Falling Free: An early stand-alone VORKOSIGAN book

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsFalling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold science fiction book reviewsFalling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold

Falling Free is an early stand-alone story in Lois McMaster Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN SAGA. It takes place before the events we read about in the other books and tells the story of the Quaddies, those genetically engineered “mutants” who have four arms and no legs and who, therefore, make good workers for zero-gravity situations. They were created in secret by a corporation who is using them as free labor.

The story starts when Leo Graf, an engineer, is hired to train students on a distant planet. Leo doesn’t know, and isn’t told, that his new students are Quaddies, so he’s quite surprised and repulsed when he first meets them. Despite their strange anatomy, though, the Quaddies are just as smart as other humans and their four arms makes them better at some mechanical tasks. Soon it becomes apparent that the Quaddies are really just children and teenagers who want to be as normal as they can and don’t even realize that other humans would find them hideous. The corporation gives them no privacy and tries to keep them ignorant of other cultures, but the Quaddies have found ways to smuggle in trashy romance novels and videos. Leo struggles with the ethics of what the corporation is doing, but he initially decides not to rock the boat…. until a new technological advancement makes the Quaddies suddenly obsolete. Now Leo has to decide whether or not to help the Quaddies escape the fate that their owners have decided for them. If he does, he’ll ruin his illustrious career.

All of Lois McMaster Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN stories are fast paced, fun, and amusing, and Falling Free is no exception. On the surface it’s an entertaining adventure that’s often funny, such as when a Quaddie couple is trying to escape with their baby and worried about the trail of dirty diapers they’re leaving behind like breadcrumbs. It’s hard not to adore the Quaddies — they’re clever and sweet — and it’s easy to be outraged at their circumstances. The stakes are certainly high.

Falling Free is a story about revolution, and who doesn’t love a good revolution story? It’s also about the seduction of power, the difference between free time and freedom, what makes us human, how doing nothing can be morally wrong, and how just one person really can change the world.

Falling Free is not as wonderful as the other VORKOSIGAN books. The characters aren’t nearly as well developed. Leo, the hero, has little personality and the villains are obvious and one-faceted. Bujold fans know that characterization is what the author does best and that is missing here. Also, the humor isn’t quite as clever, which is disappointing because I love Bujold’s sense of humor. But Falling Free is still a fun story that’s worth your time, especially if you’re interested in the history of the Quaddies.

Falling Free won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1989. I listened to Bernard Setaro narrate the excellent audio version produced by Blackstone Audio. It’s 8.75 hours long.

The Vorkosigan Saga — (1986- ) Omnibus and audio versions are available. The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of science fiction novels and short stories set in a common fictional universe. Works in the series have received numerous awards and nominations, including five Hugo award wins including one for Best Series. The point of view characters include women (Cordelia in Shards of Honor and Barrayar; Ekaterin in Komarr, A Civil Campaign, and The Flowers of Vashnoi), a gay man (Ethan of Athos), a pair of brothers, one of whom is physically handicapped and the other a clone (Miles and Mark Vorkosigan), and their cousin (Ivan Vorpatril), together with some minor characters (e.g., Miles’ bodyguard Roic and the runaway lad Jin). The various forms of society and government Bujold presents often reflect contemporary politics. In many novels, there is a contrast between the technology-rich egalitarian Beta Colony (or more generally, galactic society) and the heroic, militaristic, hierarchical society of Barrayar, where personal relationships must ensure societal continuity. Miles Vorkosigan, the protagonist of most of the series, is the son of a Betan mother and a Barrayaran aristocrat. Below we present the author’s preferred reading order which is in order of plot chronology, not publication.

Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan Falling Free, The Borders of Infinity, Brothers in ArmsShards of HonorBarrayar by Lois McMaster BujoldThe Warrior's Apprentice 30th Anniversary Edition (Vorkosigan Saga) Paperback – Deluxe Edition, May 3, 2016 by Lois McMaster Bujold (Author)The Vor Game (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster BujoldScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil CampaignLois McMaster Bujold Vorkosigan Saga 1. Shards of Honor 2. Barrayar 3. The Warrior's Apprentice 4. Ethan of AthosBorders of Infinity (Vorkosigan Saga) Paperback – January 3, 2017 by Lois McMaster Bujold (Author)Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan Falling Free, The Borders of Infinity, Brothers in ArmsScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil Campaignfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil CampaignScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil CampaignScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil Campaignfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil Campaign, CryoburnThe Flowers of Vashnoi: Vorkosigan Saga Kindle Edition by Lois McMaster Bujold  (Author)

CLICK HERE FOR MORE VORKOSIGAN STORIES.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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3 comments

  1. Actually, you had me with the trashy romance novels and videos. It sounds a bit like something she might have dashed off between longer works, but still sounds worthwhile. Thanks, Kat.

  2. Celene W. /

    3

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