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A Civil Campaign (Vorkosigan Saga, Book 13)…
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A Civil Campaign (Vorkosigan Saga, Book 13) (original 1999; edition 2007)

by Lois McMaster Bujold, Grover Gardner (Narrator)

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2,258None2,827 (4.45)92
fyrefly98's review
Summary: While a lot of, if not most, science fiction has to do with the interplay between culture and technology, A Civil Campaign uses that interplay in service of a romance -- or, as the subtitle puts it, "a comedy of biology and manners." In this case, the manners come in the form of Barrayaran society, which is still clinging to the feudal government and rigid sex roles that it developed during the Time of Isolation. The biology comes primarily in the form of galactic uterine replicators, which, when they were first introduced to Barrayar, were primarily used by the Vor class to produce sons and heirs.

However, now that this generation of sons has grown up, they're suddenly feeling the dearth of marriageable women rather sharply. Miles Vorkosigan has never lacked for partners, but the galactic women he'd previously favored all found Barrayar to be backwards and repressive. Miles thinks he has found the answer in the Vor widow Ekatarin Vorsoissin, but she comes with a host of complications: Miles was present at her abusive husband's suspicious death -- the details of which are strictly classified -- and Ekatarin herself has no desire to remarry, ever. However, fearful of losing such an intelligent, beautiful, and eligible woman to other suitors, Miles sets out to woo her in secret -- or, at least, secret from her.

Miles isn't the only one that's having relationship trouble: his cousin Ivan has also never lacked for female attention, but now that he's starting to give up his playboy ways and think about settling down, he's run up against the same lack of eligible women. He's got his sights set on a older woman -- and former lover -- but when they re-connect, her recent brush with galactic technology puts a serious crimp in Ivan's plans.

Finally, Miles's clone brother Mark has spent the past year of schooling and therapy on Beta Colony falling hopelessly in love with Kareen Kudelka, the youngest daughter of his parents' friends and former armsmen. Mark and Karene have returned to Barrayar with the eccentric Dr. Enrique Borgos in tow, complete with a plan to use biological agents (the truly revolting "butter bugs") to revolutionize Barrayar food production -- and make Mark rich in the process. However, being back at home has put a damper on their relationship, as their freewheeling Betan sexual experience is thrown into direct conflict with the stricter Barrayaran cultural mores.

Dealing with interpersonal romantic relationships is not exactly a strong point of Ivan's, Mark's, or Miles's, especially when they're up against some deeply-rooted societal norms, but for the sake of their future happiness, they'll have to learn to think on their feet... and they'll have to do it all while preparing for Emperor Gregor's Imperial wedding.

Review: Things that will surprise absolutely no one: I loved this book. I mean, really, what other reaction would you expect when you put an audiobook subtitled "a comedy of biology and manners" into the hands of a period-romance-loving scientist? And, true to its dedication ("For Jane, Charlotte, Georgette and Dorothy -- long may they rule."), A Civil Campaign absolutely reads like a Regency romance... just a Regency romance that happens to be set on another planet. The inheritance disputes and marriage proposals may be complicated by technological advances, but the story remains remarkably true to its roots, with a complicated dance of suitors and titles and courtship and heirs and country manor houses and a disastrous dinner party, not to mention one of the best love letters I've seen this side of Persuasion. This is a book that really highlights how broad the genre of sci-fi can be, and how broad of an audience to which it can appeal.

The reason A Civil Campaign is so widely appealing is that while it certainly has all of the trappings of conventional sci-fi -- foreign planets, genetic engineering, uterine replicators, wormholes -- its focus is always on the people, not the technology. A real pleasure of this series is in watching its protagonist(s) grow and change over time, and in this volume, we get not only Miles, but also Mark and Ivan, all of whom by this point feel like family. This book is just packed full of absolutely wonderful character moments for everybody, not just the romantic leads. Aral and Cordelia are both in fine form, especially when dispensing romantic advice; Emperor Gregor continues to be quietly, solidly awesome; even Nicky, Ekaterin's nine-year-old son, gets in a few great scenes. Lois McMaster Bujold's talent for clever, dryly witty dialogue extends to farce as well: during the aforementioned dinner party, as things just kept going so spectacularly wrong, I was nearly choking from laughter, even as my heart was breaking for Miles.

