Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is the latest book in a brilliant science fiction series that usually centers on Ivan Vorpatril’s more famous cousin Miles Vorkosigan. The Vorkosigan Saga has been going strong for over 25 years and about 15 novels. While Ivan’s played a big role in several of the stories so far, this is the first time we get to see the world from his point of view. And because he’s sort of a lovable goof, often positioned as comic relief for his brilliant cousin Miles despite being deceptively intelligent and resourceful himself, this is a book many fans of the series have been clamoring for for years.
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance came out over a year ago. Since I usually have a stack of books sitting here that need to be reviewed by yesterday and Baen stopped sending me review copies several years ago, I more or less forgot about the novel until I ran into a copy at the library. Now, a year after its release, there already are plenty of great reviews, so I’m going to go a different route today and just offer some thoughts about a pivotal scene in the book and its place in the broader series.
All this to say that the following will contain spoilers for the series and for Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance itself. If you haven’t read the books yet, you may want to stop reading here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you: spoilers ahoy.
From the back cover of The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories by Caitlín R. Kiernan I learned that this is Kiernan’s twelfth collection of short stories since 2001. That’s about one collection per year. Even more impressive, in the book’s introduction the author mentions that she’s written (and sold) 107 stories and novellas since its title story was published in 2007. What an incredibly prolific author.
The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories contains fourteen great examples of Kiernan’s output since 2007. If, like me, you’ve mostly caught her stories here and there in the various markets they regularly get published, this is an excellent way to get a bigger chunk of her works. If you’re new to the author (which I doubt anyone who reads a good amount of short SFF would be, but hey, you never know), this is an excellent place to start.
The name of this website was inspired by the Beyond Reality discussion group, which has been around for almost two decades in various forms and which I’ve been managing for more than half of that time. Because this site’s name took its inspiration from the group, I try to post monthly updates about the group here, including our Books of the Month, our series discussions, and any other special events like giveaways or author visits.
Please consider this an invitation to join us, if you’re interested in SF&F book discussion. And if book discussions aren’t your thing, at least you’ll maybe find some new book recommendations in this monthly feature!
Beyond Reality’s Books of the Month for December are:
As Master of Whitestorm starts off, Haldeth, a blacksmith turned galley slave, gets involved in an escape attempt by his mysterious and silent bench mate—a man who quickly proves to have surprising skills and hidden depths. The two companions strike out together after their escape. The mysterious man, whose name is Korendir, takes on a number of mercenary missions. It quickly becomes clear that Korendir is, to put it mildly, very focused on gathering enough money to build an impregnable fortress on the cliffs of Whitestorm…
Master of Whitestorm, a standalone novel that has just been released in ebook format after being out of print for years, is an excellent example of Janny Wurts‘ gorgeous prose style and impressive storytelling skills. Initially an episodic story consisting of a number of separate “missions” Korendir undertakes, the novel gradually reveals an underlying thread that explains Korendir’s distinctive personality (think Lethal Weapon in a complex fantasy setting) and builds up to an impressive climax and a moving conclusion.
Kage Baker had many different audiences. After all, she wrote in many genres and formats: fantasy, science fiction, horror, novels, novellas, short stories, series, standalones. (Oh, and:Tor.com blog posts!) It occurred to me recently that, because of this range and variety, readers must have found—and still find—their way to Kage Baker’s works by distinctly different routes.
Just recently a friend mentioned he read one of her fantasy novels, at which point I launched into my standard “Yes, those are awesome, and there are two more novels and a bunch of short stories set in the same universe, but you really also have to read her SF, and there are all these wonderful other short stories, and and and…”
Many other reviews of Nicola Griffith’s stunning new novel Hild will be written by people who have a much deeper understanding of its historical period, its main character, and the author’s previous works. Sadly, I am a blank slate when it comes to all three: prior to reading Hild, I had very little knowledge of Seventh Century England or St. Hilda of Whitby, and (to my great shame) Hild is the first novel I’ve read by Griffith.
I’m starting this review with that information because I believe many other genre readers will be in the same position and may, like me, be a bit intimidated by the idea of a historical novel in an unfamiliar setting about a character they only vaguely know.
If that describes you and you’re on the fence, dear reader, I am here to tell you: don’t hesitate. Read this book. It is wonderful and your life will be the richer for it.