Cover of Shards of Honor, the first book in the series.
|Author||Lois McMaster Bujold|
|Genre||Science fiction, space opera, romance|
|Published||1986 – ongoing|
|No. of books||16 + 6 short works (List of books)|
The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of science fiction novels and short stories set in a common fictional universe by American author Lois McMaster Bujold. The first of these was published in 1986 and the most recent in 2016. Works in the series have received numerous awards and nominations, including three Hugo award wins.
Bujold’s approach varies, sometimes crossing genres. All the novels include humor and comedy, sometimes very black and juxtaposed with tragic deaths or losses. She mixes military adventure, political thriller, romance, and the whodunit in various proportions.
The point of view characters include women (Cordelia in Shards of Honor and Barrayar; Ekaterin in Komarr and A Civil Campaign), a gay man (Ethan of Athos), and a pair of brothers, one of whom is disabled and the other a clone (Miles and Mark Vorkosigan), their cousin (Ivan Vorpatril) together with some less well educated characters (e.g., the bodyguard Roic and the runaway lad Jin).
An important concern of the series is medical ethics. The author focuses on problems of personal identity, particularly the role of the physical in determining personhood. In this science-fiction context, identity may be affected by bioengineering, genetic manipulation, cloning, and medical technology allowing the replacement of failing systems and the prolonging of life. Some stories explore the relationships among child-rearing, pair-bonding (romantic love), and sexual activity.
The various forms of society and government Bujold presents often reflect 20th-century politics. In many novels, there is a contrast between the technology-rich egalitarian Beta Colony and the heroic, militaristic, hierarchical society of Barrayar, where personal relationships must ensure societal continuity. Miles Vorkosigan, the protagonist of most of the series, is the son of a Betan mother and a Barrayaran aristocrat, embodying this contrast.
- 1 Background
- 2 Reception
- 3 Works
- 3.1 In internal chronological order
- 3.1.1 "Dreamweaver’s Dilemma" (short story)
- 3.1.2 Falling Free
- 3.1.3 Shards of Honor
- 3.1.4 "Aftermaths" (short story)
- 3.1.5 Barrayar
- 3.1.6 The Warrior's Apprentice
- 3.1.7 "Mountains of Mourning" (novella)
- 3.1.8 The Vor Game
- 3.1.9 Cetaganda
- 3.1.10 Ethan of Athos
- 3.1.11 "Labyrinth" (novella)
- 3.1.12 "The Borders of Infinity" (novella)
- 3.1.13 Brothers in Arms
- 3.1.14 Borders of Infinity
- 3.1.15 Mirror Dance
- 3.1.16 Memory
- 3.1.17 Komarr
- 3.1.18 A Civil Campaign
- 3.1.19 "Winterfair Gifts" (novella)
- 3.1.20 Diplomatic Immunity
- 3.1.21 Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
- 3.1.22 Cryoburn
- 3.1.23 Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
- 3.2 Listing by date of first publication
- 3.1 In internal chronological order
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
As in Isaac Asimov's earlier Foundation series, humanity has colonized a galaxy in which there are no competing intelligent species. The first successful colony was Beta. Since that time (at least 400 years before Falling Free or 600 years before Shards of Honor), dozens of planets now host divergent, evolving cultures.
Travel between star systems is made possible by wormholes, spatial anomalies which allow instantaneous “jumps” between widely separated locations. The systems are known collectively as the Wormhole Nexus. Typically wormholes are bracketed by space stations, military or commercial, which provide ports for jump travel. Stations may be owned by planetary governments, or by specific commercial organizations, or they may be completely independent of any planetary organization (e.g. the Quaddie Union and Kline Station).
Wormhole travel depends on “five-space math,” “Necklin field generator rods” which fold three dimensions into five, and pilots with brain implants which allow them to experience a jump as a duration of time. Most star systems have at most one planet which has been made habitable for humans. In most cases, there is a single government which dominates the entire planet (an exception is Jackson's Whole). Both Cetaganda and Barrayar have empires, acquired by conquering other planets via neighboring wormholes. The Betan Survey Service, in which Cordelia Naismith is a captain at the beginning of Shards of Honor, maps unexplored sectors of the Nexus and explores new systems for habitable planets.
Bujold pays token attention to the variations in measurable time units from planet to planet, positing an Earth-based “standard year” which holds through the entire Nexus. Moreover, days are calculated in terms of a “standard hour” no matter how long they are, so that Barrayar has a day 26.7 hours long. Bujold herself has commented that her posited system is neither technologically nor economically feasible, but is rather a convenience for storytelling.
