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[personal profile] cosmic_llin
[personal profile] chaila said: Sell me on the Vorkosigan saga! I know nothing! :)

Ooh! A fun one for my last post for this December Talking thingy! The Vorkosigan series is basically a big old family saga about an aristocratic, politically-powerful family on a world that's kind of like Space Imperial Russia. 

Now, some instinct tells me the way to get [personal profile] chaila into a series is by pushing the awesome women angle... and the Vorkosigan Saga is really, really good for that. Cordelia is one of my favourite characters in anything ever - she has this way of solving problems with a combination of quick-thinking, amateur psychology and just jumping and seeing what happens, and she really gets people, and she uses that skill to literally change worlds. Alys knows everybody and everything and exactly what needs doing in any situation, and her smooth elegance is the packaging for a will of iron and a kind heart. Elena and Elli are both breathtakingly competent soldiers, and both of them figure out what they want and need and go for it, in very different ways. Taura is just wonderful and adorable and deserves all the hugs. Ekaterin is brave and smart and strong and passionate. And that's before you get to all the Koudelkas, Laisa, Tej, Helen Vorthys, and a dozen other beautifully-drawn, amazing side characters. And because it's a saga, and all of these women are either members of or peripherally involved with the central Vorkosigan family, you get to see most of them change and grow over the course of several decades and it's always a pleasure to watch.

I mean, I don't want to tell you lies, the (arguably) central character of the whole series is a guy, but he's 1) surrounded by varied and amazing women characters, and 2) absolutely fascinating and totally lovable in spite of his many major flaws, and that's coming from me, the person who's just not that interested in dudes in fiction.

There's so much good stuff going on in these books - political intrigue, spaceships, really good, thoughtful, consistent world building, some interesting sex/gender stuff (although some elements are kind of awkwardly dated, it still comes out pretty much positive overall), discussion of various types of prejudice and how it can be fought against, interesting points about different ways of having and using power, jokes both silly and clever and stories of every sort. Because of the sheer number of books in the series, sometimes it's space opera and sometimes it's a farce and sometimes it's a comedy of manners and sometimes it's just 400 pages of heartbreak that you'll want to throw across the room.

But the most consistent thread running through the whole series is family and identity - what makes you who you are, how the people you love help make you, and you make them in turn, how you change as you get older, how your perspective changes with you, how family is not always blood and blood is not always family, how you distinguish yourself from others and how you identify yourself with them, what makes a family and what makes an individual. These books have some of the deepest and most thoughtful explorations of these questions I've ever seen in literature.

Now, if that interests you, a few tips for how to get into reading them:

* Many of the books have been packaged in compilations, which occasionally makes knowing what book people are talking about confusing
* I'd definitely start with the first compilation, Cordelia's Honor, which contains Shards of Honor and Barrayar. But to avoid disappointment, you should read it in the knowledge that it's something of a prequel to the rest of the series, and although the characters you're reading about will feature prominently in some of the later stories, they are never going to be as central again as they are here.
* After that comes Young Miles, which contains The Warrior's Apprentice, The Mountains of Mourning and The Vor Game. It is ok to find parts of this one kind of hard going, but it does still have lots of really good bits and it's worth reading for background for later stuff too.
* If you don't get into Ethan of Athos you can skip it, it doesn't directly relate to the rest of the series, but it's worth reading for the Elli bits, even if you go back for it later
* Borders of Infinity is the BEST THING EVER
* And if you're not hooked by then, you probably never will be, and at this point you should just read the whole lot through as fast as you can while alternately wailing in misery and shrieking with delight.




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