Some of the subplots involve a fair amount of Barrayar politics, which were certainly interesting in their own right, but occasionally they seemed to distract from rather than complement the main romance storylines. That's about the only negative I can come up with in this entire book, however. It was enormous fun and a satisfying listening experience, and Grover Gardner reads it so wonderfully that I can't imagine anyone else as the voice of Miles. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: While part of me wants to run the street recommending this book to everyone and anyone, particularly romance readers who wouldn't normally touch a sci-fi novel, the truth is that it's really best read in order -- so much of the joy of these books comes from the established investment in the characters. But I still secretly think that any reader who gave this series a chance would fall in love with Bujold's characters just as much as I have. ( )
2 vote fyrefly98 | Aug 5, 2011 |
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I
was afraid I wasn??t going to like A Civil Campaign as well as the previous VORKOSIGAN novels because, according to the description, the plot takes place all on the planet Barrayar and it deals mostly with relationship issues for several of the characters. Most of the various editions of the book sport covers with couples dancing or getting married. So, yeah, I thought it was a romance novel.

Well, A Civil Campaign is a romance novel, but because it involves the romances of Miles Vorkosigan, his clone brother Mark, and his tomcatting cousin Ivan Vorpatril, it is, thankfully, a lot more than that. Along with the romance, Bujold weaves in a few funny subplots that both entertain and advance the plot of the VORKOSIGAN series on the non-romantic fronts, too.
Milesƒ?? goal in this book is to convince the widow Ekaterin Vorsoisson to marry him. (We met her in Komarr.) Ekaterinƒ??s first marriage was painful and she is not inclined to repeat the experience. Thatƒ??s just one problem. The other is that Ekaterin is beautiful and a Vor. Since beautiful single Vor women are rare on patriarchal Barrayar (the previous generation genetically selected for boys), they are in high demand. Miles has to court Ekaterin without scaring her away while he attempts to fend off all other suitors and while he tries to maintain his dignity as an Imperial Auditor. Other romances are going on, too. Gregorƒ??s wedding is being planned by Ivanƒ??s mother. Mark is courting one of the Koudelka girls (her father is not pleased!) and Ivan has suddenly realized that while he has been happily carousing for years, all the best girls were getting snatched up.

Meanwhile, since Aral Vorkosigan is off planet, Miles is left with his fatherƒ??s political duties and the counsel has to deal with a couple of inheritance disputes. One of them involves the problem of patriarchy and the other involves racism. Lois McMaster Bujold has a way of commenting on these issues using humor instead of a hammer ƒ?? itƒ??s both effective and entertaining.
Along with the all the romance and politics, Bujold serves up a hilarious storyline in which Mark, who now considers himself an entrepreneur, teams up with a brilliant but socially inept scientist to genetically engineer insects that vomit up a cheap and nutritious creamy substance that they hope to market to the universe. They set up a lab in Vorkosigan house and get the lovely Koudelka girls to be their lab assistants. This slapstick storyline is a little over the top, but I thought it worked well as a contrast to the politics and romance. Bujold weaves all of these plots together for a synergistic effect thatƒ??s quite pleasing.

There are some niggling little problems with A Civil Campaign, at least for me. One was that I couldnƒ??t muster up the attraction for Ekaterin that Miles seems to feel. I am not sure why he loves her ƒ?? sheƒ??s kind of dull. Also, her reaction to the discovery that Miles was trying to sneakily court her was unreasonable, and his reaction to her reaction was even more unreasonable. This has to do with my second complaint which is that Miles and Mark are both in their thirties but act like theyƒ??re eighteen. Miles is an Imperial Auditor, in fact ƒ?? a very distinguished position in the empire. I forgave their immaturity in previous novels because it seemed like the messes they got themselves into werenƒ??t really their faults. In this novel, though, they donƒ??t have such a good excuseƒ?? On the other hand, this juvenile behavior, which culminates in this case in a disastrous dinner party, is exactly what makes the plot so entertaining, isnƒ??t it?

Iƒ??m listening to Grover Gardner narrate the audio version of the VORKOSIGAN saga. Heƒ??s awesome. ( )
1 vote Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Amazing! I really need to read more of her books! ( )
  CallMeChristina | Mar 23, 2014 |
So far my favourite of the series with the focus of the book being on how the different cultures and backgrounds conspire to weave tangled webs between the brothers n the people they desire.
( )
  StigE | Feb 22, 2014 |
I have so many mixed feelings about this one. I was only able to get through it after literally editing the ebook so every instance of "bug" became "monster". That was enough to allay my squeamishness and stop the nausea. I could have done entirely without the various Sense and Sensibility plots...although I did actively enjoy the book from Cordelia's meeting with Kou, Drou, Mark, and Kareen onward. I do wish Ivan were written more consistently. When he's competent, he's lovely. The rest of the time, he seems like an eight-year-old sucking his thumb in the corner, and the difference makes no sense to me. Mark and Miles at least have grounds for their various personality splits. Ivan...confuses the hell out of me. I don't know if it's lazy writing or if there's a plan there. Or maybe it's just that this whole book seems like LMB wasn't sure who her protagonists were, so it's a sprawling mishmash of unevenly balanced scenes and subplots that lacks a strong and satisfying throughline. Granted, there were funny bits, but overall they seem incidental against the larger shapeless blob of story. And I think I'm irritated about Ekaterin not becoming fully independent before getting engaged. She has resources and connections through her aunt and uncle (at the university) that she never takes advantage of. Instead she just jumps into a new marriage because it helps Miles' political situation (and all this AFTER the risk of losing her son has been effectively quashed). Entertaining, yes, but hardly in line with her stated (healthful, healing) intentions toward herself.

