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by Lois McMaster Bujold
Published by Baen Books, 1988
Amazon.com: paperback, audiobook
Amazon.ca: paperback, audiobook
Highly Recommended by: Greg Slade
The first book of Bujold's I ever read was Falling Free. (I confess that I first picked it up because of the cover art. Yes, I know that you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but hey... Also note that the cover art which I have included on this page is the original, not that which appears on the current edition.) Some fans are not so fond of Falling Free, because it doesn't star Miles Vorkosigan, who figures prominently in most of Bujold's other books, but it's still well worth looking for. Don't just take my word for it: Falling Free won Bujold her first Nebula award.
Set about 200 years before the time of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, Falling Free tells the adventures of Leo Graf, an engineer who is booked to teach zero-gravity welding techniques to a group of prospective deep-space construction workers. Then, a technological advance threatens not just his students' jobs, but their lives as well, and Graf is faced with the decision of whether to do what's best for his career, or what's "right." Since the choices to be made are essentially moral, Bujold's language strays into the theological:
This test was a higher order of magnitude altogether. This Tester, perhaps, scorned the merely humanly possible. Leo tried to remember how long it had been since he'd prayed, or even believed. Never, he decided, like this. He'd never needed like this before.... (p. 131)
I've never heard Bujold make a specific faith commitment, but there is a scattering of allusions and references throughout her works which makes it clear that Christianity is part of the moral background of her characters, at least.
But, of course, you don't win awards by writing pamphlets on morality. Just because Bujold's work has a moral dimension doesn't mean she can't spin a yarn. The fact is that her work can make me laugh, and cry, and get tense, and yell in triumph when the good guys win in the end. It is gems like Bujold who keep me slogging through the usual rubbish on the shelves in hopes of finding more like her.
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