Cryoburn, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Like some of its predecessors in the Miles Vorkosigan series  (notably Cetaganda, “Mountains of Mourning,” Komarr, and Diplomatic Immunity), this is a detective novel with the fate of planets at stake. Even more so, the way in which this alien planet (Kibou-daini) operates is itself a way of forcibly reminding Miles of his own mortality and brings to mind his own paternal responsibilities, all of which lead him into a dangerous situation that is quite frankly avoidable but precisely the sort of foreign mess that my own character and instincts and personality would lead me to involve myself in, an unwillingness to let corruption and injustice lie without being challenged, even after the direct mission is accomplished fairly straightforwardly.
In this particular novel, as well as plenty of perspectives of Miles, we get a little bit of perspective from loyal armsman and foil Roic (who provides a note of relative sanity and a straight man for Miles’ schtick) as well as the perspective of Jin, a young runaway boy with a deadly secret that manages to spur the plot onto its usual tight operation. From Jin we see Miles from the perspective of a clever but rather cynical young man, recognizing Miles as a kindly man, with a great deal of power, a certain amount of frailty, and a belief that the rules that apply to others do not necessarily apply to him. I wonder if those people who know me tend to think of the same thing of me, as I could definitely see how that would be the case, as well as seeing me as a chaotic force that brings excitement and change and some amount of drama with me wherever I go.
The main plot of this novel is rather straightforward–Miles is sent to a remote planet on the intuition of the Empress of his home planet, where he attends a conference, has a bad drug reaction, and ends up as a vagabond on the street and with a mystery to solve. After that, the plot mostly solves itself, given Miles’ cleverness and the resources of those around him and their willingness to go along with his knightly quest involving a political activist wrongly imprisoned in a frozen state and a deadly secret that would evaporate much of the property and political power of large oligarchies who control the planet’s scientific companies, who seek to take over control of one of Barrayar’s planets (Komarr) through a savvy means that thankfully Miles is able to solve. There is, at the end, a sudden and dramatic shift that relates closely with the book’s themes of mortality that brings the main line of these novels, it would appear, to a dramatic close by showing how Miles has grown into adulthood and is too burdened with scars and responsibilities to be the wild young man he used to be. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
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