He has his hands full

Diplomatic Immunity - Lois McMaster Bujold

Yeah, that was a really good book. Miles Vorkosigan, my favorite hero in all speculative fiction, is on the prowl again in this book, #13 in his own series. On the way home from his honeymoon, he is rerouted to the Graf space station by a message from his Emperor. There are problems on the station: an officer of the Imperial fleet has disappeared, another one has been arrested by the station authorities, the trade fleet belonging (partially) to the Empress has been impounded by the station police, and the entire mess is dumped on Miles’s head to sort out and protect Barrayaran interests.

Unlike many other stories in the series, this one is a clear murder mystery, with sci-fi undertones, set on a space station. As Miles’ clues pile up, and the situation deteriorates rapidly, he has to deal with a crazed murderer, unknown biohazards, a lovesick officer, the irate station officials, and a thousand stolen fetuses in their uterine replicators. Plus a racial tension.

The Graf station is a part of the Quaddiepace, occupied and administered by a bioengineered race of Quaddies – the beings created centuries ago as a slave labor in zero gravity, although they had gained their freedom and independence long ago. Quaddies have two pairs of arms and hands but no legs, and they thrive without gravity, but for the interstellar trade purposes, specifically for the legged humans, a part of their station has gravity. Most Barrayaran soldiers regard the Quaddies as mutants and act accordingly, just like provincial rednecks they are. The Quaddie leaders are not amused and retaliate by arresting a bunch of Barrayaran troublemaker.

Miles has to smooth the ruffled feathers and the sensitive Quaddie CEOs all around the station in addition to looking for the murderer, delving into the mysteries of stolen fetuses and the vanished officer, and preventing an interstellar war. He has his hands full, even though, unlike Quaddies, he only has one pair.

The tension is thrumming from the beginning to the end, the danger is mounting, and the story is galloping so fast, I couldn’t catch my breath. Neither could Miles. I was also glad to renew my acquaintance with some of the characters I loved in the previous novels of the series, as well as meeting the new ones. As always, Bujold is superb in her characterization. Despite having four hands, her Quaddies stand alive from the pages, and so do all the other characters, even the crazy, ruthless murderer.

And of course, Miles shines – a true hero and a real genius. I fell in love with him all over again. It was a joy and a privilege to read this book.