Monday, July 20, 2015

Ingredients for a Great Series

Lois McMaster Bujold was one of the many authors I featured during my April A-Z Women in SF Challenge. At that time, I wasn't very far along in her Vorkosigan Saga. I've been working on it and now have only one more book to read before I'm caught up. Going into this reading project, I wouldn't have expected I'd enjoy this series so much. Here are a few things about this series that IMO make it compelling:

It spans genres: This series is a mix of everything: military SF, mystery, romance, and more.

Its setting: This saga is set in a universe where many different planets have been colonized. Each planet has a different culture, which allows for not only interesting world-building but also conflict.

Its characters and their challenges: Most of these stories feature Miles Vorkosigan, who suffers a variety of physical challenges (for those of you who haven't read the series yet, I won't detail his issues or how he acquires them). However, his problems have led him to develop great ingenuity and persistence. There is, of course, ample evidence in the early books that he may have inherited those traits. Although Miles may be dominant, he's not the only noteworthy character in this series. There are important secondary characters who get turns being the point-of-view character, and there are several quite memorable minor characters who help flesh out the books.

Going along with the characters themselves are their character arcs. The events in this series span decades. Characters go in and out of different careers and relationships and learn from their mistakes. This education can be hard-won at times, and the characters suffer, but it helps make readers care about these characters too.

Humor: Along with all the action and intrigue are touches of humor. I think the book with the best humor so far is A Civil Campaign.

The interrelatedness of the books: Each book can work as a stand-alone, but as many early locations and characters reappear, there are a lot of references to earlier events, especially in the later books. I remembered a lot of the references since I read the books so close together, but there are a few times where I did lose track. However, it was nice to be able to reconnect with earlier characters. The chronological order of the stories (not all of them are full-length novels) isn't the same as the publication date, so it's wise to read the series in chronological order if you're not familiar with it.

Have you read the Vorkosigan series, or any other works by Bujold? If so, what did you think of them? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments.


Pat Dilloway said...

Sounds like an interesting series. Always good when you can transcend genres.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

No I haven't. From your description, the series reminds me of M. Pax's Backworlds series.

Sandra Almazan said...

Pat and Alex, I hope you check it out sometime!

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