Review: _Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen:_ What do you do when you lose the love of your life?
February 9, 2016 10:47pm CST
There are a very few writers out there that I will buy sight unseen when they release a new book. One of those authors is Lois McMaster Bujold. For years now I have been reading her excellent science fiction series, The Vorkosigan Saga, and each one has been a delight. The Vicereine of Sergyar, Cordelia Vorkosigan, is returning to the planet after a trip to Barrayar. It's been three years since the loss of her husband, the very formidable Aral, and she is still caught up in mourning him. But she is determined to press forward with her life, and for that, she has a plan. Meeting her at the port orbiting Sergyar is Admiral Oliver Jole, a former aide to Aral, and good friend. He's never made a secret of his admiration for her, but he is also very well aware of the situation. But he is taken aback by the announcement of Cordelia's intention of both resigning her role as Vicereine and staying on Sergyar... It's quite a story, and a bit of a departure from the usual space opera to be found in science fiction. This is a tale of coping with loss, the possibilities of the future, and love. Indeed, it is one of the best romances that I've ever read in the genre, and I adored that both of the main characters are mature adults, with plenty of obstacles in their way, not the least, themselves. I should warn some readers that the topics of sexuality presented here are very adult, including a lover's triangle and a homosexual relationship. Nothing graphic is here, but the intensity is rather high. Not that Ms. Bujold has ever shied away from controversial subjects, and she handled it in an adult fashion without any juvenile snickering and pokes in the process. The secondary characters are just as interesting, especially Kaya Vorinnis, the young aide to the Admiral, and the unfortunate Cetagendan who is attracted to her. There's an adventure with a gang of teenagers who take a prank too far. And Cordelia's son, Miles, shows up for a section of the book, with plenty of potential trouble tacked on. Along with Miles is his wife, the beautiful Ekaterin, and their tribe of children. One touch that I have enjoyed with the series is the uterine replicator, a device that allows pregnancy and gestation without the physical troubles of pregnancy. Here we get to see both the process and results of such a technology, and it's one that I wish we had in our own time and place. Most of all, what I enjoyed are Cordelia and Oliver themselves, as two very complex people who are working through their issues. Bujold uses mature attitudes and plenty of sly wit -- I love the twist on what has to be the most famous of Jane Austen's quotes -- and most of the silliness that tends to appear in romance, no matter what the genre. It was a real pleasure to read this, and I hope that it won't be the last we get to see of the Vorkosigans. Yes, you really do need to have read the earlier novel _Cryoburn_ to grasp the subtleties of this one. There's a lot of the backstory of both Cordelia and Aral and Oliver to be found here. For fans of the series, there won't have to be any urging to go out and get this one, and while I wouldn't suggest this be the book that you start with for the series, I really do recommend Lois McMaster Bujold as a writer who is not to be missed. Yes, she's that good. Five stars overall, and recommended. The Vorkosigan Saga Novels: Shards of Honor Barrayar The Warrior’s Apprentice The Vor Game Cetaganda Borders of Infinity Brothers in Arms Mirror Dance Memory Komarr A Civil Campaign Diplomatic Immunity Captain Vorpatril's Alliance CryoBurn Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen -- you are here Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen: A Vorkosigan Adventure Lois McMaster Bujold 2015; Baen Books, Simon and Schuster, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4767-8122-8 (If others are interested in seeing my other reviews of Ms. Bujold's books, let me know and I will repost them here)