Miles Vorkosigan, one of the Barrayaran Emperor’s right-hand men, has been sent to investigate rumors of bribery and corruption on a world which focuses heavily on the cryogenics industry before those industries get involved on Barrayar. On Kibou-daini, almost everyone gets frozen either before or very immediately after their deaths, which has led to a huge bureaucracy built up around the industries that supply this freezing technology. Miles, a man whose life was saved by cryo technology, isn’t going to fault them for wanting to avoid death, but what he does find is a cold, corrupt industry that fails to look after those who have entrusted their lives to the future.
Like many others have said before me, Cryoburn isn’t really a novel that stands up the same as the other Vorkosigan novels do. While Miles is still the main character, he is no longer growing and changing; he’s the same disarmingly clever and ingenuous man as always, but he’s now completely matured and committed to the world as he knows it. Not many of the series’s other recurring characters appear in this book; Ekaterin features in just one scene and we don’t even get to visit Miles’s children. The only one with Miles is Armsman Roic, although a few familiar faces appear in the latter half of the book. The stakes aren’t quite as high here either; sure, things are messed up on Kibou-daini and for many of the people Miles meets, but he himself is out of danger and off investigating fairly quickly.
For what it was, though, I quite enjoyed it. I liked meeting the side characters and seeing Miles through a different set of eyes yet again, especially those of the children. Jin with his menagerie was a charming character, although I didn’t really understand why he was so adamant about running away from his aunt, especially if she let him keep his animals outside. Even the other Barrayarans on the planet with Miles were entertaining, and I liked what Bujold did with those stories too. It was a book that I enjoyed reading, but it wasn’t a book that would have made me fall in love with the series as I have over the past year and a half.
That said, then the ending happened, and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. I know the next book in the series features Ivan, not Miles, but seriously, after that? I had to take a break from reading to recover for a while. It totally wouldn’t have worked if I hadn’t had the accumulated feelings from the entire series, I think; each of the little snippets was heart-breaking in its own way. Another reminder that this is a series which belongs all together, and it’s not worth reading from it without starting at the beginning.