Imperial Radch

Talking about the Vorkosigan Saga by Bujold lead me to Ann Leckie and her Imperial Radch trilogy. Connections sometimes are weird. Anyway, turns out I never posted the reviews for the full trilogy over here. So, onwards to my backlist…

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Ann Leckie, Adjoa Andoh (Narrator), read and reviewed in March 2017:

The beginning was a little confusing. Might be due to it being an audiobook, it’s a fairly new medium for me. Here are my slightly spoilerish thoughts.

Breq’s voice in the audibook works well for the character. I didn’t find her too neutral or emotionless. In the beginning she almost felt childlike, exploring and getting to know her world. As the book went on, she gained more emotions and more of a personality.

I found some of the dialects of the other characters a bit weird. Some of the voices in the audiobook also sounded a bit “too much” and not natural to me. But they all grew on me eventually.

It’s interesting that Breq used a female pronoun for all other characters, until she could figure out if they were male or female. And even then she often stuck to the female version. It made for an unusual reading experience. Ultimately it made no difference, if a character was male or female. Which was perhaps the point of the whole idea.

What I did find a bit difficult with the audiobook: Telling the other characters apart. And it was slightly annoying that I couldn’t see the spelling of the various names and places.

I liked the timeline alternating from chapter to chapter. The story only really took off for me with the convergence of both plotlines. I liked the story before that, too. But the pace was a bit too leisurely. The last 30% of the book finally picked up speed.

My personal highlight was the development of the relationship between Breq and Seivarden. The conclusion of the book’s underlieing conflict in contrast to that was just ok. Smart, but nothing earth shattering. Nice ending. And I am fairly certain that I will pick up the next book.

Sorry for my fairly lame review, literary mastermind I am not. Bottom line, I liked the book. A bit slow at times. Good plot. Good world building. Interesting characters. Loved Ors, loved Seivarden and the relationship of her and Breq. The last few chapters were fun. One gripping moment full of sadness. Good stuff.

Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2) by Ann LeckieAdjoa Andoh (Narrator), read and reviewed in April 2017:

*some spoilers* 

I liked it. It was very laid back in between the more energetic action sequences. A lot of drinking tea. I liked the plot of the first book more, I think (still debating with myself). The alternating timeline made it more vibrant and suspenseful. It was proper space opera. 

However, the relationships of the various characters in this sequel were more intricate. The dynamics of the people on the station and down on the planet were well done. The disenfranchised in the Undergarden (brilliant idea) and their revolution, the serfs on the planet, the ruling class and its notions of entitlement and righteousness… Good stuff, I will be going over it in my mind for quite a while.

You take what you want at the end of a gun, you murder and rape and steal, and you call it bringing civilization. And what is civilization, to you, but us being properly grateful to be murdered and raped and stolen from? You said you knew justice when you heard it. Well, what is your justice but you allowed to treat us as you like, and us condemned for even attempting to defend ourselves?

Very talkative prose, sometimes a little too much for my taste. But only a little. Seivarden’s role was sadly diminished in this, the addition of Tisarwat added a good character into the mix. Breq’s Kalrs pretending to be ancillaries was another great idea. She herself mourning for her lost connectedness with all that she was as Justice of Torren… I am not usually a friend of character driven narratives, but this was good.

Looking forward to Ancillary Mercy. Can’t wait to read, what they find on the other side…

Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3) by Ann LeckieAdjoa Andoh (Narrator), read and reviewed in May 2017:

Lovely. I am sad that this is the end for the Imperial Radch. But then…

Every ending is an arbitrary one. Every ending is, from another angle, not really an ending.

Direct continuation of Ancillary Sword. A nice and fitting conclusion to the trilogy.

The humour and tongue-in-check of the dialogues was great and right down my alley. And Translator Zeiat made this novel, what a great character! 

Loved Breq and how human she became in the last book. And not. 

Loved the development of her relationship with Seivarden, who definitely did not have enough page time. 

Loved the action sequences, loved the conversation about what makes one a significant being.

I will miss these characters, Athoek Station, the Undergarden… I would have loved to go through the ghost gate and meet the Presger.

Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy felt like one book and I think I liked them more than Ancillary Justice. The plot and characterizations were more intricate. Although I did like the plot of Ancillary Justice a lot, too, and the early days of Seivarden and Breq. I’ll need to think on that some more.

Some fish sauce in the meantime?

The audiobook narration of these three by Adjoa Andoh was excellent!

After reading this trilogy, I read a ton of short stories by Leckie and eventually her novels Raven Tower and Provenance. One is fantasy and the other one is set in the world of Imperial Radch, but in another corner of the galaxy and with other characters and an entirely different feel. Both nominated for a ton of awards. So, yes, I am waiting for more. This woman can write. Raven Tower was published in early 2019, so maybe we get lucky next year…

The Hugos and The Raven Tower, Ann Leckie‘s blog post from August 2020

Accidental mercenary

The Warrior's Apprentice (Vorkosigan Saga, #2)The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Huh. Didn’t they give you any medical treatment?”
“Oh, sure. I’ve had an Inquisition’s worth. That’s why I can walk around today, instead of being carried in a bucket.”

