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Falling Free (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures) (original 1988; edition 2008)

by Lois McMaster Bujold

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1,710404,155 (3.67)1 / 66
Member:mrund
Title:Falling Free (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures)
Authors:Lois McMaster Bujold
Info:Baen (2008), Edition: Reissue, Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold (1988)

adventure (7) bujold (22) ebook (24) fantasy (11) fiction (167) genetic engineering (29) Miles Vorkosigan (16) military (10) military sf (8) Nebula (10) Nebula Award (11) nebula winner (13) novel (18) own (10) owned (8) paperback (25) quaddies (21) read (35) romance (11) science fiction (444) series (24) sf (129) sff (51) space (11) space opera (76) speculative fiction (14) to-read (27) Vorkosigan (90) Vorkosigan Saga (22) vorkosiverse (16)
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Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
It's really fun to read a book mostly from an engineer's POV, I have to say. ( )
  cendri | May 30, 2014 |
Falling Free is part of the Vorkosigan Saga, although I can't (yet) see the connection. I've read both Shards of Honor and Barrayar, the next two books in the saga and Falling Free does not appear to relate, but that is just fine, because I liked this tale.

Leo Graf, our main protagonist, is an engineer who is sent to work at the Cay Habitat in zero gravity with a group of very intelligent yet emotionally naive Quaddies. Quaddies are genetically engineered human beings bred with a second set of arms in place of legs (for a total of four arms). They were engineered in such a way as they do not suffer the typical side effects common to humans due to prolonged time in space, such as bone loss and atrophy of the muscles in the lower extremities. They were never intended to live their lives in space and were to serve as a space bound work force. Leo's job is to educate the Quaddies about engineering.

“This is the most important thing I will ever say to you. The human mind is the ultimate testing device. You can take all the notes you want on the technical data, anything you forget you can look up again, but this must be engraved on your hearts in letters of fire. There is nothing, nothing, nothing, more important to me in the men and women I train then their absolute personal integrity. Whether you function as welders or inspectors, the laws of physics are implacable lie detectors. You may fool men. You will never fool metal. That’s all.”
― Lois McMaster Bujold, Falling Free


Leo soon finds himself in a bit of an ethical dilemma. He does not like the pretended benevolence with which the Quaddies are treated by their care takers and recognizes it as actually something more akin to the type of patriarchal benevolence practiced by a master toward a slave. In fact, as it turns out, the Quaddies are less than slaves, if that is possible, as they are characterized as post-fetal experimental tissue cultures. This is particularly significant when, suddenly deemed obsolete, the Company decides to sterilize the entire lot of Quaddies and house them downside somewhere until they die.

Leo teaches the very naive and childlike (most really are technically children) Quaddies that they are to be valued as any other human being and he helps them break away from the care takers in order to strike out on their own among the stars.

I've read multiple reviews of this book and overall people tend to believe this book to be passable but definitely not one of Bujold's best. Personally I find that Falling Free has some of the most honest and brave character portrayals, showing people as they really are... hovering somewhere in the realm between good and evil. Certainly there are characters that cross the line, but most of us have our moments good or bad) and these characters do too. They, like most humans, make decisions based on their own self-interest, even the good/right decisions. And, as with much of humanity over history, the people in this book have found ways to neatly reason their trespasses. This tale also explores what can happen to a person who does not value their self-worth, that they might sell themselves cheaply, as does Silver, a very bright and pretty Quaddie who she allows her body to be used for small favors.

Leo is a true hero. He puts himself in the line of fire, so to speak, in order to help the Quaddies escape sterilization and an unjust imprisonment for the chance to begin a new life on their own.

“There was no limit to what one man might do, if he gave all, and held back nothing.”
― Lois McMaster Bujold, Falling Free


This story has a happy ending. I wouldn't have it any other way.
All of that said, Falling Free is none too subtle. It makes some very clear statements about slavery, prejudice, humanity and what constitutes humanity, justice, honesty, and human duty. While I appreciate subtlety, I can tolerate Bujold's presentation here. It works for me.