Bujold’s father and brother were engineers, and many of the technological details she incorporates are based on 20th-century engineering situations, projected into null-g or alternative solar system situations (this is especially true of Falling Free, the most technologically dense of the novels). Some inventions, such as the uterine replicator, have an important thematic role. Many of her devices, however, simply give a futuristic gloss to the daily life of the distant future, as she shows characters performing ordinary tasks with unexpected tools (e.g. sonic laundry or toilets).
Bujold presents issues of technological obsolescence and the high rate of failure of R&D projects in personal terms, via bioengineering. Two jump pilots with obsolete navigational brain implants and a number of characters (the quaddies, Betan hermaphrodites, Taura, Guppy, even to some extent the clones rescued in Mirror Dance) are psychologically stranded by the termination of the program for which they were designed.
Space stations in the past (up to 200 years before the action of Shards of Honor) were null-g or used centrifugal force to generate partial gravity, but now they use artificial gravity. Falling Free and Diplomatic Immunity explore the relationship between a null-g culture and one which depends on gravity.
Even small spaceships employ artificial gravity to shield their passengers from the effects of high acceleration, allowing them to cross a solar system in a matter of hours or days. The novels present a wide variety of ships, both military and commercial and even personal “yachts.”
Vehicles for personal travel on planets with an Earthlike gravity and atmosphere include “lightflyers” and “aircars” for long distances, and “groundcars,” which have no wheels but ride on an antigravity cushion. Groundcars range from sporty models to armored limos. Public transportation systems include urban bubblecars (individual pods which can be programmed to run on designated lines to the desired destination) and monorails for longer distances. Besides vehicles, other anti-gravity devices include “lift tubes,” elevators without floors which gently lift or lower the person inside; mobile float-chairs, which serve as wheelchairs; stable anti-grav beds and chairs; and float-pallets, which serve as hand-trucks, gurneys, etc. depending on the context.
Computing and communications
The society of Miles Vorkosigan’s lifetime is almost paperless. Aside from paper currency and possibly toilet paper, paper is largely metaphorical (“white as paper,” “publish a paper”). Books printed on paper are by definition antiques. There are however references in “Labyrinth” to a bookfax and a newsfax. Actual paper is expensive and used only for the most important documents, including love letters. “Plastic flimsy” sheets are used for note-taking and computer printouts.
Two-dimensional video has been replaced, apparently completely, by “holovids” in three dimensions. Live holovids have replaced phone calls, and pre-recorded holovids have replaced letters. Interactive holovids include maps and photo albums (portable on a holocube) and computer-generated scenarios such as battle projections. In Shards of Honor, Cordelia borrows a holovid reporter’s camera, but in most of the books a computer/holovid screen seems to have a built-in camera which can record an image or video.
The alternative to video communication seems to be wireless audio via comm link. Portable comm links are used primarily by the military, police, or other security personnel, and are tuned to certain channels. Thus they are more like a two-way radio than like a telephone.
Any communication to another system in the galaxy has to be recorded on a physical disc which is transported through the wormhole; chains of these are referenced in Diplomatic Immunity (Chapter 9) where messages are 'squirted' to a station on one side of a wormhole, flown (on a physical medium) through the wormhole and re-squirted to a similar arrangement at the next wormhole in the sequence. This is expensive, so such communication is frequently written plain text letters.
Computing is omnipresent in the series and is based primarily on cable connections and hard media. Media include book discs (which can also be read with a book reader, and allow highlighting and marginal notes), data cubes, data discs, and chips. The main interface with computers seems to be the screen, and the references to “punching up” a file suggest a touchscreen. The amount of data entry, writing, and editing of reports suggests that keyboards still exist, however. In Falling Free and Shards of Honor there is mention of a light pen, a 1980s input device.
Wireless computing is not prominent. In Falling Free, each student has a “scribble board” which automatically transcribes the words of a lecture, and one has a “lap board” which seems to be a laptop. Networks tend to be local, confined to a single spaceship or military department. Educational networks appear to be primarily videoconference-based rather than time-shifted distance education. In Komarr, it appears that Ekaterin has accessed medical information on something like the Web.
A comconsole is a unit with one or more holovid screens, a computer, and various input devices. It may include an alarm clock, etc.
The most sophisticated communications technology involves military command. The tactics room and the command helmet offer a choice of visual displays of various kinds and audio inputs, allowing the user to track individual and group movements, whether of spaceships or soldiers. This technology could not have been suggested to the author by military video games, however, as many of her books were written before such games were invented.
Personal weapons include the stunner, with variable settings, which is fatal only to those who are susceptible to heart failure; the nerve disrupter, which does little or no visible damage but essentially destroys nerve tissue, and if vital nerve tissue is affected, kills the victim; the needler, which fires many small sharp projectiles which tear the flesh of the victim, resulting in death or serious injury; and the plasma arc, which burns and potentially destroys anything in the line of fire. The plasma arc can also be used as a tool, for example to dig a grave. By the time Miles Vorkosigan is 20, in The Vor Game, Beta Colony has begun to develop garments which protect the wearer from nerve disruptors.