So, yeah. Funny in places, but basically a mess. I hope the next one is better. ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
Bujold goes from ripping adventure to political intrigue to fine character development through this excellent series. She sets her keen eye on all manner of social issues without ever seeming to bang one over the head with it, and keeps a balanced eye on her own judgements of the humans of all stripes portrayed within. This is one of the more introspective novels in the series, so if you are looking for heart-thumping, wait for the next one, which takes up where this leaves off. (That's Diplomatic Immunity, by the way.)

Thank you, Lois, for many an enjoyable reading hour. ( )
  thesmellofbooks | Feb 6, 2014 |
Ever since I read The Warrior's Apprentice and fell in love with the Vorkosigan Saga, I've been told, "Just wait until you get to A Civil Campaign! Best book ever...", etc. As it turned out, it wasn't one of my favourite books in the series, and it's taken me a while to think about why. On the surface, it doesn't make sense. A Civil Campaign is light and fun, a romantic comedy much in line with the dedication (Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, Dorothy), with the added joy of butter-bugs gone wild (don't ask). But I eventually puzzled out my issues, and here they are. The review is mostly negative, but keep in mind it's starting from the high baseline of Pure Vorkosigan Goodness.

I'm not much for romantic comedies, especially when everybody but the womanizing-type comic-relief characters are paired up by the end. The plot of this book was therefore not a perfect fit, but for me, the narration was a more serious issue. Whether in first person or third, I tend to prefer books to be told from the perspective of a single narrator. Our own life stories are told from this perspective; to me, it seems rather like cheating to switch viewpoints every time you want to talk about a different character. It takes a great deal more ingenuity and dexterousness to explore a large set of characters from the eyes of a single narrator, and I think it leads to a much more genuine creation of a person. Bujold is a master of the single-narrator technique. Throughout most of the Vorkosigan Saga, we've had only two narrators, Cordelia and Miles, and yet Bujold has managed to develop a host of multidimensional personalities. In the last few books, Bujold has steadily added more and more third-person viewpoints in the narration, and in this story, she really lets the narration go wild. We get the viewpoints of Miles, Mark, Ekaterin, Ivan, Kareen, etc, etc, etc, etc. Probably the only narrators we don't have are Cordelia, Aral, and the freaking butter-bugs. (Actually, Ms. Bujold, could you write a short story from the perspective of the butter-bugs? I cannot express how amazing that would be. You would probably end up describing all of the characters and their personalities by their feet--what is Miles Standard Footwear, anyway? I am in love with this story and not only is it not yet written, but I know it will never be. Sigh.)

The other issue is even stranger. I finally realized that I hate Barrayar. I think it's a backwards, toxic, soul-numbing, heart-destroying place. I resent the place with a resentment that not even Cordelia can match. To paraphrase Cordelia at some point or another (someday I'll dig up the quote, but I don't even remember the book offhand) Barrayar is a cannibal god; it requires the sacrifice of its sons, body and soul, and then grinds them up and swallows their corpses. All of these characters throughout seem motivated by this great sense that they do things "for Barrayar." But what, precisely, are they protecting? A backward, sexist culture where leaders rule absolutely, where it seems that over half the men are employed by the freaking government as spies and soldiers, often against their own? I wholeheartedly sympathise with the Komarrans; why not blast the brutal Barrayarans back into a time of isolation, back into this hell of their own making? Long story short, I find the place stifling. I simply don't want to spend time there. I don't want to watch Miles to settle down and serve it, to bring up his children in a world where women are subordinate to men and ordinary men are subordinate to Vor and Vor are subordinate to the emperor and the emperor has stripped himself of humanity and joy in subordination to his colony. I think Barrayar needs to change, and its tiny steps towards progress are simply not enough.