There is one thing about which I did experience a bit of discomfort with regards to this tale, and it may be simply my misunderstanding, and I hope this is the case. The Quaddies are described as being children essentially, teenagers. Yet, their caretakers encourage them to mate on cue. In other words, they decide who should try to become pregnant, and with whom. Like cattle, eh? I am uncomfortable with this on the one hand and yet, I had to keep reminding myself, on the other hand, teenagers do have sex and have children and while this isn't the preference, it happens all over the world and is acceptable in many cultures. In that regard I can't find a lot of fault with it, and this further lends to the bravery had honesty with which this story was written. In that, it challenges some of our long held understandings of what is "supposed" to be right and wrong.
To me, this is what good writing is all about.
( )
  khaalidah | Mar 14, 2014 |
Conflicting feelings about this book make it kind of tough to rate. I liked this story, and it pulled me right in, one with science in the science fiction, but I found myself bothered by the rather cartoonish portrayal of the creepy bad company and scientist/engineer Van Atta, etc. Our "hero" Leo Graf is a likeable fellow and easy to sympathize with. Van Atta is a former student of Leo Graf who has more or less gone over to the dark side. He was probably always on the dark side.

Without spoiling things I want to give credit for one great bit of writing. The sequence wherein those who had lived their entire lives in space first encounter planet side gravity was great. I had grown so used to the weightless movement that when gravity showed up it was totally alien to me too and I so sympathized with the reactions of the characters. Really well done.

I enjoyed the greater part of the book although the end disappointed me a little. ( )
  RBeffa | Mar 10, 2014 |
The Cay Project is an attempt to make a superior space engineer by genetically engineering humans to have 4 arms and no legs. They are extremely efficient, not only because their arms allow them to work faster but because they have been designed to survive in Zero Gravity without bone degradation.

The ‘quaddies’ are just reaching maturity, and Leo Graf – a famous space engineer – has been recruited to teach them his craft. After getting over his initial alarmed reaction he quickly realizes that they are very intelligent and attentive students. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take him long to see how poorly they are treated – not as humans but as company property, and Leo has a hard time simply ignoring the fact.

Falling Free is a great story with an important message. It’s not an uncommon one in the science fiction and fantasy genres, but an important one nonetheless. Bujold’s writing is brilliant as well, and she has a great way of making the pages fly by as you’re reading. I pretty much knew what was going to happen from the onset of the novel and yet I found it difficult to put down anyway, which is always a great quality in a book.

The only reason I’m not giving it a higher rating is because the last 2 pages are totally stupid. Totally ridiculously incomprehensively stupid. It’s still a great novel, but I’d like to pretend the last 2 pages didn’t happen. I mean, really. Grr. ( )
  Ape | Feb 5, 2014 |
The Cay Project is close to coming to fruition and so the company who owns it have sent Leo Graf to oversee the training of the engineers to be. Given virtually no details about the project itself Leo is shocked to find that his students have been genetically engineered to better work in zero gravity. Instead of legs they each have an extra pair of arms. The old adage of many hands make light work definitely applies here. Nicknamed Quaddies, they have been bred from human stock but without the rights of humans (belonging solely to the company) they have been conditioned to accept their lot which to Leo's eyes looks to be slave labour. But just as they are reaching a stage where they can be put to work a new technology becomes available which makes them obsolete. The company decides to terminate the project and dump the Quaddies planet-side and dismantle the orbital habitat to reclaim what they can from the materials. Leo is not too enamoured of this solution as by this time he has become quite attached to his students so he sets about trying to formulate a plan to save them from what is tantamount to a slow death. Can he succeed and will the normally placid Quaddies join his revolution?

This is a fast-paced space opera / adventure story that looks into the morality of genetic engineering as well as the political side with human rights and indoctrination being prevalent topics throughout. The science is not too heavy and definitely adds to the plot rather than just get in the way of it. The only real problem I have with the book is that the characters are quite one dimensional. The good guys have always got their white hats on and the baddies are all dressed in black. Despite that, this prequel story to the Vorkosigan saga is still an enjoyable read and knowing this was an early book in the series I'm sure I have lots to look forward to with the series proper. ( )
  AHS-Wolfy | Jun 21, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Falling Free is one of Bujold’s early books, and it isn’t as technically accomplished as her later work. It’s definitely one of her minor books, but she’s so good that a minor book for her would be a major one for anyone else.
added by Shortride | editTor.com, Jo Walton (Aug 6, 2009)
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lois McMaster Bujoldprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Elson, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gardner, GroverNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gutierrez, AlanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seeley, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turner, PatrickCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067157812X, Mass Market Paperback)

Leo Graf was an effective engineer ...Safety Regs weren't just the rule book he swore by; he'd helped write them. All that changed on his assignment to the Cay Habitat. Leo was profoundly uneasy with the corporation exploitation of his bright new students - till that exploitation turned to something much worse. He hadn't anticipated a situation where the right thing to do was neither safe, nor in the rules...Leo Graf adopted 1000 quaddies - now all he had to do was teach them to be free.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:25 -0400)

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A Vorkosigan adventure. Sci-fi. Winner of Nebula Award.

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