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

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  • Janet Croft
    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
    Message 1 of 6 , Apr 2 6:22 AM
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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
      it.]

      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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    • dianejoy@earthlink.net
      ... From: Pauline J. Alama PJAlama@excite.com Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2002 08:06:37 -0500 (EST) To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Subject: [mythsoc] recommendation:
      Message 2 of 6 , Apr 3 9:10 AM
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        Original Message:
        -----------------
        From: Pauline J. Alama PJAlama@...
        Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2002 08:06:37 -0500 (EST)
        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 it.] >>

        I *loved* Bujold's *Curse of Chalion.* Definitely one of the best books on list, and I enjoyed all the elements you did: the clear-voiced characters, the moral dilemas, the pantheon, the political machinations, but most especially, Cazaril himself.

        What did you think of Powers' *Declare?* One of my faves, with the supernatural elements, the characters, the realistic qualities of spy-genre mixing with Realy Secret events behind the scenes; and Kim Philby was another fillip; pathetic character.

        And I'd like to know who put *Ship of the Damned* on list. Not bad, but seems more like straight action-oriented fiction; of course I only took a short look; it's in paper, and I may well buy it to give it a more detailed look. ---djb





        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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      • alexeik@aol.com
        In a message dated 4/3/2 5:12:59 PM, Diane wrote:
        Message 3 of 6 , Apr 4 9:10 AM
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          In a message dated 4/3/2 5:12:59 PM, Diane wrote:

          <<And I'd like to know who put *Ship of the Damned* on list. Not bad, but
          seems more like straight action-oriented fiction; of course I only took a
          short look; it's in paper, and I may well buy it to give it a more detailed
          look>>

          I was also puzzled by _A Finer End_, which seems like straight detective
          fiction, albeit with some neat old lore woven into the plot.
          Some of the nominees are really parts of longer multi-volume stories and
          shouldn't have been nominated until the story was complete: _The Merlin of
          the Oak Wood_ is the second volume of just such an unfinished series, and
          (much as I like Sean Russell's writing), _The One Kingdom_ is only the
          beginning of a longer work, _The Swans' War_.
          Alexei
        • Stolzi@aol.com
          In a message dated 4/4/02 11:16:25 AM Central Standard Time, alexeik@aol.com ... Well, I read it and felt it was self-contained to a sufficient degree... I
          Message 4 of 6 , Apr 4 11:50 AM
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            In a message dated 4/4/02 11:16:25 AM Central Standard Time, alexeik@...
            writes:

            > Some of the nominees are really parts of longer multi-volume stories and
            > shouldn't have been nominated until the story was complete: _The Merlin of
            > the Oak Wood_ is the second volume of just such an unfinished series

            Well, I read it and felt it was self-contained to a sufficient degree...

            I didn't =like= it very much though.

            Diamond Proudbrook
          • Jane Bigelow
            ... Thank you, and thanks for the recommendation! So far, I m not doing well with the MFA nominees that I hadn t already read; this sounds like a good
            Message 5 of 6 , Apr 4 12:33 PM
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              At 08:06 AM 4/2/02 -0500, you wrote:
              >
              >& 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 it.]


              Thank you, and thanks for the recommendation! So far, I'm not doing well
              with the MFA nominees that I hadn't already read; this sounds like a good
              possibility. I've read a number of Bujold's other books--I think I must
              have skipped this one because I was annoyed with it for not being the next
              Vorkosigan novel. Several of her titles have left me with pieces of
              self-knowledge, not always welcome ones. For me, Bujold is a writer to
              read at least twice: once just to follow the action, and once to see how
              she *did* that.

              I don't understand quite why _A Finer End_ was nominated, either. I
              enjoyed it very much, and have begun reading Crombie's other books, but I
              didn't find it mythopoeic. The musical element and the supernatural *were*
              nicely joined.

              I have tried to read _Perdido Street Station_, and I think I'll just give
              up. It's certainly powerful writing, but my reading time is too limited to
              spend more of it reading something that repels me so thoroughly. These
              characters are lost, all right.

              Jane Bigelow
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