Cover of Komarr.

Komarr reads so much like Gaudy Night to me, it’s ridiculous (although it doesn’t go to the same romantic height). That is to say: I liked it very much.

First, the good: The characters. Oh! How Bujold does characters. Seeing Miles from the outside is always a treat, of course, and so is the careful attention she gives to side characters to make them more than just a gimmick. The best part, of course, is The Woman, Ekaterin. Bujold takes her time here, and it takes the first third of the book to truly drive home how much she is suffering in her marriage, how she has hidden away all parts of herself, most of all from her own view. It was painful to read (it might be less bad if you haven’t been in a relationship like that).

The less good: The plot is … familiar. Stakes turn out to be much higher than expected (as always), and find their climax in a true Cordelia fashion. I was uncomfortably reminded of Barrayar and would have liked for Ekaterin to be less, hm, Cordelia? She really isn’t, unless she’s put under pressure, but it still felt like a knock-off.

Regardless: Bujold at not-her-best is still better than most of sci-fi, so I’m definitely not complaining.


Aim high. You may still miss the target but at least you won’t shoot your foot off.

Failure, failure was grown familiar to me. Comfortable, almost, when I stopped struggling against it. I did not know achievement was so devastating.

Achievement is devastating, or at least disorienting, and they don’t warn you in advance. It’s the sudden change of momentum and direction, I think.

You can learn to enjoy the sensation of winning, you know, once you get over the initial queasiness. It’s an acquired taste.

Forward momentum only worked as a strategy if one had correctly identified which way was forward.