cahn: (Default)
[personal profile] cahn
3/5. I was too unenthused to buy it or even to put it on hold at the library, but interested enough to check it out once it appeared on the New Books shelf at the library. And, I mean, it was fine? I had been thoroughly warned about the Babieeeees theme and the Bujold Thinks She Can Do Romance theme and the This Has No Plot property, so those didn't bother me overmuch.

In fact, the only people who are crazy about babieeees are Cordelia and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Jole, which I think makes a certain amount of sense in both cases. Cordelia makes a lot of sense; in canon she has always desperately wanted loads of kids, and if I'd spent 20+ years in a limbo where I desperately wanted kids but couldn't have them now but there was, like, this chance that I could have them later, I'd be… a little crazy. (In fact, I was a little crazy, and it was only, like, a year or two. 20+ years, even with a much greater lifespan and a bigger chance of success at the end, is not something I want to think about.) I'd seen a spoiler that said disgustedly that there was talk of Mark and Kareen having kids, but as far as I could tell it was mostly Cordelia thinking wistfully and greedily about it; it seems clear to me that Mark and Kareen are not telling her anything (and rightfully so) about their reproductive plans, or lack thereof.

So what no one warned me about (although I had been warned, now that I look back at my flist, that it was deeply boring, which I agree with and which is, I think, related) is how the main characters have… basically… no character, which is kind of a problem when your whole book depends on the reader buying the romance between them. Jole in particular is just incredibly bland. Here are the things I now know about Jole:

1. He has blue eyes. Really bright blue, you guys. No, really blue. As blue as Alexander Hamilton's. So blue that even I, who regularly skip over descriptive words and phrases, noticed it at about the tenth time it was mentioned. Also he is tall. And greying blond. These descriptors are also repeated at fairly regular intervals.

2. He likes boats. Because he takes Cordelia sailing once in the book, and [mild spoiler]. I mean… I think this may have been a little better set up than I'm giving it credit for (I did read this while trying to run herd on two kiddos and house chores), but I got the sense that Bujold wanted to give him A Well-Rounded Interest, and this was it, without really thinking about it more closely.

3. He likes… zoology, or something? I am actually not really quite sure about this one (is it biology in general? zoology in particular? or does he just think looking for new species is cool? which are sort of conflated in the text). So as far as I can tell, the principal pieces of evidence for this are (a) he thinks the sea life on the aforementioned boat trip is kinda neat — even though, I might add, he has never apparently noticed it before (the in-text reason given is that the hull is clear on this boat, but… seriously, he's never looked over the side of a boat and seen the Sergyan equivalent of fish or dolphins, and been interested enough to watch them for a while and see how they behave?? And we're supposed to buy that he is really into animals??) and (b) he tells a professor of biology that he's read his papers. We never actually see him reading said papers, mind you, or applying the concepts to… anything… I don't know, I just wasn't at all convinced by it. I was especially not convinced that it was a large enough interest that it could drive the ending the way it does.

That's it. That's what I know about the guy. He doesn't seem to have friends except one guy at work whom he sort of vaguely talks to about his hypothetical kids (okay, those part were really great! More of that! More, dare I say it, characterization!) — in fact, I feel like this guy, General Haines, who appears in several scenes but is definitely a rather minor character, was more fleshed-out than Jole, I got much more of a sense of what he actually thought about things, how he'd react to something, than I did about Jole. I would happily have read a lot more conversations with him!

And then there's Cordelia. Cordelia herself is kind of low on character, which is weird… I mean… in the last several books she's kind of swooped in as Betan Counselor As To How People Should Run Their Lives Extraordinaire. And, well, she's in that job again, and that's it, amen… I think part of the problem is that Jole is so incredibly bland that all their interactions are kind of… well… bland. Also, she is even lower on people to interact with who aren't Jole. I would looooove to have the scenes where she and Alys talk about Jole, or she and some Sergyar friend… does she have any Sergyar friends? Where are they? I mean, hasn't she been there for a really long time?

There were some parts that were great and rang very true, like the bit where Cordelia says about Jole's talking about his potential news of being a parent at work, "You may find out you've joined a club you never knew existed." (Yeah — this absolutely happened to us; our work social circle, for example, shifted dramatically once we had kids; not just because of that, but it was certainly the catalyst). And every time Ekaterin communicated anything (especially nonverbally) was pure gold. But these moments were relatively rare.

There's also a LOT of exposition about what happened in previous books, most of which didn't really seem all that relevant to me. If you knew what happened, then you didn't need the exposition, and if you didn't, it didn't seem to me like it would really add much, most of the time. (It concurrently suffered from Flashbackitis, which I've seen a couple of times lately in other contexts, except that there wasn't even any plot payoff to it.)

