THE VOR GAME is,
almost certainly, the worst of Bujoldís Vorkosigan novels.
Last week I
wrote that MEMORY combined all of Bujoldís strengths without
any of her flaws. THE VOR GAME is almost an inversion of this:
It combines her worst flaws as an early writer with very few of
her strengths. The powerful themes of her others works are
missing. The plot is driven by one implausible chance encounter
and improbability after another. Even the little touches and
subtle nuances seem absent once you are past the first fifty
pages. The one strength which may still be cited are the
characters Ė but even they are somewhat lamed as the absurdity
of the plot grows.
In many ways,
this is actually a book of two parts: The first part is an
effective novella (which, unfortunately, lacks an ending). The
second part is a disastrous outing compared to the standard
Bujold has set for herself, primarily as a result of the
SOD-breaking coincidences which drive the plot.
When you read
this book, try counting the number of times the plot is advanced
because Miles has a chance encounter with someone. In some cases
these are merely as improbable as running into someone by chance
in New York City. In other cases itís as improbable as running
into someone in Beijing who you just saw two weeks ago in Los
If it happened
once, it wouldnít be a problem. Heck, Bujold might even be
able to pull it off two or even three times if she were careful.
does it more than a dozen times. The entire plot is driven along
this single-minded authorial fiat.
Okay. So there
are some significant problems here. There are also good points:
If you can swallow your disbelief repeatedly, the plot is a
rip-roaring ride. Watching Miles at his most hyperactively
desperate is as much fun as it usually is, and the supporting
cast can be truly delightful.
When all is said and done, this is still a good book.
Itís a frustrating and disappointing book compared to
Bujoldís other works, and its utterly baffling that such a
poorly-constructed novel could win the Hugo. But that doesnít
change the fact that this is still a fun little read, as long as
you donít come to it with artificially heightened