Grade: Δˡ — (Delta) A solid read, but only buy it if you like the genre.
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold is a good solid espionage science fiction piece that relies a bit too much on coincidental meetings, but remains an interesting tale of corporate misdeed and heroic action. This is most definitely one of a series, but can be read enjoyably on its own. Even so, I suspect pleasure would be greater if other parts of the series are read first.
A far future world with faster than light (FTL) travel, where humanity has spanned the galaxy and there appear to be no competing alien intelligences. Biological technology has advanced, particularly around the cloning of individuals and cryogenic suspension, but post-mortal existence does not yet exist (though it is being worked on). Stellar governments exist, some in competition with each other, and there is no over arching interstellar government. The world as a whole has the corporate feel of the late 1980’s and certain cyberpunk ambiences. It tends to address corporations as megapowers and examine corporate greed and misbehavior.
Cryoburn is one of the later volumes in the Vorkosigan series of books and short stories by Lois McMaster Bujold. As such, it is definitely part of a series, but I read it without having opened any of the others, enjoyed it, and had no difficulties picking up the important elements of the world. This by itself is quite a sign of the author’s skill, and to that end, marks it as an enjoyable book. Nevertheless, I suspect I would have found it an even better read had I read at least some of the other books first.
The novel opens with Miles Vorkosigan, former spy, diplomat, and presently Auditor for Empire of Barrayar, wandering lost and in a hallucinogenic state in the labyrinthine passages of the Cryopolis of the planet Kibou-daini. This Cryopolis is part of an immense and competitive corporate effort to store the dead and dying in a cryogenic state until cures are found for their diseases. Miles had been sent to investigate the suspicious behavior of a company attempting to get a foothold in Barrayaran space, but ended up getting captured by an extremist/terror organization that opposes the resources spent on the ‘dead.’
As Miles emerges tattered and hallucinating into the city streets above, he is found by a young boy named Jin Sato. Jin is runaway who squats in an abandoned building with a group of underclass homeless people with a secret of their own. As the tale progresses, the central mystery of the story unfolds.
To this end, Cryoburn is a fun espionage sci-fi mystery that relies a bit heavily upon the “Coincidence Factor.” While this writers’ trick is used by authors of many genres, it has become a staple of many mysteries, yet I find it strains my disbelief far more than believing in FTL, aliens who look just like humans, or even magic systems.
Having said that, Cryoburn is a totally enjoyable fun read that will suit any fan of science fiction. It is a ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ style story that has very strong and sympathetic characters throughout. To that end, I wholly recommend it to fans of science fiction, and more reservedly recommend it to mystery or espionage fans. I will note, it is Sci-Fi first, and mystery espionage second.
It has inspired me to go and read the rest of the series, this time in order… though this will take some time. For those who are anxious to know, Luke Burrage is presently reviewing the series on his Science Fiction Book Review Podcasts.
Notes about the Audio Edition:
Cryoburn is another solid production from Blackstone Audio, with a very good presentation by narrator Grover Gardner. Indeed, his ability to pronounce Japanese, Dutch and other words is quite substantial.
 An Auditor is a greatly powerful position that effectively allows the individual to act with the authority of the Emperor and them carte blanc, as it were. In a sense, it is very similar to the Commissars of my own Sophyan Empire, but with even fewer restraints.
 – That very common literary ploy that has key elements of the story rely upon the happenchance meeting of two or more individuals who ‘just-so-happen’ to be key to a central plot twist or device.
- Barrayar, by Lois McMaster Bujold (www.sfbrp.com)
- Short Review: Ethan of Athos, by Lois McMaster Bujold (misternizz.wordpress.com)
- Winterfair gifts by Lois McMaster Bujold (Vorkosigan saga) (meangoblin.com)
- Reading Journal for May (gcbooks.wordpress.com)
- Hello, epic fantasy romance readers! (epicfantasyromance.wordpress.com)
- The Curse of Chalion (booketime.wordpress.com)
- The 2013 Locus Award Finalists (tor.com)
- Multiple-Nominee Elizabeth Bear on the Locus Awards (omnivoracious.com)
- Summer reads (clancypolisci.wordpress.com)
- Interview with Mina Kahn ~ A Tale of Two Djinns (sslyblog.wordpress.com)