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Written by award winning author Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles Vorkosigan is one of the best characters in space opera, and the universe she created for him to inhabit is a real treat to visit. The background starts with a planet cut off from the rest of the human inhabited planets due to a disastrous nuclear war, then reunited within the lifetime of the protagonist’s grandfather. After hundreds of years of isolation, it is difficult for most of the population to understand the changes this means for society. Starting with the fact that contact with outside worlds brings with it major medical advances to a population who has spent dozens of generations practicing infanticide as their only way to avoid major mutation and extinction. Miles earliest memory is being lifted from his crib as his grandfather tries to murder him as a mutant (he isn’t, but the old man does not comprehend what made him as he is; he only knows anything different must be killed if humanity on his planet is to survive). The gun his parent held to the back of his grandfather’s head was the only reason he made it to his first birthday, let alone beyond.

There is some debate about the correct order to read the books, but I vote for going for the author listed chronological order, rather than the published order. The Vorkosiverse will make a lot more sense that way, starting at the point his parents met (and more than most universes, you NEED to understand how we got to this point if you are going to understand where we go from here, and why). This is quite a complex collection of societies covering a major percentage of the galaxy, and like Asimov before her, Bujold does not clutter up her universe with non-human intelligent species. There is only us people driving all these situations, each group fighting for their own interests and desires.

And as with any excellent series of stories, the protagonist throws a monkey wrench into the proceedings that no one in that world sees coming, and changes everything in ways no one ever expected. My own personal connection into this universe is the fact that Miles is a frail, breakable, and damaged physical specimen who can never win a battle by strength of arms. So his only option is to use wit, intelligence, heart, and desire to force his enemy to defeat themselves. There are already a goodly number of novels and a double handful of short stories embedded in this universe; I can’t wait to get more!

BTW, did I mention the author won some awards? She has won six Hugo Awards and two Nebula Awards. In fact, only Robert A. Heinlein has won as many Hugo Awards for Best Novel, although a few other authors have won 5.