Warning: Contains spoilers for previous books.
In Diplomatic Immunity, Miles and Ekaterin are on the final leg of their interplanetary honeymoon and are anxious to return to Barrayar where their two full-term babies (one boy and one girl) are ready to be released from their uterine replicators. But, as usual, something happens to delay their return. In this case, it’s a diplomatic issue — a Komarran merchant ship with a Barrayaran military escort is being held up at Graf Station in Quaddiespace — and Emperor Gregor asks Miles to go straighten it out on his way home. When Miles gets there, he discovers that a Barrayan officer is missing and possibly murdered. His investigation eventually uncovers a conspiracy which could lead to bioterrorism and war.
Some of our favorite characters are missing from Diplomatic Immunity, but fans will be happy to get reacquainted with the gene-manipulating bubble-dwelling haut ladies of Cetaganda; Bel Thorne, the Betan hermaphrodite who Miles had to ask to resign from the Dendarii Mercenary Fleet at the end of Mirror Dance; and Nicol, the Quaddie musician we met in the short story “Labyrinth.” We learn a lot about the Quaddie culture in this novel.
Roic, the big buff armsman is also a main character here and we see him rapidly and gratefully developing into Miles’ right-hand man, a situation that he would never have foreseen after that embarrassing buttered underwear scene in A Civil Campaign. We also once again see Ekaterin as a cooly level-headed woman — something that Miles appreciates immensely. She is important to the resolution of the story in Diplomatic Immunity but, unfortunately, Bujold doesn’t show us some of those important scenes.
Compared to the earlier VORKOSIGAN books, Diplomatic Immunity, a mystery, is darker and more serious. The plot is slower and it lacks the situational comedy elements we’ve seen in previous books. I should think this is a good change since I complained (just a little) in my review of A Civil Campaign that Miles wasn’t acting his age. On the other hand, the comedy is a part of what makes these novels so entertaining and I missed it in Diplomatic Immunity.
This is a solid but not stunning VORKOSIGAN novel. Grover Gardner continues to excel with his narration of the audiobooks. I highly recommend this series in audio format.