When Miles and his cousin Ivan were sent as diplomats on just another boring imperial funeral to Cetaganda, little did they know that something would happen there, a political scandal that could spark a war against Miles’ homeworld Barrayar.
Upon arriving on Cetaganda, they receive a strange object from a ba, a sexless servant of the ghem and haut caste. Against Ivan’s suggestions, Miles decides to hide it, and to snoop around a bit in order to find it’s purpose, and of course, not to start a political incident. He and his cousin spend the first couple of days sightseeing and frequenting diplomatic dinners and duties. Cetaganda is an empire different from the rest of the known galaxy. It’s people are divided into castes.
Ghem are the military caste, Haut, the genetic engineers whose purpose is to weave genetic strands and combine them to create a perfect human. They control Ghem. The rest are lesser aristocracy or common folk. With the only distinction being that everyone looks…well perfect. Centuries of genetic tampering have made it so. After Miles meets highness Rian Degtiar, the late empresses’ right hand, and the engineer in chief of the Star Creche, he starts a battle against time. For the mysterious object the ba gave him was a copy of the Great Key. The original Key was stolen, and without it, the Haut can’t access their genetic databases.
It’s disappearance can mean only one thing. War. With Miles Vorkosigan as the perfect scapegoat. To understand the universe of Miles Vorkosigan, you would have to read the full Vorkosigan saga. Cetaganda is the 7th book in the series that has 14 books plus short stories, so I’ll put some light upon the plot.
Miles Vorkosigan hails from the planet Barrayar. Barrayar is a planet run & led by a military caste called the Vor. Vor is a prefix they have on their last names (VORkosigan, VORpatil etc.). The saga follows the life and adventures of a Vor baron called Miles Vorkosigan from age 17 to 30+. Aside being a Vor, Miles is a spy for EmpSec (Barrayar’s inteligence agency), and most of his adventures revolve around his duties. Miles is a military and tactical genius, whose instincts lead him often into trouble. Aside that, Miles is a “product” of an assassination attempt on his parents when he was still in the womb. They survived, bu he would forever suffer from brittle bones. Therefore he was subjected to mockery from many people. He learned not to care, and at the same time, learned to sharpen his mind into a weapon. Like I said before, he is a genius. But his genius gets him into situations that would drop your jaw to the floor. For instance, when he is 17 years old, by scheming and manipulation he becomes an admiral for the Dendarii mercenary fleet, a fleet that counts more than thirty ships, five or six of them being capital ships. Think of Tyrion Lannister, but ten times more hardcore.
It’s a great saga, one that you can dive into and completely lose track of time. I would say it’s pacifist-ish due to the lack of violence in the books. This book and the rest of the saga are a must read for fans of Sci-Fi. If you like military tactics, political intrigues, spying and Miles cheating death always by a strand, you’ve come to the right place.
About Lois McMaster Bujold
Cetaganda was written by Lois McMaster Bujold (born November 2, 1949), an American author of science fiction and fantasy works. Bujold is one of the most acclaimed writers in her field, having won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record. Her novella The Mountains of Mourning won both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award. In the fantasy genre, The Curse of Chalion won the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature and was nominated for the 2002 World Fantasy Award for best novel, and both her fourth Hugo Award and second Nebula Award were for Paladin of Souls. In 2011 she was awarded the Skylark Award. In 2013 she was awarded the Forry Award.
The bulk of Bujold’s works are part of three separate book series: the Vorkosigan Saga, the Chalion Series, and the Sharing Knife series.
- The Warrior’s Apprentice (1986)
- Borders of Infinity (1989)
- Brothers in Arms (1989)
- The Vor Game (1990)
- Barrayar (1991)
- Mirror Dance (1994)
- Cetaganda (1995)
- Memory (1996)
- Komarr (1998)
- A Civil Campaign (1999)
- Diplomatic Immunity (2002)
- Winterfair Gifts (2008)
- Cryoburn (2010)
- Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance (2012)