Well, enough of that. On the positive side, the plot, although more on the social/household-detail side, is quite entertaining; despite my dislike of the plethora of narrator viewpoints, it was interesting to see what the other characters think of Miles et al. I didn't like how some characters seemed to behave out of character solely to create conflict hover for spoiler, I loved seeing Cordelia in action. I've also grown to love Pym a little more each book. If you like Barrayar and its "old-fashioned" mores, then maybe this book is fun. But I'd rather be on Beta Colony. On those rare occasions I read scifi, I want to see something new and futuristic, and not all the butter-bugs in the world could really reconcile me to a story so deeply embedded in Barrayar. The other major issue is that I think these characters have run their course. Miles, Marc, and all the rest of the gang have undergone all of the agony and growth and character development they're going to have. Visiting them is fun, but rather superficial; it is almost as though the main characters have become cameos in their own stories. I won't say that they have nothing left to give-- the next book is one of my favourites-- but I think we're near to the end of Miles' saga. In any case, we're back in space soon-- onwards to Diplomatic Immunity!

One last thought: what is with the cover? Miles is significantly shorter than Ekaterin; I think he doesn't even come up to her shoulder. What, did they think they couldn't sell a book with a short guy on the cover? I've noticed that zero of the Vorkosigan books that I read ever show Miles' height.. ( )
  page.fault | Sep 21, 2013 |
Most excellent. Many civil Barrayaran threads come together -- two power struggles in the Council of Counts (one Count with a race problem, the other with a gender problem), two romances (Miles manipulatively "not wooing" Ekaterin, Mark and Kareen), bug butter, malicious rumors about Miles' actions on Komarr, and, of course, Emperor Gregor's wedding.

The plot twists and twines and goes interesting places, but like always, this book wins on characterization and atmosphere. Have I said recently how much I like this series? ( )
  pammab | Aug 14, 2013 |
Bujold hits it out of the park again here. I've grown to not expect standard science fiction from her, but this... this is extraordinary. A mannered romance on the face of it, but not all that many pages in, one realizes that it's another meditation on humanity, on honor, on love. The sort of thing Bujold apparently turns out by the dozen. This is exceptionally well-done, with moments of hilarity interspersed with jump-out-of-your-skin tension and plenty of stand up and cheer as well. Highly recommended, but read the other 11 first. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
by Lois McMaster Bujold

Opening line: “The big groundcar jerked to a stop centimeters from the vehicle in front of it, and Armsman Pym, driving, swore under his breath.”

Miles and Ekaterin Vorsoisson are both back on Barrayar after their adventures on Komarr. Miles, naturally, comes up with a plan to court Ekaterin despite her year of mourning. However, when any number of other people return to Barrayar as well, hilariously painful upsets ensue.

This book is awesome. Well, of course it is. All you have to do is read the dedication (“For Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, and Dorothy–long may they rule.”) to know that it’ll be good. And it is. Miles is great. Ekaterin is wonderful–I loved the fact that she’s very definitely not Elena or Elli or any of Miles’ old flames, but instead is very much herself. Ivan is awesome in an uncharacteristic way. Aral and Cordelia are wonderful as always.

And it’s really quite a funny book. I was practically in spasms over the dinner party scene, until the end when things turned a bit more serious (although still funny, in retrospect). The baba scene is also pretty great.

But it’s also a very heartfelt book. And in a way it serves the same purpose as Gaudy Night–to let us get to know Ekaterin a bit more. I know with both Harriet and Ekaterin I had to fight an initial reaction of “How dare you reject my darling Lord Peter/Miles!” A Civil Campaign lets us see Ekaterin in a different light, without which it would be hard to believe in the resolution. I thought Miles’ letter to Ekaterin and her reaction to it were perfect.

I don’t love Mark like I do Miles, but I do feel for him, and I was glad to see the way his story played out. Bujold handled a difficult situation very gently, I thought.

Nikki and Gregor’s interactions were both delightful and somewhat heartwrenching. I always like seeing the human side of Gregor, and this was a lovely example of his character at its best.

So, yes. All in all, extremely satisfying. And it has a stupendously terrible cover, so what more could you want?

Book source: public library
Book information: Baen, 1999; adult

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Thrilling, heartwarming, and awkwardly hilarious all at the same time, this is the culmination of the series. Bujold manages to take all of the familiar characters and undermine our expectations of what they’ll do (Ivan acting all heroic?). Gregor remains one of my favorite characters, and Ekaterin is increasingly awesome. All in all, a happy sigh inducing read. [2010 in books]

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A re-read. I was looking for something else and it was just sitting there on the shelf, tempting me with its shininess. So I took it out. I think this is destined to be one of those books I just read over and over again. [Jan. 2011]

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A re-read, because I love this book like crazy. Miles’ dinner party always drives me to hysterical giggles, usually late at night when everyone else is asleep. [May 2011]

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( )
  maureene87 | Apr 4, 2013 |
I cried. I raged. I laughed. I laughed some more. Any author who can make me care so much about characters who don't exist deserves five stars.

