“No rules at all?”Genetic Engineering. Gender Roles. Haut. Mystery. Cetaganda, the sixth book in the Vorkosigan Series by Lois McMaster Bujold, is essentially a science fiction mystery. Despite not winning any major awards, the book was remarkable.
“Well, one rule, maybe. Deliver success or pay with your ass.”
Briefly, Miles and his cousin Ivan are sent as representative of Barrayar to attend the State Funeral of the Dowager Empress of Cetaganda. Before they even dock their shuttle, they are attacked and acquire a mysterious wand. The attacker is later found dead. The wand could possibly be the Great Key of Cetaganda. Who murdered the attacker? Who stole the Great Key and why did they give it to Miles and Ivan? Is someone on Cetaganda trying to create an incident with Barrayar? Who is trying to harm Miles and Ivan?
My reaction to the world of Cetaganda is one of both fascination and horror. The Haut, upper class, women of Cetaganda travel everywhere totally encased in bubbles, which are opaque and soundproof to those outside of them. Many times the women are on floating chairs inside their bubbles, making them even more beautiful. Despite being written in 1996, the bubbles seem to allude to the burquas worn by Islamic women. In addition, Cetaganda is permeated with the results of its genetic engineering. At one point one of the characters says that they use living tissue as an artistic medium. Ivan has an unfortunate encounter with a kitten tree, a tree used to gestate cat embryos. The Ba, the servants of the Haut Lords and Ladies, are living trials of genetic changes that may be incorporated into later Haut generations.
Those who are fans of Miles will see him less hyperactive and more intense in his role as an operative, albeit rule breaking one. We also see more of his friendship/rivalry with his cousin Ivan. This is an enjoyable book and a nice change of pace from some of the previous ones.