Larger weapons include the sonic grenade, the gravitic imploder lance (requiring proximity of the target), and large plasma guns. In Shards of Honor, Beta Colony develops “plasma mirrors,” defensive weapons for spaceships which return any fire to the source.
Weaponized poisons show up on the planet Barrayar as military stockpiles which should be destroyed (soltoxin, fetaine). Other poisons have their origins on Jackson’s Whole or in the Cetagandan Empire, and may be carefully engineered to target a particular person or to have a limited effect.
A truth serum, “fast-penta,” is available to law enforcement, military, and criminal groups. It is administered by injection (“hypospray”), followed by an antidote at the end of the interrogation. However, spies and others whose secrets must be guarded may have an induced allergy to fast-penta, and a rare few are naturally allergic; in both cases using the drug on an allergic person results in rapid death from anaphylactic shock. Miles Vorkosigan has an idiosyncratic congenital reaction to the drug: it makes him manic. (He assumes that this, like his physical deformities, is due to his prenatal exposure to the teratogenic antidote to soltoxin. However, since his mother also had an idiosyncratic manic reaction to a different truth drug/relaxant in Shards of Honor, it may be that this trait was inherited.) The series includes a number of scenes in which characters under fast-penta (or telepathic interrogation) reveal personal feelings as well as significant facts.
The Nexus includes a variety of ecologies. Some planets, such as Barrayar and Sergyar, have gravity and atmosphere similar to Earth’s, and supplies of water. Others, such as Beta Colony and Komarr, can only be inhabited by people if they are gathered in cities under domes or arcologies with a controlled climate. Human life requires Earth-based botanical life, and Bujold devotes a good deal of attention in some novels to this. Most inhabited planets undergo terraforming, that is, the destruction of native plant and animal life and the imposition of Earth-based forms. In Komarr, we learn that terraforming may eventually provide a breathable atmosphere outside the domed cities. In A Civil Campaign, the possibility of genetically engineered animals which can eat native vegetation and produce manure suitable for Earth vegetation is welcomed by the vice-regents of the newly colonized planet Sergyar.
Bujold presents a variety of realistic food supply technologies, including hydroponics, cultured or vat-grown meat, and fish farming. On the futuristic side, the “butterbugs” of A Civil Campaign host a microbial suite which produces a nonperishable “perfect” (in terms of human nutritional needs) food.
Some people live in space habitats, such as the “quaddies” of Falling Free. The closed ecology of a space station is satirized in Ethan of Athos, with the emphasis on preventing microbial contamination, the air supply dependent on algae and newts, the processing of dead or contraband animals (and one dead human) into vat meat supplies, and the storage of garbage in the vacuum outside the station.
Bujold’s future is one in which genetic manipulation can produce almost any kind of clone or hybrid. Essential to manipulation of the human genome is the "uterine replicator," which allows completely in vitro human reproduction. The embryo and fetus can be studied and refined in the replicator, removing any undesirable traits and compensating for weaknesses. Aside from the questions of medical ethics this raises, it is a feminist issue on Barrayar, where the social roles of women have been entirely defined by their reproductive function. It also makes possible the all-male society of Athos, where eggs come from human ovaries maintained in a lab, not a woman.
Bioengineering produces highly tailored microbes (Memory, Diplomatic Immunity), grotesque pets (the sphinx in Cryoburn) or gifts to humanity such as the butterbugs. On the human level, experiments attempt the ideal soldier (“Labyrinth”), the ideal worker (Falling Free), the ideal spy (Ethan of Athos), and even the ideal underwater ballet (Diplomatic Immunity). Beta is home to a group of hermaphrodites, a social as well as medical experiment that “didn’t catch on” but has produced many sex therapists. The Barrayaran fear of mutations is contrasted with the anything-goes attitude of bioengineers who have little concern for the consciousness of their creations.
Medical prolonging of human life is important in several books, but especially Mirror Dance and Cryoburn. The government-mandated responsible and well-adjusted lifestyle of the Betans results in a long natural lifespan (120 years), while the Cetagandan haut class prolong not only life but the appearance of youth. House Bharaputra of Jackson’s Whole specializes in transplants of the brains of aging persons into young cloned bodies. Almost routine is freezing and then resurrecting accident victims; Cryoburn depicts an entire society in which all those who can afford it are frozen to await revival when medicine has cured their ills.
