Friday, 13 April 2012

Why You Should Read | Lois McMaster Bujold

From my readthrough of the Vorkosigan series earlier this year, it's easy to guess that I'm a fan of Bujold's work - both science fiction and fantasy, in which genre she wrote one of my long-term favourite novels (The Curse of Chalion). Well, as always in my 'Why You Should Read' series, this is my take on what might interest you in Bujold's work.

- Character-driven novels in both genres. Like Rothfuss and Hobb, Bujold's novels are universally character-driven - while their plots, settings, and concepts are generally pretty compelling in their own right, it's the characters which are truly engaging, and which drive the narrative onwards through their development. These aren't just vehicles for conveying the story - Bujold's characters are some of the best (and most unusual) I've read. If you're a fan of Hobb's FitzChivalry-centric story in The Farseer, Bujold is an author you'll want to try.

- The protagonists. Fantasy frequently has a tendancy to limit itself to a very small subset of protagonists, and Bujold avoids this: Miles, to take an example, is far from usual. Crippled and stunted on a planet where visible mutation has become taboo; manic-depressive - and very, very driven. His very-almost-a-catchphrase is 'forward momentum'. That should give you an idea for just how these novels are driven by his character: they're driven by Miles diving head-first into the situation, then extricating himself through cleverness afterwards (which is just as fun to read). If you're fed up with passive protagonists, the Vorkosigan saga is a surefire remedy. (Well, it works for me!)

- The setting - for The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, at least. Historically based on Spain (or Spain before unification - really Castile and León), it's a change from medieval fantasy settings based on a glorified medieval England: because rest assured, Bojold includes the nasty bits, too. I for one found it refreshing.

- Theology. You might be wondering at my sanity here - when have I, of all people, been a fan of religion in fantasy? Generally, I'm not - but Bujold's conception of it in The Curse of Chalion makes for an interesting discussion, as well as a deconstruction of the normal tropes. As I've pointed out before, if you have a benevolent, omnipotent deity on your side - as many older fantasies like to include - where's the conflict? I won't spoil it for new readers, but Bujold gets in an interesting take on the subject. Without including any of the usual cop-outs...

Well - that's my take on it! But if you're interested in specific reviews, just click the 'Lois McMaster Bujold' tag at the botton of this post and you'll get a few. More than a few!


  1. I started Bujold's Vorkosigan series a couple days ago with Cordelia's Honor. After hearing many good reviews and recommendations for her work I was very happy to see that, thus far, the books live up to the hype (a rarity!), and am excited to read the rest of them. Go Bujold!

  2. A rarity indeed! Glad to hear you're enjoying them - though actually, I felt they improved after the initial trio (The Vor Game particularly, I enjoyed). Looking forward to hearing what you think when you get onto the Miles sequence.

  3. Very interesting... I haven't read any Bujold before but after your recommendation, I think I'll add this one to my list, thanks!

  4. No problem. Looking forward to hearing what you think. ;)