I have been reading the full Vorkosigan series from the very first book, and have taken my time. Each of the books are fun, witty and adventurous; and by reading them in order, you fully understand the world that LMBujold is building. Each book is thus a joy to read and I liked them.
However, from Memory and then Komarr and now A Civil Campaign (ACC), Bujold gives something extra: tension! First the tension within Miles about his own identity, and next the tension in his relationship with the woman he loves but does not dare to court directly.
As far as I am concerned, both Komarr and ACC are primarily about Miles' love for Ekatarin, a love that she proves herself more than worthy for (and who would expect anything less). The adventure story in ACC was, imho, thrown in as a backstory. Let alone the story of Mark and the butter bugs, which was mostly diversion.
What makes this book better than others is that it contains very wise lessons about the nature of relationships. For example that wanting to give the person you love anything she needs, might not be the best for her/him. I also liked the lesson Aral gives desperate Miles about the difference between honor and reputation: reputation is what others think of you, honor is what you think about yourself. You need to concern yourself mostly with the second, because that is your soul. The relationship between Miles and Ekatarin grows as Miles is restraining himself to be a good partner, instead of trying to conquer Ekatarin. And she grows in her role as the future Lady Vorkosigan because of his attention and the world he offers. "If the person is defined by the friends he has, than Miles must be something special indeed" is an interesting way of looking at relations. One that kept me thinking for quite a while (and still does).
That Miles together with Ekatarin save the day can only be expected, and they truly deserve each other. I wish them all the love and happiness!
Unabashed book junkie
I won't repeat the many praises of the other reviewers, except to say they are all true. Bujold has a way of phrasing essential truths, often via Cordelia's wisdom, in a way you want to keep, quote, and pass on to your kids.
In this book, she has outdone herself in the arena of saying perfectly what MUST be said right. Miles' letter to Ekaterin is a template for the true declaration of love that rivals anything Shakespeare offers. Oh, that I could have said it so well when the time came to declare my love to my own heart's Countess...
There's very little space opera in this book, more Regency romance a la Georgette Heyer. Nonetheless, it is a gem, if only for the joy of Miles having to deal with the intricacies of courting his ladylove in the midst of Emperor Gregor's wedding preparations. There are also complications with the inevitable Barrayaran politics getting physical, as a couple of Countships come into dispute; Ivan has some great moments as he is unwillingly dragged into this. And there's a particularly wonderful bit wherein Miles dons his old Dendarii uniform jacket and for a couple of moments becomes 'the little Admiral' with his Betan accent, which Grover Gardner does with great skill. That part I want to go back and listen to over and over.
I've read the print version several times, but listening to Grover Gardner's voices brings an entire new dimension, a nice enhancement to the story and the character development.
(In part from my Goodreads review)
Every time I start a book from this series, I hear myself thinking something like, "okay, I've just got to get through the buildup part of the book to the good stuff." Then after listening to the whole thing, I am amazed that I even considered the buildup something to 'get through'. You'd think I'd learn after reading the rest of this series. Lots of humor, great political intrigue, just a lot of fun to read.
Perhaps the best of the Vorkosigan books to date. Despite a total absence of space battles and the majority of the book focusing on Miles' love life , this book is as great as any in the series. It's probably Bujold's wittiest piece, with some outright slapstick, and it packs a substantial emotional punch too.
We've all been living with these wonderful characters for so long that it feels very cathartic indeed as they pair up.
If you have made it this far in the saga then all you need to know is that this part lives up to its promise and more.
I read this book in print when first published, and enjoyed it greatly. The audible version brings the original story to life, richly. I've listened to many of Grover Gardner's narratives and he does an inspired job on this one! Highly recommended!
I love the Miles Vorkosigan series. This particular story is fun and light hearted and entertaining. Grover Gardener is one of my favorite performers. This is especially true now that I am hard of hearing. Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favorite authors.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
A Civil Campaign (1999), maybe the ninth space opera novel by Lois McMaster Bujold about Miles Vorkosigan, begins a short while after the events of the previous novel, Komarr (1998), during which Miles fell in love with Ekaterin Vorsoisson, an unhappily married woman, witnessed her become a widow in traumatic fashion, and solved his first case as Imperial Auditor. Now Miles and Ekaterin are back on their home world Barrayar, in its capitol Vorbarr Sultana. Having suffered through ten years of psychological spousal abuse, the widow has no interest in remarrying, so Miles initiates a campaign of covert courting: hire her to design a new public garden by his estate, appealing to her landscaping interests, helping her start a new career, and spending a lot of time with her. What could go wrong?