The Nexus allows Bujold, paradoxically, to imagine a world in which travel and communication require far more time and effort than in the real-life 21st century, since the wormhole jumps present a special barrier. Each planet is a kind of petri dish in which a particular human culture—derived to some extent from a culture known historically on Earth—thrives and changes. The worlds of Barrayar and Athos suggest aspects of preindustrial Europe and America.
Cultures range from the monastic (but not celibate) utopia of Athos to the genetically enhanced and highly aggressive inhabitants of the Cetagandan Empire; from the cut-throat capitalists of Jackson's Whole to moderate and scientific Escobar. The quaddies, genetically engineered to be the perfect zero gravity workers, practice a communalism in which the work gang is the basic unit of governance.
Although Bujold explores and satirizes many kinds of societies and prejudices, her universe lacks or fails to consider several sources of social organization and prejudice on Earth: language, skin color, and religion. Except for two scenes in all the novels, all Nexus inhabitants speak English, though they may know other languages or have a planetary accent. A good-looking woman, whether a four-armed quaddie, a Cetagandan haut-lady glimpsed in her floating bubble, or a Barrayaran damsel, has skin comparable to ivory or milk. Notable exceptions include the fact that the most prominent genotype on Barrayar is olive skin (and brown eyes and dark hair) and Tej, who Ivan describes as very pretty and who has coffee brown skin. The one important non-Caucasian character, the Asian Ky Tung, is from Earth. (The Durona group, including Lilly, Lotus, Rowan, Raven and Lilly Junior are also described as Eurasian, and the entire Arqua family – Tej, Pidge, Erik, Stella, Amari and their father – are not caucasian, with a brown skin tone.) Only isolated Athos has a planetary religion, though Cordelia Naismith and Leo Graf (the hero of Falling Free) believe in a God.
Instead, Bujold builds prejudice into the “locale,” i.e. planetary economics and history. The Barrayarans, with their single wormhole to defend and broadly habitable planet, both need and can afford a militaristic society with a certain amount of internal competition as large families spread out into newly terraformed regions. They see discipline as emanating from the Emperor through the all-male militarized hierarchy. The Betans, on a hostile planet where they must live in domes, rely on industrial export; they limit not only childbearing but also every kind of behavior that might be considered “antisocial.” From their point of view, Barrayaran society is irrational and backwards, while the Barrayarans view them as undisciplined in every way, referring to a “Betan vote” as an obstacle to decision-making. Planets accessible by many wormholes become centers of trade and finance, whether benign (Komarr, Escobar) or malicious (Jackson’s Whole); any threat to the pocketbook is resented there. Finally, dwellers in space habitats despise all those who call one planet home as “dirt suckers.”
The Vorkosigans and Barrayar
In all the books except Ethan of Athos and Falling Free, the protagonists are connected to the planet Barrayar, home of the Vorkosigan clan. Bujold devised for this planet a history which allowed for “swords ’n’ spaceships.” Barrayar in the lifetime of Miles Vorkosigan commands spaceships, computers, and other high technology, but its culture remembers dueling, celebrates the Emperor’s birthday by handing him bags of gold, and provides liveried life-sworn servants to carry love-letters sealed with the writer's blood. In the primitive backwoods, some even examine newborns for defects and practice infanticide if any are found.
Barrayar is a planet colonized by humans some four hundred years prior to Shards of Honor, the first Vorkosigan novel. Shortly after colonization, the 50,000 settlers become isolated by a failure of the sole wormhole connecting Barrayar to the rest of humanity. During the following centuries, referred to as the "Time of Isolation", the planet develops a feudal form of government, in which the Emperor is supported by sixty regional counts and other minor aristocrats, identified by the honorific Vor- in their names. The Vor caste is a military one, and Barrayaran culture is highly militaristic and patriarchal.
Barrayar is eventually rediscovered by a different wormhole route near the rich merchant planet Komarr. The Komarrans allow the neighboring expansionist Cetagandan Empire to invade Barrayar in return for commercial rights. Despite a significant technological advantage, the Cetagandans are finally driven off at great cost after many years of occupation and guerrilla warfare, in large part due to the leadership of General Count Piotr Vorkosigan, Miles' paternal grandfather. The Barrayarans in reprisal conquer and annex Komarr during the time of Aral Vorkosigan, Count Piotr's second son.
Aral Vorkosigan meets Cordelia Naismith, a nominal enemy from Beta Colony, at the commencement of another war. Forced to work together to survive on a hostile planet, they fall in love and eventually get married.
Cordelia becomes pregnant with Miles. However, an attempt is made to poison Aral and Cordelia. The side effects of the cure inflict life-threatening harm to the fetus, and desperate experimental medical procedures are required to save the unborn baby. Though his frailties are gradually mended, Miles' physical development is severely affected and, as an adult, he is subtly but noticeably misshapen and no taller than an adolescent boy. As a result, he has to deal with the deeply ingrained prejudice against mutants on his native world (though he is not one himself). With nearly pathological determination and high intelligence, aided by his supportive parents and their high social rank, he fashions an extraordinary military and civilian career in the Barrayaran Empire.
