I’m a big fan of the Vorkosigan series, so when I spotted Cryoburn at Audible I shouted in joy and downloaded it. It was absolutely wonderful that it was available to us non-USAians so quickly! (I’m still waiting for Tongues of Serpents…)

First things first: pretty much all of the elements I most enjoy in this series are present: writing style, humor, and characters. The plot is a bit too convenient in parts, though.

The setting is a planet called Kibou-Daini where the most notable industry is cryotechnology. The wealthiest people freeze themselves when they’re near death or if they have life-threatening diseases.

The book starts with Miles in trouble, as usual (yay!). He’s been drugged and kidnapped (by the way, shouldn’t this be adultnapped?) but the kidnappers used the wrong drug. It made Miles violent and he managed to fight off the kidnappers. Then he promptly got lost in the vast and cold Cryocombs. Tired, hungry, bare-footed, and hallucinating, he manages to find a way out and a street kid Jin kindly agrees to help him. Meanwhile his loyal Armsman Roic has been kidnapped and is trying to escape.

When I realized that Roic is one of the three point-of-view characters, I shouted in joy again (unfortunately, for my neighbors). The long-suffering Armsman is a great character, a sort of Watson to Miles’ hyperactive Holmes. Roic is also the one who reminds Miles to eat, sleep, and keep tabs on his seizures, so he’s almost a nanny. 😉

While we get glimpses of familiar figures, such as Ekaterin, most of the characters here are new. Doctor Raven Durona has apparently been in one of the earlier books but I didn’t remember him. I liked him a lot here; he’s calm and professional and follows Miles’ antics with an ironic view. The rest are new.

The third point-of-view character, in addition to Roic and Miles, is a local street kid Jin Sato who is almost twelve. He has a lots of animals that he takes care of, including rats, chickens, a hawk, and a three-legged cat. He’s passionately interested in all animals and ran away from his foster home in order to keep his creatures. He also has a younger sister Mina.

The long-suffering Consul Vorlynkin led the Barrayaran consulate before Miles showed up and outranked him. Vorlynkin has only been on the planet for two years but knows quite a lot about the local customs. His aide is Lieutenant Johannes (Finnish name, yay!) who is mostly bewildered.

On the surface, the book is a funny adventure tale but underneath Bujold tackles questions about life and death. The people of Kibou-Daini fear death so much that some of them elect to be frozen while young, or youngish, in the hope of getting a better future. Some of the older frozen people have been revived only to realize that they are no longer wanted in the current time. Some also die during the freezing procedure and can die during the revival. This is a grim view which urges people to live now instead of hoping for something better at some other time.

The biggest difference to some of the previous books, such as Mirror Dance and A Civil Campaign, is that Miles has no personal stakes here. He or his family are not in real danger. Of course, that is to be expected; he’s there doing a job and not trying to find himself or woo a wife. He has a family and wants to keep them out of harm’s way.

Unfortunately, I found some plot elements to be very, very convenient, including Jin’s place in the larger plot. I also wasn’t convinced that Miles had any legal right to investigate matters in another government. However, it seemed to me that Miles realized this, too.

Overall I’m still happy with the story and it’s been a long time since a book has made me cry.