Diplomatic Immunity, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Once one has read sufficiently many of Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan novels, one notices a few patterns that appear in terms of the novels . For one, there is a group of novels (and novelas) that are mysteries, often of a serious and political nature, and like Cetaganda and Komarrand “The Mountains Of Mourning,” this is a mystery novel with Miles serving as a detective. Being a detective instead of the troublemaker has put Miles about half a step behind the action in some of the more recent novels, and this novel is no exception. As a result, Miles (and his associates) are put in harm’s way as they chase after the wrong clues and after the wrong “man”. Once again, Miles’ political expertise and manic energy serve to get him in trouble and also, ultimately serve to his benefit.
At its heart, this is a novel about clashing cultures and also about how personal ambitions and public duty interact with each other. Miles’ efforts to free his fellow citizens from their impoundment while on his way back from a belated honeymoon with his beloved Ekaterina (who really could have used a few POV chapters of her own, especially towards the end) lead him into a dramatic and unexpected attempt to avoid his own beloved empire and the Cetagandan Empire from going to war, and he eventually stumbles upon a massive crime that ties together all of the loose ends of his case together, but nearly at the cost of his own life, giving him yet more health concerns (related to his heart) that I can relate a bit well to. Clearly, in this particular space opera, there is a great deal of personal and political concern as Miles faces aging, greater responsibility as a father, and the contrast in politics between his own aristocratic planet and the more egalitarian polity that is Quaddiespace.
The combination of political skullduggery, a good mystery, and character-driven plots that are tightly wound make this an excellent novel, even if it loses a bit of momentum at the end. As might be expected for a novel of considerable complexity, it manages to make a lot of inside references to other novels within the series and make a few engineering jokes, which I tend to appreciate greatly (seeing as that is my educational background), as well as approving references to what is valued the most by Quaddie society. Like Bayarran society values work and Komarr values profit and the Cetagandan empire values what might be best termed as creativity, Quaddiespace values labor, and Miles earns high marks for his hard work, even if he is as happy as they are to be departing that space as soon as possible. This is a book that will linger at least a little bit longer than that, if not at the level of Bujold’s best novels, at least a fine novel well worth pondering over for its relevance to questions of genetic engineering and provoking other nations into conflict.
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