in this books; Bujold has rehabilitated this family at last (after a sadistic Ges and a mad architect Dono).

Vorkosigan Saga began witn weddings - the marriages of Aral and Cordelia, of Kou and Dru. And now it yet ends by weddings, engagements, and betrothals. Once upon a time Cordelia said that Barrayar was't a convenient place to give a birth for children. But Cordelia and Aral lived not in vain -- their own children and their adopted ones change this world. And now we want to believe that the new Barrayar will be happier.

April 2000