Good science fiction comes in many different forms and genres. You have hard science fiction (bouyed by speculation and imagination, but grounded in hard-core science), fantesy, cyberpunk and more…and you have Space Opera. Space opera is not concerned overly with building its worlds or concepts on scientific fact (or if it does, it clothes itself rather loosely in the robes of scientific fact) but with ideas, characters, and grand situations. For example, Star Wars is the classic space opera movie.
Diplomatic Immunity by Lois Bujold is space opera at its best, but in good conscience I cannot recommend you read it…without reading at least some of the prior books in the series. They are all damn fine reads.
Diplomatic Immunity is the latest in the Miles Vorkosigan saga. The plotline drags newly married, honeymooning Bayarran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan (“The Emperor’s Voice”), now retired from active service due to (repeated) injury, headlong into yet another fray, negotiating a diplomatic dispute at an isolated space station that rapidly escalates into attempted assassination, consipiracy and murder.
Filled with Bujold’s usual combination of intricate plot, action, humor social commentary, Diplomatic Immunity is, like the other books in the series, hugely, entirely character-driven. The science in this science fiction is just the window-dressing for a terrific character. Miles Vorkosigan is one of the best characters that any author could hope to create – namely one that springs fullblown out of the page right at you. Miles, crippled at birth by an “invitro” assassination attempt, is physically constrained by both brittle bones and a dwarvish stature, but compensates by being brilliant, energetic (almost maniacal at points), duty-driven and almost psychotically determined. As one character aptly describes: “He’s not short. He’s…concentrated.” For sheer personality, Miles is fabulous. Throw in a well-plotted set of devious foes (both foreign and domestic) into the universe, stir well…and you have one great space opera.
The next time your quest for good reading takes you into the giant mega-book superstore, walk right by the row upon row of Star Trek and Star Wars junk that pollutes the store shelves and dive into some good space opera for a change with Lois Bujold. I’m not saying this to slight the Star Wars and Star Trek books, but let’s face it: they churn out new one’s each month like Harlequin romances and few, if any are particularly good (J. Ford’s The Final Reflection is excepted, along with one or two other authors). Don’t read Diplomatic Immunity first. Grab a couple of her earlier works (some of the Miles Vorkosigan stories are now available in collections) to get yourself well and hooked on the character. Now go forth and read…
For more on Miles and Lois Bujold, visit the author’s site (and home of the The Dendarii Free Mercenaries) here.
Here’s another old space opera hero- Flash Gordon himself! Interested in old pulp fiction, Astounding stories etc? Check out this site and this one. To keep up with the sci-fi news, visit Sci-Fi Weekly. You can also get Analog online.
Interested in getting into space? You can do it…and make money to boot. Check out the X-Prize today.