Komarr, written by Lois McMaster Bujold and published by Baen Books in 1998, is the twelfth published novel in the Vorkosigan Saga. It was published first in hardcover, and then in paperback April 1999. Chronologically it follows Memory and precedes A Civil Campaign. It has been collected in the omnibus Miles in Love. In 2007, Blackstone Audio produced an audio version read by Grover Gardner.
Komarr was nominated for a Locus Award and won the Minnesota Book Award in the category of Fantasy and Science Fiction, both in 1999.
Komarr won the Premio Italia (Italian Hugo) in 2002 for best foreign novel of the year.
Komarr could be a garden - with a thousand more years work - or an uninhabitable wasteland, if the terraforming fails. Now the solar mirror vital to the terraforming of the conquered planet has been shattered by a ship hurtling off course. The Emperor of Barrayar sends his newest Imperial Auditor, Lord Miles Vorkosigan, to find out why.
The choice is not a popular one on Komarr, where a betrayal a generation before drenched the name of Vorkosigan in blood. In the political and physical claustrophobia of the domed cities, are the Komarrans surrounding Miles loyal subjects, potential hostages, innocent victims, or rebels bidding for revenge?
Lies within lies, treachery within treachery – Miles is caught in a race against time to stop a plot that could exile him from Barrayar forever. His burning hope lies in an unexpected ally, one with wounds as deep and honor as beleaguered as his own.
At the start of the tale, Komarr's soletta, which powered the planet's huge terraforming project, had recently been severely damaged in a collision with an asteroid-mining ship. Miles Vorkosigan and Georg Vorthys – Barrayar's top authority on failure analysis – were assigned to perform an Auditorial Investigation of the event.
- "With his Komarran marriage coming up, Gregor is vitally interested in any possible political repercussions from this accident. Now would be a very awkward time for a serious downturn in Barrayar-Komarr relations. But whether accident or sabotage, the damage to the mirror impinges quite directly on the Terraforming Project."
- ―Why Miles Vorkosigan is here[src]
The two of them chose to stay in the home of Professor Vorthys's niece, Ekaterin Vorsoisson, who was married to a mid-level bureaucrat, Etienne – called Tien – who worked for the terraforming project. The investigation began straightforwardly enough, but as details came in about the collision, the particulars of the events leading up to it steadily became stranger and stranger. On the side, Miles performed an extra mini-investigation of his hosts, learning in the process that Ekaterin and Tien's nine year old son, Nikki, had a serious genetic disease that had gone untreated; it appeared that one of the two of them had it as well, but Miles couldn't tell which.
- "In the Time of Isolation, if such a one as Vorkosigan had been born to me, it would have been my maternal duty to the genome to cut his infant throat. Nikki, happily, would have escaped my cleansing. For a while. The Time of Isolation is over forever. Thank God."
- ―Ekaterin's thoughts on the Time of Isolation[src]
The official investigation became much more interesting when an extra body turned up and turned out to be a man – Dr. Radovas – from Tien's workplace, who'd disappeared a short time ago along with a female coworker. The next big break, very soon after, came when Ekaterin overheard Tien in a conversation with his Department Head, Administrator Soudha; it seemed Tien had been accepting bribes from Soudha. Her own investigation of this information turned up evidence of several of these bribes along with a large investment in Komarran Trade Fleet Shares that had turned out to be a large loss for him – he was now deeply in debt. She decided to divorce him; when she told him of her plans, he panicked and fled to Miles Vorkosigan in hopes of escaping his troubles. His idea was to try to turn State's Evidence against his coworkers (in Barrayaran terminology, he hoped to be declared an Imperial Witness); this led to him and Miles traveling alone to a remote, isolated building, followed shortly by them being stunned and tied up by those same coworkers who were at this time in the process of closing up shop so they could flee the planet.
Ekaterin – having been contacted by one of the coworkers – arrived to rescue Miles; Tien had already died in captivity. Miles and Ekaterin compared notes about what they'd learned, and Miles set up a thorough investigation of the group. He and his ImpSec assistants rapidly turned up evidence of a novel engineering device that generated Necklin fields; in order to function, these required the near-presence of a wormhole. Professor Vorthys responded by putting together a team of boffins from the University of Komarr to figure out what this device was supposed to be; they determined that it was probably an attempt at a "wormhole collapser" – if so, however, it did not work as intended. Rather, it functioned more as a super gravitic lance, causing a wormhole to take aim at the device itself and destroy whatever was in its vicinity. Miles soon realized that the most likely way that the conspirators would attempt to use the device (assuming that they believed it to be a wormhole collapser) was from the civilian transfer station pointed at the wormhole going to Barrayar. This station was the very one that Ekaterin had just traveled to in order to meet up with Professora Vorthys, who was to arrive from Vorbarr Sultana.
- "In the Time of Isolation, I would have been dead at forty. In the Time of Isolation, it would have been my job to cut my mutant infants' throats, while my female relatives watched. I guarantee at least half the population of Barrayar does not agree with the Old Vor lords, including most of the Old Vor ladies. And you would condemn us all to go back to that, and you dare to call it bloodless!"
- ―Ekaterin really doesn't want to return to the Time of Isolation[src]
Miles set off to meet up with her and to head off the potential emergency. In the meantime, however, Ekaterin and the Professora ended up kidnapped by the conspirators, who in fact were planning exactly what Miles feared they might be doing. Ekaterin tricked them into letting her move about somewhat freely and managed to destroy the device.
- "Laughter bubbled out of her throat, bravura berserker joy. She wanted to destroy a hundred devices. She turned on the float cradle's power again and bounced the smashed remains on the deck a few more times, just because she could. The Maiden of the Lake fires back!"
- ―Ekaterin destroys the wormhole collapser[src]
The conspirators locked her and the Professora in an airlock; when Miles arrived, he managed to talk them into surrendering rather than killing their prisoners.
Behind the scenes
- One source of information on modern theories of terraforming that was used in the creation of this tale was Terraforming: Engineering Planetary Environments by Martyn J. Fogg (1995). (Author's Afterword for Miles in Love)
- The scene described in the book in which a troop of Imperial Junior Scouts were dumped into a river after marching in step across a bridge comes from an incident witnessed by the author when approximately age five.
- The lava lamp that Miles purchased for Gregor has a real-life counterpart that sat on the author's son's computer desk.