After meeting baby Miles at the end of Barrayar, I finally got to know the main protagonist of the Vorkosigan Saga.

Part of buddy reading the series with SpecFic in chronological order.

This book didn’t pull its punches and got right into the middle of the action. Still, I felt no great need to keep going and it took me a week to just get past the first third of the book. Seems to be a pattern for me with this series. The beginning seemingly drags a lot and about 30 to 40% it gets more interesting. I just wish these books would pick up speed a little faster. I know, I am contradicting myself. Maybe it’s the narrative of the series in general that doesn’t hold my attention? Although, I have to admit that it is quite funny to read about Miles digging the hole he is standing in deeper and deeper…

I was entertained, I laughed, but I also skimmed. Nice plot, but also not really doing it for me. I don’t know, I guess I will have to read another one!

3.25 undecided stars…

View all my reviews

Cordelia goes for it…

Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga, #7)Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third book in my chronological series read of the Vorkosigan Saga. Published as the 7th book of the series. All about Cordelia and Aral and complementing the story that started in Shards of Honor. Their early days on Barrayar, about family, politics, intrigue and war.

This time I went for the kindle version, as I did not enjoy the first two audiobooks very much. The narrator came across as very old fashioned and it gave the previous two books a very dated feel. I am happy to report that I liked this much better. And if I should ever decide to re-read the first two books, it will certainly be in the printed version, not on audio. Apparently there is another narrator for the later books and if I should come across him, I might give him a try.

Slow start, slow build-up, very nice world-building. Barrayar came to life quite nicely.

Characterization are good, although I struggled at times to keep all these people apart, with their similar sounding family names. The relationship between Cordelia and Aral is kept very low key. Her struggles Piotr and the assembled Vor nobility were amusing to read though. I assume that I will not meet any of these characters again, at least for several books. I will miss Koudelka, Bothari and Droushnakovi.

The action and adventure part of the plot towards the end of the book was entertaining and suspenseful. Especially once Cordelia had enough of male stupidity and went for it. Kick-ass, woman! I salute you!

3.75 points, looking forward to the next book!

View all my reviews

Proper space opera…

Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga, #1)Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to the audio version again. Really not a fan of Grover Gardner. His voice makes it sound so dated. Well, it is, but it would be nice, if the narration was a bit more… I don’t know. Lively? It sounds as if he’s reading it sitting on a park bench, whilst feeding some squirrels or knitting socks… Maybe I need to switch to the ebook for the next book in this chronological buddy read.

The two main characters are likeable enough. I couldn’t relate to either of them very well at first, but Cordelia grew on me in the second half of the book. Vorkosigan and the supporting characters stayed a little one-dimensional.

There is a very strange rape-attempt scene in the middle. My issue is perhaps more with Bujold’s writing than with how the character reacts. I am told what the character thinks, but I don’t actually experience the situation with her. It might also have to do with the audiobook narration, i.e. the narrator giving her a voice that I do not like much. I am not really sure, though. Which enforces my idea to actually read the next book, not listen to it.

World building is good, I really liked the animal life on the planet they were stranded on in the beginning. I wish the adventure part of the early chapters, trecking together through a potentially hostile landscape to safety, would have been a stronger and more exciting narrative. Instead my favourite part of the book was the fallout of Cordelia’s adventures, when she returned back to Beta Colony.

Bottom line, a little better than ok, not great.

View all my reviews

Free falling, all hands…

Falling FreeFalling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Our intrepid engineer Leo starts a new job and gets to know genetically engineered humans–optimized for life in free fall, with another set of arms instead of legs. Fittingly they are called quaddies. They are also treated as something less than human and our engineer finds himself in the position of wanting to help the underdogs.

This hasn’t aged well. It feels pretty old-fashioned and quite a little sexist. If you can get past that, the story is entertaining.

The audiobook narrator does a decent job, but could have given more distinct voices to the various characters. Those are all pretty one-dimensional.

Leo is the nice guy, Mr. Fix-it, and apparently based on Bujold’s father, who was an engineer and wrote a definitive book on non-destructive testing.

The bad guy is a proper slimebag, the quaddies are all nice, naive kids.

Bujold’s imagery is very vivid. The story is well plotted and paced, if a little predictable. Every now and then she geeks out and over-indulges in engineering babble.

The ending feels a bit as if there could have been more, and I read somewhere that Bujold had indeed planned to write another book to tell the rest of the story.

Chronologically Falling Free is the first book in the Vorkosigan Saga. It is more of a prequel though, as it is set 200 years before the main series, without the central character of the series.

I plan to buddy read the whole series with some friends, in the mentioned chronological order, not in order of publication. Let’s see how far I get!

Better than just ok, but not great, 3.5 stars.

View all my reviews