A Civil Campaign picks up just three months after Komarr. Ekaterrin and Nikki returned to Barrayar to live with her aunt and uncle so she can attend university. Miles not-so-cleverly thought to persuade Ekaterrin to create a public park next to Vorkosigan House in Vorbarr Sultanna just so he could see her everyday and to get a leg-up on the competition for the widow's hand. Eventually, this plan backfires -- spectacularly.

While the preparations for the Emperor's Wedding swing into high gear, the political scandals among the Counts seem in a mad rush to pick up the pace. Miles crosses that minefield nearly intact and Ivan matures enough to help the Empire, but learns something new about his mother which drives him to drink, temporarily, to ease the shock.

I loved this novel, but I'm sad that I'm nearly to the end of the Vorkosigan Saga series. This installment was the best of the bunch to date. ( )
  mossjon | Mar 31, 2013 |
A Victorian romance in a military scifi series - this is why I love these books. There is a minimum of people behaving stupidly because they don't fucking talk to one another (some, but a realistic amount,) plenty of scheming both romantic and political, occasionally over-the-top comedy, and a happy ending. What more could anyone ask for? ( )
  JeremyPreacher | Mar 30, 2013 |
This was such fun. This is the 12th book in the Vorkosigan Saga, and though I think it probably could stand alone, I think it's even more enjoyable if you read the prior books, starting at least with the omnibus work Young Miles. I think a lot of the enjoyment in the doings of familiar characters and of the political intrigues might be lost--or of lesser interest--if you haven't followed the books. The series is usually described as space opera, but definitely blends genres--often dropping a mystery into the plot. That the main focus of this book is romance is revealed by the dedication: "For Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, and Dorothy—long may they rule." I could easily fill in the blanks: Jane Austen. Charlotte Bronte, Georgette Heyer, and Dorothy Sayers. There is a gaggle of sisters, parallel sibling romances, failed proposals, second chances, trying to become a couple without losing yourself, witty banter, comedy of manners and lords and a royal wedding.

But a conventional, romance-aisle love story? Decidedly not. Although amusingly you couldn't tell from the cover. The hero of the Vorkosigan Saga you see is Miles Vorkosigan. Because of an attack on his mother while she was pregnant Miles was born with several physical defects. He's short (four foot nine inches) crouch-backed, big-headed and brittle boned and scarred from many medical procedures. It's part of his charm that he not only overcomes his disabilities but... um overachieves. He makes Captain Kirk look like a slacker. But what do we have on the cover? A handsome man taller than the blonde woman he's dancing with. (And Miles' romantic interest in this has "dark hair.") Hilariously wrong. But that's a lot of what I love in the series and novel in a nutshell. That it defies expectations. (I can't see a Heyer Regency including a Lord who has undergone a sex change.) The book even has my favorite Bujold quote: "Reputation is what other people know about you; honor is what you know about yourself." And did I mention fun? If Mirror Dance was the darkest in the series thus far, this is definitely the lightest. I guffawed at the "Butter Bug" incident--hell, the Butter Bug chapter! And I laugh out loud at a book even more rarely than I cry--and I'm not easy. In fact, this is the first time I can remember a Bujold book making me giggle madly like that. More than once at that. And that is one of the reasons why this book earned five stars. My favorite Vorkosigan book thus far. ( )
3 vote LisaMaria_C | May 20, 2012 |
Hilarious! Bujold wrote a comedy of manners such that every social disaster was utterly gut wrenching. I cringed at every misfortune the characters suffered even as I laughed out loud.

I suspect this book is best appreciated in the context of some of the previous books (Miles' character, for example, isn't built up so much as expanded here, relying a bit on the audience having read earlier Vorkorsigan books). It's also a direct sequel to Komarr and reading that book is crucial to understanding some of the interplay. ( )
  Tsana | Dec 5, 2011 |
Summary: While a lot of, if not most, science fiction has to do with the interplay between culture and technology, A Civil Campaign uses that interplay in service of a romance -- or, as the subtitle puts it, "a comedy of biology and manners." In this case, the manners come in the form of Barrayaran society, which is still clinging to the feudal government and rigid sex roles that it developed during the Time of Isolation. The biology comes primarily in the form of galactic uterine replicators, which, when they were first introduced to Barrayar, were primarily used by the Vor class to produce sons and heirs.

However, now that this generation of sons has grown up, they're suddenly feeling the dearth of marriageable women rather sharply. Miles Vorkosigan has never lacked for partners, but the galactic women he'd previously favored all found Barrayar to be backwards and repressive. Miles thinks he has found the answer in the Vor widow Ekatarin Vorsoissin, but she comes with a host of complications: Miles was present at her abusive husband's suspicious death -- the details of which are strictly classified -- and Ekatarin herself has no desire to remarry, ever. However, fearful of losing such an intelligent, beautiful, and eligible woman to other suitors, Miles sets out to woo her in secret -- or, at least, secret from her.

