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Bujold, Lois M.
CETAGANDA {signed} [mv]
book-date: 1996
cvr art:
cvr price:
(Tall) Hardcover
Gary Ruddell
Book= Fine
Dustjacket= Fine-

Cetaganda - [I'm quoting most of a review in Asimov's for a reasonable plot summary/set-up]:
" Bujold's books eat you alive. Not since Heinlein has a writer been able to capture a reader's attention as quickly and hold it as firmly as she does. Writers able to analyze her work and grasp how she does this would certainly be improving their own chances for success.

In terms of the series' internal chronology Miles Vorkosigan is twenty-two here, so the events of this book take place between those of The Vor Game and Ethan of Athos. The setting is Eta Ceta IV, homeworld of the large and wealthy Cetagandan empire with which the Barrayarans have warred in the past. They are at peace for the moment, and Miles and his cousin Ivan are sent as official envoys to the funeral of the Dowager Empress. There are diplomatic pitfalls at every step and, with someone seemingly playing nasty practical jokes on the two young Vor, literal ones as well.

Of course, fate doesn't even wait for Miles to arrive on the planet before putting trouble in his path. The pod taking them to the orbital transfer station is diverted to the wrong docking bay. There, for no evident reason, they are attacked by what appears to be an aged but vigorous man. Thinking they're disarming him, they relieve him of a curiously embellished rod. The function of this rod and its provenance are a mystery, but Miles begins to suspect the Barrayarans are being set up. It's soon clear that this is to be a detective story as much as a planetary adventure. As in Borders of Infinity, Miles will demonstrate considerable Sherlockian prowess.

The mystery just barely begins to unravel when, at one of the preliminary ceremonies of the days-long state funeral, Miles is contacted by one of the haut-women. These are the highest-ranking noble ladies of the Cetagandan empire, normally cloistered or hidden behind the opaque forcefields of their floating chairs, never seen by outsiders. She is Rian Degtiar, member of the late empress' inner cirlce (supervising her staff of geneticists). She suspects he has the rod and wants it back. Then, just moments after the conclusion of his audience with her, the dead body of the odd person from whom he had got the rod is found sprawled near the catafalque in a pool of blood.

When Miles meets Rian again, he refuses to return the rod, known as the Great Key, unless he can know with whom he is dealing. She consents to lower her shield. Miles expects her to an old woman of the late empress' generation, but she is in fact a haut lady in her prime and her supernal beauty hits Miles like a physical blow. He finds himself on his knees without knowing how he got there, determined to solve their mutual problem and, like a knight, willing to give his life for her if necessary.

Well, just from this book's position in the Vorkosigan sequence we know that it doesn't prove necessary, but it will take all his legendary cleverness and luck for Miles to untangle this Cetagandan intrigue. The irony that he is doing this for people who were once his enemies and could be again is not lost on him, but he doesn't let it stop him, either.

It's this wry appreciation of life's little twists, as expressed through Miles, that makes these stories more than just deftly crafted entertainments. So "Bravo, Bujold!" and thanks for this treat..." [-Moshe Feder (Asimov's, May, 1996)]

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