Awards and nominations
- Falling Free – won the Nebula Award for Best Novel of 1988; nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1989
- "Mountains of Mourning" – won the 1990 Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella
- "Weatherman" - nominated for 1991 Nebula awards for best novella 
- The Vor Game – won the Hugo for Best Novel in 1991; nominated for the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel that same year
- Barrayar – won the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1992; nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel of 1991
- Mirror Dance – won the Hugo and Locus Awards for Best Novel in 1995
- Cetaganda – nominated for the Locus Award in 1997
- Memory – nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards in 1997
- A Civil Campaign – nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards in 2000
- Diplomatic Immunity – nominated for the Nebula Award in 2002
- "Winterfair Gifts" - nominated for the 2005 Hugo for best novella 
- Cryoburn – nominated for the Hugo Award and Locus Award in 2011
- Captain Vorpatril's Alliance – nominated for the Hugo Award in 2013
Sales and international popularity
Three of the novels made the New York Times Bestseller List when first released in hardback: A Civil Campaign at #26, Diplomatic Immunity at #25, and Cryoburn at #32. The novels have been translated into a number of languages; see the catalog of covers of various international editions at Bujold Cover Art Archive. A Warrior's Apprentice comic book was published in France in January 2010, the first of a projected series called La Saga Vorkosigan..
The roots of the Vorkosigan Saga lie in an early collection by Bujold called "Dreamweaver's Dilemma." The title story features Beta Colony, and another story contains a character named Cordelia Naismith, perhaps a distant ancestor of the Vorkosigan character. When beginning her first novel, Shards of Honor, Bujold incorporated these elements, but greatly expanded. She followed that up with the second novel with the same setting, The Warrior's Apprentice, then worked on Ethan of Athos. After being rejected by four publishers, The Warrior's Apprentice was accepted by Baen Books, who agreed to a three-book deal to include the two other novels.
Shards of Honor and Barrayar concern Miles' parents, Ethan of Athos involves a few minor characters from other Vorkosigan novels, and Falling Free does not involve Miles or any of his family, though in a later novel Miles encounters the descendants of the characters from Falling Free . While all the books and novellas are currently in print as ebooks, in America they are in print as omnibus editions.
In internal chronological order
Note that the internal chronology is not exactly the same as the order in which the books were written. Bujold has stated on her blog that she is generally in favor of reading the books in internal chronological order. A more detailed chronology can be found in The Vorkosigan Companion.
"Dreamweaver’s Dilemma" (short story)
"Dreamweaver’s Dilemma" is a short story set at the beginning of Earth's age of space colonization and genetic manipulation. It is published in the book entitled Dreamweaver’s Dilemma, which is a collection of short stories and essays by Bujold that had been previously unpublished and that she gathered together in this volume prior to her appearance at a NESFA convention. "Dreamweaver’s Dilemma" contains the first mention of Beta Colony. It is also the only Vorkosigan Saga story not published or republished by Baen Books.
200 years before the birth of Miles Vorkosigan, engineer Leo Graf encounters the Quaddies, who are genetically engineered to have an extra pair of arms in place of legs. Collected in the omnibus edition Miles, Mutants and Microbes.
Shards of Honor
Captain Cordelia Naismith of Beta Colony meets and eventually falls in love with Captain Lord Aral Vorkosigan of Barrayar when they are both stranded on an uninhabited planet. After being captured by Barrayarans and then escaping twice, she eventually flees Beta and travels to Barrayar to be reunited with him. Collected in the omnibus edition Cordelia's Honor.
"Aftermaths" (short story)
Two people retrieve bodies in space near Escobar after the failed Barrayaran invasion. The story was originally a postscript to Shards of Honor and later included in the omnibus edition Cordelia's Honor.
While Cordelia Vorkosigan is pregnant with Miles, an attempted assassination severely injures her unborn child. Meanwhile, Count Vordarian attempts a coup. Collected in the omnibus edition Cordelia's Honor.
The Warrior's Apprentice
Seventeen-year-old Miles breaks both legs running an obstacle course, ruining his chances of a military career. On a visit to Beta Colony, he obtains a ship, a pilot, and a contract to run guns to a beleaguered government. He eventually acquires a mercenary fleet through brilliant improvisation, sheer audacity and luck. The unexpected arrival of his cousin Ivan Vorpatril raises Miles' suspicions. He hastens home to foil a plot against his father. Collected in the omnibus edition Young Miles.
