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Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold 
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Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 10:57 am
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Post Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
Note: You won't find the plot of this novel in my review.

Falling Free is a prequel to Bujold's hugely successful and generally excellent VorKosigan Saga, set in the Saga's distant past.

This book is both excellent and possibly somewhat predictable. On the central issue, who owns the products of genetic engineering, there can be no real doubt. Not when the "product" is living, breathing and, most of all, conscious. So there is no real moral ambiguity here. The tone of the story doesn't "predict" tragedy. So the reader is not going to expect one.

However, there is adventure and struggle. There are human relations problems and engineering problems. There are human characters and characters whose ancestors were, mostly, human and their relationships are fascinating. Bujold's writing is rather understated. She deals with major issues with a minimum of high-minded rhetoric. She is a master story-teller.

The major viewpoint character is also a bit of cliche. adding to the golden-age feel of the book. He's a dorky male engineer confronted with problems that need something other than the use of a calculator and a few tools. He is also hopelessly unaware of a love affair that he is about to have. However, this cliche character hasn't been around much in recent SF and has probably not been so well-realized since Heinlein's short story "Delilah and the Space Rigger." It was about time to trot this character out again and let it breathe. Actually, the dorky SF engineer-type is a subset of a archetype: the guy who is just doing his job or seeking his fortune, only to be caught up in a higher cause. Some, like Han Solo resist getting involved. Others are quick to take up the cause.

There are several other sympathetic human characters and some more ambiguous ones. They are well-drawn. There are a few minor characters who are portrayed as doing the wrong thing under circumstances that they probably didn't expect. Mostly they are onstage only briefly. There are two really villainous human characters. They are portrayed quite well, especially the project manager who is onstage for a long time.

The Quaddies, the genetically-engineered people about whom the conflict in the novel centers, are portrayed as somewhat naive but very adaptable and quick on the uptake. However, they vary from individual to individual and we get to know several of them in the course of the story.

It is true that the information in this book is not critical to an enjoyment of the Vorkosigan saga. However, I think that this book is better than most of the books that make up the saga. I think that makes up for Miles not being in it.

Sun Nov 07, 2010 4:32 pm
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Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:22 am
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Post Re: Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
Falling Free isn't just good and entertaining. IMHO it's an utterly brilliant near- to middle-term SF book that deals with several critical issues that the development of new science and technology are bringing our way. It's on my (conceptual) list of "must read SF" for those new to the field. I consider it one of the two or three best things she's ever written, and she's one of my favorite SF authors.

Falling Free received the 1988 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and was nominated for a Hugo in 1989, so I'm apparently not alone in my opinion about it. ;)

Catherine Jefferson <>
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Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:45 pm
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