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Book Report: Cetaganda

One useful thing about keeping a list of books read over the last seventeen months is that YHB can use it to decide which book in the Vorkosigan Saga is up next. Not in order, I mean, which one has it been longest since I read it last. Except ... I have a sneaking suspicion I’ve been shelving the books without noting them. It’s possible I haven’t read Mirror Dance for a year and a half; it’s an unpleasant book, if exciting, and I can imagine passing over it to something nicer before getting in the tub. I’m pretty sure I must have read The Warrior’s Apprentice in the last year and a half, though, as I remember some of the details pretty sharply. As for Borders of Infinity, well, I don’t remember not reading it recently, and I only sort-of remember reading it in the current apartment.

Anyway, I was pretty sure I hadn’t read Cetaganda for a long time. I had thought it was the last one on my way around, but maybe it isn’t. It’s my least favorite of the books, or at any rate the one I think works least well. Hmm. No, Diplomatic Immunity is worse. Still, it’s not a very good book. It’s got serious plot problems, and the ex machina ending is nowhere near entertaining enough to make up for it.

Actually, Cetaganda was the first of Ms. Bujold’s books I read. I had participated in one of the earlyish on-line if-you-didn’t-like-that-you-will-also-not-enjoy things, back before Amazon existed, I think. I believe it was run out of MIT somewhere, and it was clear that the vast majority of people who would sit on-line and rate a hundred books or so (I think the minimum for participation was forty) were sf nerds. Six out of the top ten books recommended on the basis of my input were by the Lois McMaster Bujold woman, of whom I had never heard (you see how far I had fallen away from sf at the time). I made a note of the name, and a little while later picked up one of her books, which turned out to be Cetaganda, which I read, did not particularly enjoy, and returned it to the library, not even figuring it was worth offering it to my Best Reader before giving it back. I’m not sure why I tried another one, except that I have a tendency to go for the familiar over the unfamiliar, and at least I’d had the books recommended, even though I hadn’t agreed with the recommendation. I can also plead that I was overwhelmed by browsing in a superlibrary; I’m not sure I’ve mentioned that it is their policy to remove dust jackets, so I had little to judge a book by. As Gentle Readers will be aware, I came to really enjoy the series, although I still think this is the weakest.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,


I remember Cetaganda less fondly than many, though Warrior's Apprentice and Ethan of Athos were also weak IMO, in that "brand new writer" sort of way (they were, IIRC, her first two). But Cetaganda, written much later, doesn't have that excuse, and I wonder if it was a "oh dear, the publisher wants me to put out another book but I don't know what Miles should do next, so ... I'll churn out a story when he was younger? yeah, that's it!" sort of book.

Memory is by far my favourite.

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