The Vorkosigan Saga — A Space Opera That Will Keep You Occupied For A Long Time

November 9th, 2020
Cover image of the post

This is definitely one of the classics that has a huge international fandom, but I only discovered it a couple of years ago. Those were the first sci-fi books by a female author, Lois McMaster Bujold, that I’ve read, and they got me completely hooked. This space opera has all sorts of genres mixed in: military sci-fi, comedy, tragedy, coming-of-age, romance, adventure and more. And why wouldn’t it, since there are 16 books in the series. Yes, 16, plus novellas, a short story, another novel and a collection of short stories set in the same universe. But lets start from the beginning.

The beginning

For me, it all started with Falling free — a novel set in space, involving genetically modified humans, exploitation, love and an ethical dilemma. It’s only related to the Vorkosigan Saga because it’s set in the same universe, but the events happen a couple of hundred years before the story of the saga begins. I found it randomly on Goodreads, loved it, was impressed by the authors imagination, the details she couldn’t possibly know about but described so well (like how a person bred in space feels when she first encounters gravity) and her ability to tell a good story, so I decided to proceed with the series. I didn’t stop until I read all the books in it, and by the time I finished, the characters felt like my own family, and it was sad to let them go.

The saga itself

To be clear, the name “Vorkosigan Saga” was coined by the fans because the series follows lives and adventures of the Vorkosigan family. Every book in it deserves a review of its own, but I just want to give you the taste of what the whole saga feels like.

It’s set in a universe where people have colonized multiple planets, and we get to see what’s life like on many of them. Each of the planets has it’s own political and social system, traditions and values, challenges and misfortunes. You’ll get to know a feudal, militaristic and hierarchical Barrayar that has an emperor, aristocracy and fairy-tale style balls, as well as an egalitarian, technologically advanced Beta colony where criminals go to therapy instead of prison, and clothes combined with jewellery signify to everyone around whether someone is available as a potential partner, and what exactly they are looking for. I mention these planets because the protagonists of the first two books come from them, but there are many more strange and marvelous worlds.

The story starts with a discovery of a new world, a conflict and a romance. We follow the adventures of unlikely partners who fall in love despite their differences and have a disabled baby together. This baby is the protagonist of most of the following books. We watch him grow on a planet that despises disability and embark on various adventures in space, on his home planet and in other worlds.

I loved all the books in the saga even though I’m not a fan of military sci-fi or some other sub-genres that it encompasses. I read them all, one after another, without a break, always wondering what’s going to happen next. Those books have great depth, flawed and lovable characters, unbelievably rich world-building, multiple adventures and unexpected turns of events that kept me hooked all along. The saga shows the author’s understanding of human psychology and touches upon various subjects, such as inequality, discrimination, the effect advanced technologies have on human life, human relationship, love, death and many more.

Reading order according to the internal chronology

  1. Shards of Honour
  2. Barrayar
  3. The Warrior’s Apprentice
  4. The Mountains of Mourning (novella)
  5. The Vor Game
  6. Cetaganda
  7. Ethan of Athos
  8. Labyrinth (novella)
  9. The Borders of Infinity (novella)
  10. Brothers in Arms
  11. Mirror Dance
  12. Memory
  13. Komarr
  14. Winterfair Gifts (short story)
  15. Diplomatic Immunity
  16. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance
  17. The Flowers of Vashnoi (novella)
  18. Cryoburn
  19. Gentleman Jole And The Red Queen

You can check out the audiobooks as well.

The author

Lois McMaster Bujold was born in 1949, the daughter of an engineering professor at Ohio State University, from whom she picked up her early interest in science fiction. She now lives in Minneapolis, and has two grown children.

Her fantasy from HarperCollins includes the award-winning Chalion series and the Sharing Knife tetralogy; her science fiction from Baen Books features the perennially bestselling Vorkosigan Saga. Her work has been translated into over twenty languages.

A listing of her awards and nominations may be seen here.

Check out her website and Goodreads profile.

Interested in Science Fiction?Subscribe!