I also really want the fic where Cordelia realizes, after having two or three kids, that she can't, actually, deal with six hyperactive little gits, and what she does with the fertilized eggs she's saving once she realizes that. And/or where Cordelia and Jole decide they're great, er, romantic buddies, but terrible co-parents. Now that, I think, would be a very interesting book!

Date: 2016-04-17 05:42 am (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
The positive aspects I've heard about this book have to do with the sense of aging and consequent changes in personal priorities. I don't know--despite that, your review is kind of the last nail in my inclination not to read it at all. (Plenty else tbr.) Thanks? :)

Date: 2016-04-19 04:15 am (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
Well, specifically, a few readers I know who're aged 55+ seem to have liked it better than all the 55- readers of my acquaintance put together, and it doesn't help that the 55+ ones had comments like, "People probably won't understand it till they're older." I dunno. (I have always been older artificially--not to my advantage!--yet I don't know why having or wanting to have a biological legacy, in particular, should suddenly come into sharp relief when one feels sunset approaching more nearly.) Anyway, characters capable of having hot sex are not really older in the sunset way in which chronic pain precludes some things . . . and all of these things are orthogonal to the patness that most 55- readers of my acquaintance have mentioned.

Suspect as far as data sampling goes, is all. :) ETA I realize that that's particularly unclear--I mean that I wonder a bit to what extent the book's narrative(s) have become a handy object of projection for some readers, partly perhaps because having older characters want and take action upon anything at all is sadly rare.
Edited Date: 2016-04-19 04:16 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-04-21 03:50 am (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
my observation has been that 55+ people of my acquaintance don't so much want a biological legacy as kids as they want to have grandkids which they don't have to full-time raise themselves :)

YES, absolutely. I think it must work differently for Betans given expectations of continued vitality past, say, sixty or seventy--but then the nostalgia and reflection ought to work differently than it does for mainstream US culture(s?), and it doesn't sound as though it does. Arrgh, I dunno.

With a different co-parent and with having begun a bit earlier, I would have liked two, but without both those things together, there's no chance of it. :)

Noted re: lack of thoroughness--that does seem to be a key, alas.
Edited (typo) Date: 2016-04-21 03:50 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-04-17 11:06 am (UTC)
morbane: pohutukawa blossom and leaves (Default)
From: [personal profile] morbane
I got it out of the library, but gave up after two chapters because I was really not interested in the things the book thought I should be interested in. It seems like that was the right decision - for me, anyway! I admit that after seeing some reviews, I picked it up not hoping to enjoy it on its own merits, but to enjoy boggling over it. To its credit, GJRQ was not that kind of entertaining, either.

I had a bit of a problem with Ivan and the love interest in CVA, too - that is, similar to what you describe for Jole and Cordelia here, of low characterisation - one of a few reasons I didn't get very far into that either. Ah well.
Edited (adding to a sentence so it actually has a point to it) Date: 2016-04-17 11:06 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-04-17 01:40 pm (UTC)
wendelah1: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
Without enthusiasm, I put a hold at my library for this book but I'm still waiting for it. The premise wasn't promising but I've at least enjoyed her other books to the point of being able to finish them. Some of them I've loved and reread many times. I loved A Civil Campaign.

It's been a long time since I've read the books specifically about Cordelia so I didn't remember the part about her wanting more children. I assume her not having more kids with Aral was predicated on the impact of another heir to his title? Once Miles is ensconced as Count Vorkosigan, she just...goes for it?

Date: 2016-04-18 05:50 am (UTC)
metaphortunate: (Default)
From: [personal profile] metaphortunate
Yes; the thing about the kids is one of the heartbreaking little bits of plot/character that Bujold used to do with these characters so well. Miles explains at one point to someone from off-planet that because of his birth defects, if the Count had had any other children, the pressure to disinherit Miles would have been unbearable. So...they just didn't have any.

And when you think about Cordelia being wooed to Barrayar specifically with the promise of being able to have her own baseball team's worth of kids...ouch.

Date: 2016-04-18 05:48 am (UTC)
metaphortunate: (Default)
From: [personal profile] metaphortunate
Well....dammit.

Date: 2016-04-19 01:24 am (UTC)
ase: Book icon (Books 3)
From: [personal profile] ase
It's so... so... so bland. Should we have children? Should we have a party? These two questions have roughly the same narrative tension. It doesn't speak to me.

Date: 2016-04-28 02:15 am (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
Have you seen this contextualization? For once, I'd say, read the comments as well.... I think it's notable that it must be called contextualization and not analysis of the most recent book itself, but hey.

Date: 2016-04-28 06:44 pm (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
Yes, the distinction makes sense. And Cordelia has a staff to help with the tedious or overwhelming-at-once parts....

For me, the sense that I'm unlikely to read GJ&RQ has to do with an increasing gap between what the books are interested in and what I'm interested in, since Cryoburn or so. My loss, I imagine.

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