Lois McMaster Bujold's new book (spoilers)

I’ve read her new novel, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, and I’m interested in seeing what others think of it.

I’m not going to sugarcoat my opinion; I was disappointed. This book has the thinnest plot I’ve ever seen in a Bujold novel. I debated over whether a spoiler warning was necessary; the entire plot of this book is outlined in the first chapter. The rest of the book is just the characters carrying out what they said they were going to do. There were none of Bujold’s usual obstacles or sideplots along the way.

There’s one big surprise in this book and I feel it was handled very poorly. This is the eighteenth book in the series and in all those books Oliver Jole was only mentioned in passing one time. But Bujold reveals that he has been a major character throughout the entire series. I’m sorry but my suspension of belief doesn’t stretch that far. If Jole had been the third partner in the marriage between Aral and Cordelia over a period of decades his existence should have been noticeable before now.

I didn’t rate it either. I’ve never been a huge fan of Miles-era Cordelia , so the book was always going to be a hard sell for me, but the execution was poor, imo. We weren’t given any reason to give a toss about Jole.

A disappointing end to the Vorkosisaga. We’ll never get Byerly as Our Man in Jackson’s Whole now, alas.

Are we sure this is going to be the last? Everyone thought Cryoburn was…

This has a very “saying goodbye” feel to it, but we’ll see i suppose.

I started it, but lost interest fairly early on, and care so little about finishing it that I read the posts here in spite of the spoiler warning. Now I guess I definitely won’t finish it.

The next book (if there is one) should be good, because she seems to be alternating now. I liked Diplomatic Immunity, I didn’t like Cryoburn, I liked Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, and I don’t like this one.

I liked it very much, yes is a very different book from the others and I suspect early 2000’s Frodo would have loathed it, heck current Frodo still doesn’t like that kind of books (almost no action, fully ‘relationships and stuff’ plot).
Still for some reason I really liked it.

I agree that it needed a LOT more plot and dramatic tension, but OTOH, it was fun getting to catch up with everyone, and there were a lot of entertaining lines and moments. Also, I got a kick out of seeing the “should I choose my career or a love life and a family” plot getting handed over to a middle-aged man for a change. (Though why anyone in late middle age would WANT nine babies is totally beyond me.) It probably helps that I wasn’t particularly invested in the older generation one way or another, so my reaction to the backstory revelations was more along the lines of, “Huh, who knew, cool.”

I guess I missed tante Cordelia and the rest of the old friends and really loved the chance to spend time with them again and catch up.

Haven’t read the book – but if I might offer a few thoughts, as a liker (but not to idolatry-type lengths) of the Vorkosiverse…

Nitpickery, not refuting the point made above; but Jole perhaps gets mentioned more than just once? One of the pallbearears at the end of Cryoburn, is Admiral Jole, representing Sergyar. And I’m sure I recall from one of the somewhat-earlier novels, Cordelia mentioning to Miles that while she and Aral make a trip home, their deputy Jole (of high rank, but I think not yet an admiral), will be ably looking after Sergyar in their absence. Have been looking through the books this afternoon trying to find the reference, but no luck.

And in The Vor Game, Aral’s aide-de-camp in the Vervain conflict, is a Lieutenant Jole – highly intelligent and competent, and attracts Aral’s attention. Likely enough, the Jole of later in the series? – for a very bright officer, could advancement from lieutenant to admiral over some twenty years, be credible?

Seems that we’ve been hearing for some time, about the author telling of impending exhaustion of the Vorkosiverse as inspiration-fodder for her; but the books seem nonetheless to have kept coming – for the future, who knows?

Many fans seem to take a poor view of Cryoburn. I feel a bit weird for liking it – I enjoyed the change of pace and milieu that it offered, just for being a change.

Earlier posts in this thread had me thinking re GJ&TRQ, “this one sounds like pretty much of a non-event – reckon I’ll skip it”; later posts, have me reconsidering. As well as dramatic action and skulduggery and “the fate of worlds in the balance”, what Frodo refers to as "fully ‘relationships and stuff’ " can, for me, be enjoyable. (And one gets fond of the characters about whom one has learnt progressively more in book after book.) Rather to my surprise, I delighted in A Civil Campaign, aside from the slapstick elements related to butterbugs and their product, which I found embarrassingly over-the-top.

Re “my bolded” above: humans are endlessly various and differing, with assorted highly-unusual outliers – which is probably a good thing. I’m in my late sixties and have never even slightly wanted, or had, progeny: with my gut, I feel exactly as does FP, about a late-middle-aged person wanting umpteen offspring; however, my head tells me about allowable, and indeed praiseworthy, human variousness.

I feel there has been a downward trend to her work.