"Mountains of Mourning" (novella)
Miles has just graduated from the Imperial Academy, and is at home at Vorkosigan Surleau with his parents. A woman from the isolated village of Silvy Vale walks for three days to report the murder of her baby, who was born with a cleft lip and palate. Miles' father sends him to investigate as his Voice (representative with full powers) to gain experience. Miles solves the mystery and exercises justice and mercy in appropriate measures. Collected in the omnibus editions Young Miles and Borders of Infinity.
The Vor Game
Miles is shipped off to the Hegen Hub after being accused of treason at home, and finds himself having to rescue his friend and Emperor, Gregor Vorbarra. Collected in the omnibus edition Young Miles.
Miles and Ivan are sent to the home world of the Cetagandan Empire to represent Barrayar at an Imperial funeral, and quickly become entangled in a murderous Cetagandan plot. Collected in the omnibus edition Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem.
Ethan of Athos
This novel does not feature Miles except indirectly; his eventual girlfriend, Commander Elli Quinn of the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet, plays a leading role. Collected in the omnibus edition Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem.
Miles travels to Jackson's Whole, ostensibly to buy weapons, but in reality to help geneticist Dr. Hugh Canaba leave his current employer to go to work for Barrayar. Canaba throws a wrench into the works when he refuses to leave without certain experimental samples which he has injected into one of his earlier projects, a prototype "super-soldier." Even worse, the "super-soldier" has been sold to the paranoid and sadistic Baron Ryoval, whom Miles has recently offended.
Miles breaks into Ryoval's laboratory, but is caught and imprisoned in a utility sublevel where they are also keeping Canaba's dangerous specimen, "Nine." This turns out to be an eight-foot-tall warrior, complete with fangs, claws, superhuman strength and speed, and a ravenous appetite. Miles is shocked to find that the creature is female, and, despite her fearsome appearance, intelligent and emotionally vulnerable. She challenges him to prove that he believes she is human by making love to her. Miles gets to indulge his weakness for tall strong women... He offers her a new life with the Dendarii, and a new name: Taura. They escape, committing one supreme act of sabotage and revenge before Dendarii Captain Bel Thorne manages to negotiate a ransom.
Miles finds several aspects of the deal unacceptable and the exchange turns into a minor battle with Ryoval's security. In the course of their hasty departure from the Jackson system, Miles sows confusion by telling different lies (and a couple of vital truths) to Ryoval and his rival half-brother, weapons dealer Baron Fell. Collected in the omnibus editions Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem; Miles, Mutants and Microbes; and Borders of Infinity.
"The Borders of Infinity" (novella)
Miles goes undercover and allows himself to be captured by the Cetagandans, who have invaded and occupied Marilac, in order to infiltrate a maximum-security POW camp on Dagoola IV. His mission is to get a single man out of the camp, but he has to improvise when his target proves to be on the verge of death.
With a little help from Suegar, an apparent religious fanatic, and Tris, the leader of the female prisoners, he instills order and hope in the apathetic, distrustful inmates, makes them rehearse for quick embarkation (disguised as a food distribution procedure), and stages one of the largest mass breakouts in history. As a result, the Cetagandans put a price on Naismith's head. At this point, they (along with nearly everyone else) are unaware that Naismith and Miles Vorkosigan are one and the same. Collected in the omnibus editions Miles Errant and Borders of Infinity.
Brothers in Arms
Miles is assigned to the Barrayaran Embassy on Earth as Third Military Attaché, and meets his clone, who has been trained as an assassin. Collected in the omnibus edition Miles Errant.
Borders of Infinity
The novellas "Mountains of Mourning", "Labyrinth", and "The Borders of Infinity" were reprinted with an untitled framing story in which Miles reports to Simon Illyan, head of ImpSec. The framing story emphasizes an audit—both financial and political—of ImpSec, questioning Miles' activities and expenditures during the previous adventures. This volume is short-novel length. The novellas are currently in print as part of other omnibus volumes but without the tie-together framing story.
Pretending to be Miles, Mark takes the Dendarii on a mission to free clones from Jackson's Whole. When Miles comes to rescue them, things go badly wrong. Collected in the omnibus edition Miles Errant.
After Miles has to resign from ImpSec, he finds himself temporarily promoted to Imperial Auditor and investigating the sudden mental impairment of ImpSec chief Simon Illyan. This book marks the transition between the earlier works where Miles is Admiral of the Dendarii mercenaries, and the later books where Miles is an Imperial Auditor.
Out of curiosity, newly minted Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan volunteers to observe Imperial Auditor Professor Vorthys's investigation of a serious orbital station accident on Komarr. Once there, he manages to defeat plotters who sought to seal off the only wormhole to Barrayar, and falls in love with his hostess, Ekaterin Vorsoisson, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage. Her husband Tien is emotionally abusive and has a genetic condition called Vorzohn's Dystrophy. He is so intent on keeping this secret that, although it is treatable, he has not had treatment nor allowed their son to be tested for it. After she discovers that he has been taking bribes, she tells him that she is leaving, but before she does, he is accidentally killed in a way that points a finger of suspicion at Miles.
