Cryoburn, written by Lois McMaster Bujold and published by Baen Books in hardcover October 2010, is the fifteenth published novel in the Vorkosigan Saga. Chronologically, it follows Captain Vorpatril's Alliance.
Cryoburn was nominated for a Hugo Award and a Locus Award in 2011. It also made the Blackstone Audio Best of 2010 list (there were 42 in all named; the list was taken from their entire collection, not limited to Science Fiction).
Only five days after arriving on Kibou-daini for a cryonics conference, interplanetary diplomat Miles Vorkosigan narrowly escapes kidnapping. Drugged, dazed, and alone, he is taken in by Jin Sato, whose mother Lisa was the leader of a cryonics reform movement until being declared mentally ill and involuntarily frozen. Now Jin lives in a building full of squatters running an illegal cryonics clinic. Under imperial orders to investigate the shady dealings of the cryo cartels, Miles connects the far-flung pieces and exposes a sneaky plot. Bujold introduces appealing characters to join familiar ones in exploring the ramifications of a planet-wide culture of postponing death, and her deft and absorbing writing easily corrals the complex plot and softens the blow of a tear-jerking conclusion.
- "Like a great tree the old general had been, but a tree did not only give shelter from the storm. How would Barrayar be different if that towering figure had not fallen, permitting sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor and new growth to flourish? What if the only way to effect change on Barrayar had been to violently destroy what had gone before, instead of waiting for the cycle of generations to gracefully remove it?"
- ―Miles reflects on the role of death in society[src]
On the planet Kibou-daini, the dead voted. Or rather, cryopreserve companies (the cryocorps) had their proxies; as soon as there came to be only a few such companies, they controlled all the elections. And for some reason, one cryocorp, WhiteChrys, had suddenly taken a great deal of interest in opening a franchise on Komarr. This activity got one elderly Komarran woman sufficiently suspicious that she had a word with her niece, Empress Laisa of Barrayar, and it was decided that an Imperial Auditor should investigate.
Thus, Miles Vorkosigan and his faithful armsman Roic arrived on Kibou-daini to attend a cryo-techniques conference (along with Raven Durona, for the technical aspects). Five days later, just after a WhiteChrys representative tried to bribe Miles to help the franchise along, Miles, Roic, Raven, and the various other galactic delegates were kidnapped by a fringe group. Miles escaped, but spent the rest of the day hallucinating from the sedative they'd dosed him with. After a long time wandering under the city in its cryocombs, he emerged in a run-down part of Northbridge.
Exhausted, sick, and dehydrated, he was rescued/collected by Jin Sato, a runaway boy who kept a menagerie of pets on the roof of a cryopreserve facility populated by poor elderly people who couldn't afford the corps's prices. Miles slept off the drugs, explored the facilities some, and decided to stay there for a bit to learn more about it. Jin, he learned, was semi-orphaned: his father was dead and his mother was cryo-preserved; the cryo-preservation of his mother was for supposed "mental illness" and looked highly suspicious.
Miles sent Jin to the Barrayaran consulate to let them know he'd escaped and to get money from them. Jin made it there safely, but on the return trip he was caught by the police and returned to his aunt and uncle's home where his younger sister was living. When Jin failed to return, Miles set off for the consulate looking for him. Meanwhile, Roic and Raven Durona rescued themselves and the rest of the delegates on their own. Miles arrived at the consulate first; Roic and Raven showed up soon afterwards.
Miles began by investigating the circumstances surrounding the cryo-preservation of Lisa Sato, Jin's mother. She'd been the leader of a public action group campaigning to provide equal access to cryo-preservation for the planets' poor, and was one of several leaders in her group who'd abruptly died or been preserved a bit more than a year before. He also restarted negotiations with WhiteChrys to work the bribe angle as best he could; they were more than willing to resume these. As a result, Miles was able to deduce that WhiteChrys was planning an economic conquest of Komarr through the purchasing of voting shares. A simple plan of letting them try and ensuring that they never got the ability to use the shares for votes was worked out, and his mission was thereby completed.
- "Y’know,” said Roic, as Pym would not have, because Pym would have had an exact bland to cover it, “if you’d quit while you were winning, right after Wing, we’d be on our way home right now."
- ―Roic's opinion of Miles's knight errantry[src]
However, in the meantime, Jin decided to run away from home a second time to go back to the facility and his pets; this time, his younger sister Mina insisted on coming along with him. They ended up wandering lost in the city; when he worked out where he was, he found he was closer to the Barrayaran consulate than to anywhere else he knew, so he went there. Jin and Mina's troubles had nothing to do with WhiteChrys – it was NewEgypt that had orphaned them; nevertheless, Miles decided to investigate. Having decided to revive Lisa as the quickest path to an answer to his questions, he set out to collect her cryochamber. It turned out that she wasn't inside the officially-identified one; someone had performed a substitution. Further questioning of Jin and Mina turned up the name of a person who hadn't died or been preserved – Dr. Seiichiro Leiber, a biochemist working for NewEgypt. A visit to him resulted in him panicking and trying to flee the planet; it also resulted in the discovery of Lisa Sato's cryochamber. About this point, Raven Durona made a call to his family on Escobar, only a few days' journey away.
In short order: Raven Durona revived her at the facility Jin had been living at; Dr. Leiber was rescued from NewEgypt's thugs who were trying to prevent him from fleeing, and was brought to the same facility; the NewEgypt thugs escaped captivity; Mark Vorkosigan and Kareen Koudelka arrived to investigate Raven's suggestions for a business opportunity in life extension procedures; and the NewEgypt leadership came chasing after. A short battle followed; the NewEgypt people were arrested and Lisa and her family were successfully taken to the Barrayaran consulate for their protection.
On the way home from Kibou-daini, Miles and Mark learned that their father, Aral Vorkosigan had died.
- "The messenger moistened his lips, and said, 'Count Vorkosigan, sir?'"
- ―The news[src]
- Susan Suzuki
- Lisa Sato
- Mina Sato
- Mark Vorkosigan
- Kareen Koudelka
- Lieutenant Trev Johannes
- Dr. Seiichiro Leiber
Behind the scenes
Some books that influenced the writing of Cryoburn are:
- The Smartest Guys in the Room (2004, McLean and Ekind)
- Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841, Charles Mackay)
- My Family and Other Animals (1957, Gerald Durrell)
- How We Die (1994, Nuland)
- Citizen of the Galaxy (1957, Heinlein)
- Love's Labour's Lost, by William Shakespeare
- Many Japanese anime tales
- "a climactic scene in an old Alec Guinness movie titled The Horse's Mouth"
Events that influenced the writing include:
- The death of the author's father in 1986.
- The author's experience of working almost a decade in Ohio State University hospital.
- Possible other influence: the 2008 US subprime mortgage crisis has strong similarities to the "commodified" contracts used by Kibou-daini's cryocorps.
There is a quote from the Epic of Gilgamesh in chapter 19:
- I will break the door of hell and smash the bolts; I will summon the dead to take food with the living, and the living shall be outnumbered by the host of them.
An interesting "advertisement" for Cryoburn can be found here.