A Civil Campaign (1999) A great book. One of her best. We’ll use this as a baseline.
The Curse of Chalion (2001) Another great one. Opening up an entire new setting.
Diplomatic Immunity (2002) Good. Certainly not as good as A Civil Campaign or The Curse of Chalion but as I said those were great so it would be difficult to maintain such a high standard.
Paladin of Souls (2003) Good solid follow-up to The Curse of Chalion.
Winterfair Gifts (2004) A very good novella.
The Hallowed Hunt (2005) Okay but the weakest of the Chalion series.
The Sharing Knife series (2006-2009) Not a terrible series but I don’t think there was enough story here to fill four books.
Cryoburn (2010) The first Vorkosigan book I feel didn’t work.
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance (2012) Hey! A return to the glory days! Bujold’s best book since The Curse of Chalion.
A break of three years with no new work. Has Bujold retired? If so, at least she went out on a high note.
Penric’s Demon (2015) A short work, set in the Chalion world, that’s clearly the opening chapters to a novel. Well written but unfinished as a story. But promising as an indication that Bujold is still writing.
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (2016) - As I’ve said, disappointing.

The reference to Jole I was thinking of was the one from Cryoburn where he was a pall bearer. But you may be right; there could have been earlier passing references I forgot.

However, I don’t think this disproves my larger point. I think I would qualify as somebody whose love of Bujold’s work approaches idolatry. I’ve read and re-read her books repeatedly. And there has certainly never been any indication prior to that one line in Cryoburn that Jole was anything other than a minor background character.

I just finished it today. I think it would have made a decent short story or novella, like “Winterfair Gifts”, but felt too drawn-out for a novel, even a short one.

I really liked Cryoburn, too, and don’t quite get the fannish dislike for it. I think it’s an excellent example of one of the things this series does best – exploring the unintended social consequences of a new technology that might seem to be a positive development, but gets a lot stickier once actual human beings get their hands on it. IMO, GJ&RQ pulls a few too many punches by not acknowledging the downside. (An evil part of me kind of wishes the epilogue had shown us Aurelia, not as a cute baby, but as a resentful teenager who is pissed off about the fact that she never got to know her father and that there’s a two-and-a-half-generation gap between her and her mother. I can understand Bujold not wanting to go there, but it would have made for a more interesting story.)

No worries – as I implied, I wasn’t challenging what you were propounding – was just being a nitwitty nitpicking nitpick-practitioner, in serious need of getting a life !

That’s it – I’ve got to acquire and read GJ&RQ !

I thought it needed a lot more tension, too. The picnic was kind of fun, though. I’m hoping that she’ll write at least one more novel, maybe called Sergyar, and pick up the story of Cordelia’s daughters and Jole’s sons and maybe have an invasion or something.

No, actually what I’m hoping is that the author writes another novella set in Miles’ younger days, when he was still Admiral Naismith.

I’d love to read something from the end of the Time of Isolation, but Bujold has said that she’s not a fan of tragedy in her books anymore and so she very much doubts she will write anything set in those blood drenched years.

Personally my problem with Cryoburn came from another direction; I didn’t feel the character of Jin worked. He didn’t seem like a realistic depiction of an eleven year old boy to me. And if you can’t buy the central character, the book as a whole isn’t likely to work for you either.

This surprised me. Bujold’s pretty much always worked with the Third Person Limited viewpoint and she’s very good at it. She’s written books from the POV’s of Miles, Cordelia, Ekaterin, Mark, Kareen, Roic, Ivan, Tej, and Oliver Jole - and they’ve all worked. But somehow Jin Sato didn’t.

I’ll own to finding Jin delightful as a character – though perhaps that points to my having a flawed understanding of these strange “yoo-munz” :slight_smile: . I like to fancy that Bujold’s inspiration for him was the naturalist Gerald Durrell as a child, as recounted by Durrell in his My Family and Other Animals and other books: an amiable kid, but totally obsessed with the animal kingdom, and harbouring an ever-increasing menagerie of assorted examples of same – with this, often exasperating his elders.

I didn’t think it was her best work, either–it was charming, but somewhat slight; as has been said, no major worlds-shaking events. (I kept expecting someone to try and steal the old Prince Serg at some point.)

Well…Cordelia was only a viewpoint character in Shards of Honor and Barrayar, which were both pre-Jole. After that, Miles takes over as primary POV character for most of the rest of the series. And I don’t think it’s too incredible that he would have No Idea. Everyone was clearly being discreet; at that stage in Miles’ life–IIRC Jole is first mentioned in The Vor Game–as much as he loves and respects his father, Miles very much has his own life (lives) to live, and wouldn’t have been spending much time hanging around Vorkosigan House to pick up any odd vibes or accidentally stumble across anything; and Miles had undoubtedly gotten very good at tuning out any weird stories about his parents as being yet more slanders from the Vorkosigan family’s numerous political enemies, so even if he had heard some rumor, he would have just dismissed it.