The apparent accident and Tien's acceptance of bribes prove to be related. A group of Komarrans working in the same terraforming facility as Tien have developed a revolutionary weapon with potentially devastating consequences for Barrayar. A failed test of the weapon led to the original accident. Miles and Ekaterin are caught up in the plot, but she proves to be just as effective as Miles in derailing their enemies' plans, much to his rapidly growing admiration. Once the Komarrans are defeated, the plot and the new weapon are classified at the highest levels possible—meaning that any information about Ekaterin's husband's death that might exonerate Miles in a subsequent inquiry cannot be disclosed.
Ekaterin decides to return to Barrayar to stay with her aunt and uncle (Auditor Vorthys) and complete her education.
This novel is notable for the switching of viewpoints between its two protagonists as part of the structure of a given scene. For instance, the scene of Ekaterin's questioning with fast-penta begins from her viewpoint, but as the drug takes hold (and the novel begins a new chapter) it continues from Miles's viewpoint. This technique is expanded in the next novel where multiple viewpoints are used. Collected in the omnibus edition Miles in Love.
A Civil Campaign
As Barrayar prepares for an Imperial wedding, Miles attempts to court Ekaterin Vorsoisson without her knowledge. Collected in the omnibus edition Miles in Love.
"Winterfair Gifts" (novella)
This novella was published in February 2004 as part of the anthology Irresistible Forces (Catherine Asaro, editor). Bujold wrote this after completing Diplomatic Immunity.
The wedding of Miles and Ekaterin is recounted from the viewpoint of Miles' Armsman Roic. Miles introduces Roic to Taura on her first (and due to her short life expectancy, probably her last) visit to Barrayar. The pair get along well, despite her rather unusual appearance. However, their blossoming romantic relationship is shattered when he makes an inadvertent remark about "hideous, bioengineered mutants"—referring to some bugs Mark has been bioengineering. Taura is hurt and insulted.
When Ekaterin is taken ill, Taura traces the cause to a string of pearls that had apparently been sent by current Dendarii Admiral (and Miles's ex-lover) Elli Quinn, and which do not look right to her augmented vision. With Roic's help, she brings it to the attention of ImpSec. The poisoned pearls are traced to a newly acquired enemy of Miles's. Ekaterin recovers, and the wedding goes smoothly.
That night, Roic is on guard when Taura joins him. She tells him that she probably only has a year or two left to live, and therefore takes everything as it comes. Roic replies, "Can you teach me to do that?" Collected in the omnibus edition Miles in Love.
On the way back from his honeymoon, Miles is dispatched to Quaddiespace to untangle a diplomatic incident. Collected in the omnibus edition Miles, Mutants and Microbes.
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
On Komarr, Ivan is asked by an ImpSec friend to protect a pretty young woman targeted by a criminal gang, and stumbles into a conspiracy involving Jackson's Whole politics, hired assassins, criminal syndicates, and an old and potentially dangerous secret on Barrayar. And embarrassing in-laws.
Miles investigates a cryogenic corporation on the planet Kibou-daini, with the assistance of Jin, a local boy.
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
Three years after the death of Aral Vorkosigan, Admiral Jole of the Sergyar Fleet (who once was Aral's subordinate as well as lover) receives a proposal. Aral’s widow Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan proposes having a new child, one created from the genes of Jole and the frozen gametes of Aral.
Listing by date of first publication
With the publication of Cryoburn, almost all Vorkosigan tales are available as free e-texts on a CD that accompanied the hardcover release. This CD was initially shared online, but has since been withdrawn by request of the author.