Into that plot, Bujold interweaves many other civil campaigns. Miles' clone-brother Mark and Kareen Koudelka, for instance, have just returned to hidebound, patriarchal Barrayar after a year as lovers on the advanced, anything goes Beta Colony. Will Kareen's family accept Mark as her potential husband? After all, he is a clone who was created and trained as a weapon to destroy Miles, and who is now the unstable manager of four, torture-created sub-personalities, Grunt, Gorge, Killer, and Howler. Will Kareen be able to find a way to be with Mark and to be herself on Barrayar? Still more. To Barrayar Mark has brought (bought?) Dr. Enrique Borgos, a nutty bio-chemist professor who breeds genetically modified butter bugs to eat any flora and regurgitate it as highly nutritious curd. Will Mark be able to turn this into a successful business? And Captain Ivan Vorpatril, Miles' unambitious cousin, is trying to avoid any difficult work while dreaming of reuniting with a former lover. Meanwhile, the progressive and conservative Barrayaran Counts are jockeying for power, as it has recently come to light that Count Rene Vorbretten is half Cetagandan (Cetaganda being a bitter enemy of Barrayar), while Lady Donna Voruttyer has been trying to find a way to succeed her recently deceased brother as Count when "The prick's always been the most important qualification for a Countship." All of these sub-plots occur in the context of the impending politically-charged marriage between Emperor Gregor of Barrayar and Dr. Laisa Toscane of Kommar.
The sub-title of the novel, "a Comedy of Biology and Manners," then, is quite apt. In addition to comical and moving romance on Barrayar, biology plays an amusing role, from the genetic engineering of the butter bugs to the changing cultural and social milieu on Barrayar (uterine replicators, sex changes, clones, and the like). Here be no epic battles involving fleets of star ships belonging to various alien and human civilizations. There is a suspenseful fracas in a parking area involving stun guns, a kick to the groin, a vibra-knife, and a bottle of liquid bandage, as well as a zany melee involving multiple tubs of butter bug curd, two foreign policemen, two spunky Koudelka daughters, one hunky undressed House Vorkosigan Armsman, and one gormless scientist.
As usual, Miles is fun to watch, being brilliant, energetic, charismatic, and, because of his dwarfish stature, overly driven and prone to finding himself in sticky situations from which he tries to extricate himself by "forward momentum," escalating impromptu bold moves and BS, though his talents may not work so well in his first courtship. Ekaterin is a good match for Miles: intelligent, creative, dignified, and excited to find her soul since the death of her husband.
As usual, Bujold writes many great lines:
--"The Countess was to obstacles as a laser canon was to flies."
--"So, hope staggered upright again, like a newly revived cryo-corpse, dizzied and squinting in the light."
--"Yes, if anyone was going to crawl around on the floor hunting bugs alongside Ekaterin, it would be him, dammit!"
--"Well, it could have been worse. I'm glad you didn't have him watch Hamlet."
--"Intimacy of the flesh seemed easy, after the far more terrifying intimacy of the mind."
As usual, Grover Gardner gives an engaging, no frills, spot on reading of a Miles Vorkosigan novel; I can't imagine any other reader doing it.
For all those good things, some things in A Civil Campaign are less good. The Barrayar aristocratic imperial system and Miles' use therein of his connections (like his war-hero parents Aral and Cordelia, Emperor friend Gregor, and former ImpSec boss Simon Ilyan) are a bit disconcerting. (A code card giving immediate comm link access to the Emperor is sure handy!) Although the book affectingly exposes the negative aspects of male dominated societies (where being female is "a legal disease"), I also wish it had more serious investigation of the motivations, implications, and ramifications of things like gender change and genetically engineered invader insect species. As much as I like watching Miles on his homeworld as it becomes less insular, feudal, and patriarchal and more "galactic," I miss his former mercenary entrepreneur life as Admiral Naismith away from Barrayar. And the climax of the novel relies too much on the too unsubtle behavior of a too obvious villain.
Finally, A Civil Campaign IS entertaining, witty, and character and culture driven space opera, one great, amusing scene after another (until, perhaps, the climax). Readers who would want to read Jane Austen doing romantic and political sf comedies would like this book.
I've read all of the Miles Vorkorsigan story from the Vor game and recommend to anyone to start from there and read the books in succession. I loved the humorous side stories with Mark and the Bug Butter..