A Civil Campaign, by Lois McMaster Bujold

a-civil-campaign-by-lois-mcmaster-bujold coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Baen
Published: 1999
Reviewer Rating: three stars
Book Review by Aaron M. Renn

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A Civil Campaign is the latest installment in the never-ending chronicles of Miles Vorkosigan. It’s subtitle is “A Comedy of Biology and Manners”. It is supposed to be a romantic comedy of sorts, where we get to see Miles Vorkosigan stumble around as he attempts to do the one thing he’s not good at, namely courting the recently widowed Kat Vorsoisson. Unfortunately, except for a couple brief episodes I didn’t think the book was very funny. But luckily that doesn’t kill the work.

The funniest part by far was the now legendary dinner party scene, where a clever (he thinks) ploy by Miles to impress the Lady Vorsoisson unravels. Still, I only got a couple chuckles out of it. Interestingly, I saw a performance of Die Fledermaus at the Lyric Opera of Chicago while reading this book. That opera also features a party and a number of scheming members of the upper classes. And I laughed my ass off, so I know that my sense of humor wasn’t taking a vacation that week.

In addition to Miles’ courtship of Kat, there are a number of other subplots going on. Some of these were more successful than others. But they keep you turning the pages, even though their ultimate conclusion is never much in doubt.

The only serious problem I had with the book was in the subplot involving an inheritance dispute between a Richars Vorrutyer and the “Lord Dono” Vorrutyer. Richars was portrayed as the manifestation of evil incarnate. Among other things, he’s an attempted rapist and likely murderer. I’ve always hated it when SF writers divide things a little too starkly into good and evil, and unfortunately this was a case where Bujold’s moralizing got the best of her.

Again Bujold treats us to solid writing, solid characters, and solid plot lines, resulting in a few hours of light but satisfying entertainment.

Note that in order to really understand this book, Komarr–its immediate prequel–should be read first. Luckily that’s a good one as well.