Miles isn't the only one that's having relationship trouble: his cousin Ivan has also never lacked for female attention, but now that he's starting to give up his playboy ways and think about settling down, he's run up against the same lack of eligible women. He's got his sights set on a older woman -- and former lover -- but when they re-connect, her recent brush with galactic technology puts a serious crimp in Ivan's plans.

Finally, Miles's clone brother Mark has spent the past year of schooling and therapy on Beta Colony falling hopelessly in love with Kareen Kudelka, the youngest daughter of his parents' friends and former armsmen. Mark and Karene have returned to Barrayar with the eccentric Dr. Enrique Borgos in tow, complete with a plan to use biological agents (the truly revolting "butter bugs") to revolutionize Barrayar food production -- and make Mark rich in the process. However, being back at home has put a damper on their relationship, as their freewheeling Betan sexual experience is thrown into direct conflict with the stricter Barrayaran cultural mores.

Dealing with interpersonal romantic relationships is not exactly a strong point of Ivan's, Mark's, or Miles's, especially when they're up against some deeply-rooted societal norms, but for the sake of their future happiness, they'll have to learn to think on their feet... and they'll have to do it all while preparing for Emperor Gregor's Imperial wedding.

Review: Things that will surprise absolutely no one: I loved this book. I mean, really, what other reaction would you expect when you put an audiobook subtitled "a comedy of biology and manners" into the hands of a period-romance-loving scientist? And, true to its dedication ("For Jane, Charlotte, Georgette and Dorothy -- long may they rule."), A Civil Campaign absolutely reads like a Regency romance... just a Regency romance that happens to be set on another planet. The inheritance disputes and marriage proposals may be complicated by technological advances, but the story remains remarkably true to its roots, with a complicated dance of suitors and titles and courtship and heirs and country manor houses and a disastrous dinner party, not to mention one of the best love letters I've seen this side of Persuasion. This is a book that really highlights how broad the genre of sci-fi can be, and how broad of an audience to which it can appeal.

The reason A Civil Campaign is so widely appealing is that while it certainly has all of the trappings of conventional sci-fi -- foreign planets, genetic engineering, uterine replicators, wormholes -- its focus is always on the people, not the technology. A real pleasure of this series is in watching its protagonist(s) grow and change over time, and in this volume, we get not only Miles, but also Mark and Ivan, all of whom by this point feel like family. This book is just packed full of absolutely wonderful character moments for everybody, not just the romantic leads. Aral and Cordelia are both in fine form, especially when dispensing romantic advice; Emperor Gregor continues to be quietly, solidly awesome; even Nicky, Ekaterin's nine-year-old son, gets in a few great scenes. Lois McMaster Bujold's talent for clever, dryly witty dialogue extends to farce as well: during the aforementioned dinner party, as things just kept going so spectacularly wrong, I was nearly choking from laughter, even as my heart was breaking for Miles.

Some of the subplots involve a fair amount of Barrayar politics, which were certainly interesting in their own right, but occasionally they seemed to distract from rather than complement the main romance storylines. That's about the only negative I can come up with in this entire book, however. It was enormous fun and a satisfying listening experience, and Grover Gardner reads it so wonderfully that I can't imagine anyone else as the voice of Miles. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: While part of me wants to run the street recommending this book to everyone and anyone, particularly romance readers who wouldn't normally touch a sci-fi novel, the truth is that it's really best read in order -- so much of the joy of these books comes from the established investment in the characters. But I still secretly think that any reader who gave this series a chance would fall in love with Bujold's characters just as much as I have. ( )
2 vote fyrefly98 | Aug 5, 2011 |
The intrigue and humor is up to par, but again the romance is unsatisfying, because it is too obvious. Miles ought not realize he is really, really in love until he blurts out his proposal at the dinner. The main structure of the book could, in fact, remain unchanged except for having him in obvious self-deception mode. And we should see Kat being so wonderful, not just have him tell us so.

How anyone dedicating a book "For Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, and Dorothy" could get something so wrong is a terrible mystery. ( )
  librisissimo | Apr 2, 2011 |
This is easily one of my favorite Vorkosigan books to read, because it is overflowing with witty lines and colorful imagery. We get a rare treat in the Ivan, Ekaterin, and Kareen points of view, which I hope will be repeated in future books. I especially loved seeing Miles' dismal failure at courtship through other eyes than his own. ( )
  FrozenFlame22 | Jan 2, 2011 |
One of her best!
I have to stress that this one should not be read without first reading Komarr first. Read them back to back and they make for a wonderful storyline.
This one doesn't have much in the way of action, but it does have a great deal of intrigue. And, best of all, Miles cousin Ivan features prominently in the story. I think "that idiot" Ivan is not so dumb as others, and he, try and pretend.
And hopefully, we'll see a lot more of him later. Perhaps in a book with him as the Protagonist? ( )
  Blacksmith42 | Dec 17, 2010 |
This volume marks the culmination of the series' trend over the last couple of installments away from outer space adventures and towards more purely character-based stories. There is no mission here, no great mystery to solve, and very little in the way of violent mayhem. Instead, there are several developing romances, with attendant setbacks and obstacles; the start of an offbeat business venture; and a lot of small-scale political intrigue.

