Details: (c)1996 Lois McMaster Bujold; Pub Baen Books 2001; ISBN 0-671-87744-5
Verdict: Cetaganda is great fun!
Reasons for reading it: I've been tearing through the Miles books, partly because they're tremendous fun to read, and partly cos my lovely Beau has been lending me the whole series in order so that I don't have to get frustrated.
How it came into my hands: The Beau brought a nice little pile of books when we met up in Norway last month.
Cetaganda feels closer to fluffy space opera than some of the others in the series. It's fun, but not as twisty and complicated or profound as some of the strongest. I never seriously believed Miles was in danger, and the ending is paced strangely, with a bit too much winding down after the major climax. But less wonderful than some of the others is still a very high standard, and it's a highly enjoyable read.
As well as a rollicking story, Cetaganda has some lovely world building. Seeing Cetagandan high society through the eyes of Miles as an unusually observant young diplomat works very well. I get the impression with Bujold that she is constantly fighting an inclination to write detective stories In Space, and she seems to have succumbed a bit with this one. But the slightly silly detective story worked as a very good vehicle for presenting the background, and for Miles being his irresistable self. I think perhaps what it's missing is the double identity bit you get with the Dendarii books; Miles saving a dire situation is less twisty when he isn't also pretending to be a completely imaginary admiral! I really liked his failure to be sufficiently intimidated by emperors, though, and the way he gets over an inappropriate crush.
The thing where Cetaganda appears to be a patriarchal, militaristic society but is actually run behind the scenes by women pulling strings from behind an extreme version of purdah is not quite at Bujold's usual level of subtlety, and occasionally dips into something approaching feminist propaganda. And she's really not very good at describing inhumanly beautiful women, but that's a minor problem.
Facebook tells me that my old friend L from Dundee had a baby daughter on Tuesday evening. Yay!