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5722RE: [mythsoc] recommendation: Bujold's Curse of Chalion

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  • Janet Croft
    Apr 2, 2002
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      I have not yet read _The Curse of Chalion_, but I have read and thoroughly
      enjoyed everything else Bujold has written, and if it is up to her usual
      standards it will be a very strong contender. She has one other non-series
      book, _The Spirit Ring_, set in an alternate Renaissance where magic works,
      which has some interesting underlying themes about creativity and a strong
      heroine. But it's her Miles Vorkosigan series I chiefly love and read
      *almost* as often as Tolkien (and plan to write about eventually!). There
      are two books set in Miles' universe that don't feature him -- _Ethan of
      Athos_, about an all-male planet and its reproductive woes, and _Falling
      Free_, about a genetically engineered race of "quaddies" designed to work in
      zero-gee. Bujold is very strong at the classic hard science fiction task of
      taking a theoretical invention and exploring its social implications -- but
      she's also a darned good story teller and knows how to write characters that
      you can care about (even the difficult and conflicted ones). She also
      writes in a range of styles throughout the series, from space opera to
      psychodrama to light romance, with equal skill.

      The Miles series deals with issues such as the acceptance of the disabled in
      society, culture class between progressive and isolated cultures, the
      responsibilities of leadership, schizophrenia and other mental disorders,
      memory and its failures, family in an age of new reproductive technologies,
      military strategy, body image, cloning and organ-harvesting, and so on. Well
      worth reading. Miles himself is one of my favorite characters in all
      literature (yes, even including LotR!), and his mother is a pretty
      formidable character herself. The latest one comes out this May, but I
      would recommend starting from the beginning with _Shards of Honor_ and
      _Barrayar_(issued in one volume as _Cordelia's Honor_), which deal with
      Miles' parents.

      Janet Croft

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Pauline J. Alama [mailto:PJAlama@...]
      Sent: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 7:07 AM
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [mythsoc] recommendation: Bujold's Curse of Chalion

      Attempting once more to discuss Mythopoiec Fantasy Award nominees on the
      list (last time I tried I got a whole 1 response -- 1 very detailed &
      thoughtful response, but not the lively multi-voiced discussion I might have
      hoped for), I'd like to draw people's attention to a very exciting nominee,
      Lois McMaster Bujold's _The Curse of Chalion_. This has become, in my mind,
      the book by which all other nominees will be measured. [I will try not to
      include any plot spoilers, for the sake of list members who have not read

      The first thing that will strike you when you read Bujold's Curse of
      Chalion will be its readability: she keeps the twists and turns of the plot
      coming at a good pace, quick but not dizzying, letting you digest each one
      but not leaving you waiting too long for the next. Next, you may be
      impressed by the lively characters Bujold has created, especially Cazaril,
      your guide to the imaginary land of Chalion, a man raised in privilege but
      shaped by tragedy into a wiser, more compassionate, less hopeful man, broken
      in body and tested in spirit, who sometimes makes his old acquaintances
      uncomfortable with his new knowledge and perspective.

      Next, the complex and believable political situation of Chalion and its
      warring neighbors takes hold, leading you to expect a novel of political
      intrigue, spiced with a touch of romance. And it is all these things: a
      political intrigue; a beliveable and tastefully written romance; a novel of
      character; and a page-turner. But the real heart of the novel is theological
      and mythological, and this final ingredient in the rich stew Bujold has
      brewed makes The Curse of Chalion a book I expect to open many times again
      over the years. The novel really takes off when the gods enter the story:

      "[H]ave you really understood how powerless the gods are, when the lowest
      slave may exclude them from his heart? And if from his heart, then from the
      world as well.... If the gods could seize passage from anyone they wished,
      then men would be mere puppets. Only if they borrow or are given will from a
      willing creature do they have a little channel through which to act...
      [S]ometimes a man may open himself to them, and let them pour through him
      into the world."

      The often painful process of making room for the gods in the world is the
      key to the working out of the novel's complex, well-crafted plot and central
      to its moral and spiritual force - which is considerable, in my opinion.
      Although the theological ideas of The Curse of Chalion are presented in
      polytheistic terms, I really think that I'd be a better Christian if I took
      these ideas more seriously. How many of us, of any religious persuasion,
      could put aside our own ambitions long enough to allow God (or the gods) to
      work through us? If we won't do this, do we have any right to cry out to
      God(s) for help in times of trouble? This book gave me a lot to think about
      during Holy Week, and I am grateful to whoever put this on the list of
      nominations for inducing me to read it. This is the first Bujold book I have
      read, and I will certainly keep my eye out for more of her work. I heartily
      recommend it to all on this list.

      Pauline J. Alama, Ph.D.


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