- "Aftermaths" (Spring 1986, in Far Frontiers, Volume V)
- Shards of Honor (June 1986) ISBN 0-671-72087-2
- The Warrior's Apprentice (August 1986) ISBN 0-671-65587-6
- Ethan of Athos (December 1986) ISBN 0-671-65604-X
- Falling Free (December 1987-February 1988, in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine)
- Brothers in Arms (January 1989) ISBN 0-671-69799-4
- "The Mountains of Mourning" (May 1989 issue of Analog)
- "Labyrinth" (August 1989 issue of Analog)
- "Borders of Infinity" (October 1989) ISBN 0-671-69841-9
- "Weatherman" (February 1990 issue of Analog)
- The Vor Game (September 1990), incorporating a slightly different version of "Weatherman" ISBN 0-671-72014-7
- Vorkosigan's Game (September 1990), an omnibus volume consisting of The Vor Game and "Borders of Infinity"
- Barrayar (July–September 1991, in three installments in Analog)
- Mirror Dance (1994) ISBN 0-671-72210-7
- Cetaganda (October–December 1995, in Analog)
- Dreamweaver's Dilemma (February 1995, a collection including the novella Dreamweaver's Dilemma) ISBN 978-0-915368-66-2
- Memory (October 1996) ISBN 0-671-87845-X
- Cordelia's Honor (November 1996), combined edition of Shards of Honor, "Aftermaths", and Barrayar with an afterword by the author ISBN 0-671-87749-6
- Young Miles (June 1997), omnibus: The Warrior's Apprentice, "The Mountains of Mourning", and The Vor Game ISBN 0-671-87787-9
- Komarr (June 1998) ISBN 0-671-87877-8
- A Civil Campaign (September 1999) ISBN 0-671-57827-8
- Miles, Mystery and Mayhem (December 2001), omnibus: Cetaganda, Ethan of Athos, and "Labyrinth" ISBN 0-671-31858-6
- Diplomatic Immunity (May 2002) ISBN 0-743-43533-8
- Miles Errant (September 2002), omnibus: "Borders of Infinity", Brothers in Arms, and Mirror Dance ISBN 0-743-43558-3
- "Winterfair Gifts" (February 2004, in the anthology Irresistible Forces, Catherine Asaro, editor)
- Miles, Mutants and Microbes (August 2007), omnibus: Falling Free, "Labyrinth" and Diplomatic Immunity ISBN 978-1-4165-2141-9
- Miles in Love (February 2008), omnibus: Komarr, A Civil Campaign and "Winterfair Gifts" ISBN 978-1-4165-5522-3
- Cryoburn (October 2010) ISBN 978-1-4391-3394-1
- Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (November 2012) ISBN 978-1-4516-3845-5
- Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (February 2016) ISBN 978-1-4767-8122-8
The earlier novels (except Memory) and the short stories (except 'Dreamweaver's Dilemma') have been repackaged in omnibus editions.
- Lillian Stewart Carl and John Helfers, The Vorkosigan Companion, Baen Books 2008, ISBN 978-1-4391-3379-8
- Based on the timeline and map in the Appendices of The Vorkosigan Companion.
- See Bujold’s essay “Space Opera, Miles,and Me” available online at http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/24-CryoburnCD/CryoburnCD/
- See the article, "'What's the Worst Thing I Can Do to This Character?': Technology of the Vorkosiverse" by Ed Burkhead, in The Vorkosigan Companion.
- Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
- The two scenes are both comic: a diplomatic dinner where nobody speaks because there are no translation earbugs in Brothers in Arms (ch. 4), and a scene where similar translation devices provide very bad translations in Diplomatic Immunity (ch. 7). Bujold discusses questions of language and race in her first essay in The Vorkosigan Companion, pointing out that her universe does in fact have a full complement of Earth-descended skin colors and languages.
- The Vorkosigan Companion
- Mirror Dance
- Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
- See the beginning of her first essay in The Vorkosigan Companion. Later in the essay she points out that the setting is appropriate for a Regency romance in the style of Georgette Heyer, and in fact A Civil Campaign was compared by reviewer Anne McCaffrey to Heyer’s work; see the blurb under “Book Description” at this Amazon page.
- "Bibliography: Falling Free". Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved February 11, 2011.
- "Falling Free". Worlds Without End. Retrieved February 11, 2011.
- "Bibliography: The Mountains of Mourning". Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved February 11, 2011.
- "The Locus Index to SF Awards: 1991 Nebula Awards". Locus. Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2011-12-06.
- "Brains Over Brawn Wins Hugo Award". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. September 3, 1991. p. 2A. Retrieved March 29, 2010.
- "1991 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- "1992 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- "1995 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- "1997 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- "2000 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- "2002 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- "2005 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. Archived from the original on 2011-05-07. Retrieved 2010-04-19.
- Renovation Hugo nominee announcement
- Locus Online News – 2011 Locus Award Finalists
- LoneStarCon 3 - 2013 Hugo Award Nominees
- See the New York Times listings for 9/19/99 A Civil Campaign, May 12, 2002 for Diplomatic Immunity, and November 14, 2010 for Cryoburn .
- La Saga Vorkosigan at Soleil
- Bujold, Lois McMaster. "The Bujold Nexus". Retrieved December 19, 2013.
- The Bujold Nexus – Official website of the author Lois McMaster Bujold
- The Dendarii Nexus – semi-official website
- Catalog at Baen books
- The Vorkosigan series of Novels and Stories – Another listing for The Vorkosigan Saga.
- Retrospective reviews of the Vorkosigan Saga by Jo Walton