I do rather miss the covert intelligence/mercenary exploits of Miles' earlier career, but there's more than enough other good stuff here to make up for their absence. For one thing, Bujold has the rare ability to write a romance plot that actually works for me, one that genuinely engages me, rather than making me want to roll my eyes and shake my head. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it's less about over-the-top Grand Romantic Passions and more about mutual respect and genuine compatibility, the kind of romance story for which marriage is a beginning, rather than an ending.

There's also a lot of terrific humor, including what surely has to be the most painfully hilarious -- or hilariously painful -- dinner party scene in the history of literature. The political intrigue is interesting, too, especially in that it deals with some of the effects of a society with a basically medieval structure abruptly finding itself in possession of biotechnology. The question of what happens to laws of succession once you introduce human cloning into the equation is only the beginning... It's a fascinating idea, and I'd love to see it explored at even greater length. ( )
4 vote bragan | Jul 19, 2010 |
Best in a very funny series: a Regency Romance in Space:
The Miles Vorkosigan series of adventures is far and away the most amusing comedy science fiction series ever written. This is the ninth Miles Vorkosigan adventure, and in my opinion the funniest book in the series.

It is slightly different from the other nine books in the series - the first eight and the last one all have elements of action adventure, mystery and detection. This one, on the other hand, can best be understood as a "Regency Romance" style farce set several hundred years in the future on a planet which in some ways is used to high technology and in others is a quasi-feudal militaristic Empire. In other words, it mimics the style, and has a very similar plot, to the popular genre of romantic novels set in Georgian England during the "Regency" period in the early 19th century. Think Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer meet Star Wars with a hint of "The West WIng" thrown in.

The Miles Vorkosigan stories, and four other books set in the the same future universe, can stand on their own. However, a number of them, of which this is one, will give you something extra if you have previously read some of Bujold's books set earlier on the same timeline.

If you have not previously met Lord Miles Vorkosigan, he is 1) a brilliant intriguer who at one stage was juggling at least three identities; 2) physically very small, having been injured in his mother's womb by poison gas; 3) a former spy for Imperial Barrayan security, former mercenary admiral and present "Imperial Auditor"; 4) desperately trying to find a wife; and 5) hysterically funny to read about.

The book is set in the run-up to the wedding of Miles' cousin, the Emperor, which is shown on the front cover. The handsome, tall man on the cover with his bride is Emperor Gregor, and definately not the hero of the stories, Lord Miles Vorkosigan. Miles is neither tall nor handsome, but he makes up for it in other ways - some of the time, anyway.

Several other people are thinking about love and marriage, including Miles himself, as he is very much in love with Ekaterin who he met in the previous book, "Komarr".

Miles' friend Duv Galeni, his clone-brother Mark, and his cousin Ivan also have their own romantic plans, and their various romantic intrigues collide not only with each other, but with those of various scheming nobles who are fighting over the inheritance of two titles, those of Ekaterin's idiotic relatives, and of two luckless Escobarran policemen.

At one point, Miles' mother Cordelia has to sort out the angry parents of Miles' childhood friends the Koudelka sisters. If you want to understand some of the references here, you will have to read the story of how the previous generations of Vorkosigans and Koudelkas got together, which can be found in the books "Shards of Honour" and "Barrayar." These two books have been published separately, and also together as "Cordelia's honour".

Sound complicated? It is. That's why there is a lot to be said for reading these stories in sequence. Having said that, you can read this book on its own and it is still funny.

The full sequence of books in this Universe is

"Falling Free" (set 200 years before Miles is born)

The story of the romance between Miles' parents:
"Shards of Honour"
"Barrayar"
(Published in one volume as "Cordelia's Honour")

The Miles Vorkosigan adventures:

"The Warrior's Apprentice"
"The Vor game"
"Borders of Infinity"
"Cetaganda"
"Brothers in Arms"
"Mirror Dance"
"Memory"
"Komarr"
"A Civil Campaign"
"Diplomatic Immunity"

And a separate adventure for Miles' friend Elli Quinn:
"Ethan of Athos"

All these books are excellent and strongly recommended.
4 vote iayork | Aug 9, 2009 |
Something of a departure from Bujold's Vorkosigan series, in that instead of a space opera this is a comedy of manners set on Barrayar. Instead of a military problem to solve, Miles is trying to court the lady -- and recent widow -- he met in the last book (Komarr). Miles being Miles, his tactics are unique and amusing, at least to those watching. He also gets involved in the politics of the Council of Counts.

I found this book vastly entertaining, in a somewhat different way than the earlier novels in this series. The pleasure in this novel is more in the nature of watching the characters interact with each other and with their culture. ( )
  CaUplWL | Apr 26, 2009 |
One of the few Vorkosigan books that would not work as a stand-alone. This one needs to be read after Komarr. It's a delightful blend of several independent plot lines involving Mile's love life, Mark's latest business enterprise, the latest ramifications of Betan technology on Barryaran politics and the fortunes of the Koudelka sisters.

Very enjoyable and very amusing.

the only reason I gave this 4 1/2 stars rather than 5 is because Komarr was so amazingly good that it's hard to equal it. (If I hadn't just read Komarr first, I'd probably have given this book 5 stars as well) ( )
  JudithProctor | Feb 18, 2009 |
This is a brilliant and funny comedy of manners masquerading as one of a series of space opera novels. Miles Vorkosigan finally (and veering somewhere between "painfully" and "amusingly") gets the girl. Or vice-versa. His lady love is every bit as stubborn, determined, individualistic, talented and every-inch-a-survivor as Miles. Hurrah! I laughed out loud on the tram.

Not many authors can make me do that.

This is the pay-off novel in the series for me. Miles is talented, charismatic, and the scion of a noble family and has been bounced around the galaxy, working through his apprenticeship and being a journeyman in the service of his planet - but this is really the first time you see him wield all of it in a stunning display of power in the service of the Empire, his family and *sigh* true love (or as close as these things get, anyway).

And finally Ivan gets to (rather painfully for him as well) start to grow up and be Useful. Even the repressed Emporer Gregor gets his "the girl" and a chance at some kind of personal contentment.
  Catchmyfancy | Feb 13, 2009 |
A Civil Campaign isn't the final volume of Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga (a sequel, Diplomatic Immunity was published a few years ago, and there's a new book on the way as well), and as far as I know it was never intended to be, but in many ways it feels uncannily like one. Part of that is a result of the subject matter. While the earlier books of the series focused on the adventures and military exploits of the brilliant-but-outcast Miles Vorkosgian in what were often fairly traditional (even cliched) space opera stories, later books increasingly saw the focus shift to the internal conflicts and emotional struggles of the cast. In the three books immediately preceding this one, Miles gained a 'brother', in the form of his troubled clone Mark, was forced to give up the role of "Admiral Naismith", the alternate personna he first adopted in the very beginning of the series, and most recently, in Komarr, was introduced to a potential romantic interest, Ekaterin Vorsoisson. A Civil Campaign continues this trend by doing away with the space opera heroics altogether: focusing instead on Miles' attempts (often painfully awkward) to persuade Ekaterin to marry him. At the same time, his brother Mark attempts to set up a successful business on Barrayar, and the conservative and moderinising factions on the Barrayaran Council of Counts are drawn into a political struggle over the choice of heir of two of the Councils recently deceased members.

A Civil Campaign is also rather different in tone and format than earlier books in the series. Previously, Bujold had written things solely from Miles' perspective, or occasionally mixed perspectives from Miles and a second major character. For this book, however, Bujold opts for a wider range of perspectives: and the various voices and tones of the expanded cast really makes a difference. For the most part this ranks alongside Mirror Dance and Komarr as one of the better Vorkosigan novels. Not everything in the book is flawless: there are some moments of slapstick comedy that don't really work, and cynics might point out that the very basic core of the plot (basically: "Miles tries so hard to be clever he does something really stupid and has to fix it") is actually unchanged from several earlier books in the series.

Indeed, I'd have to say that this book didn't work for me quite as well as Komarr or Mirror Dance did, and the change of genre may prove off-putting to some. And of course, it really isn't a book that will work at all well for a reader not familiar with the large cast of characters and their relationships with each other. That said, I enjoyed it a lot and I think any fan of the series would as well.
  Plessiez | Feb 8, 2009 |
Absolutely brilliant. The dinner party is hysterical as Miles trips himself up through not keeping his mouth shut. Also Mark returns to Barrayar. I love Mark - he's so desperately vulnerable and yet sharp as a tack too.
One of the best Vorkosigan books. ( )
  infjsarah | Nov 29, 2008 |
There are many suggested reading orders for the Vor books, but this should definitely come after Komarr and before Diplomatic Immunity. ( )
  TadAD | Jul 20, 2008 |
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