rymenhild: Korra and Asami, cuddling in a turtle-duck boat (korrasami)
[personal profile] rymenhild
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen - Lois McMaster Bujold: 3/5 stars (enjoyable but slight)

I read Bujold's latest (and last?) Vorkosigan novel last night and this morning, while nursing a sore throat. The reading experience was peaceful and pleasant, like a warm cup of chamomile tea with honey. It distracted me from my throat without raising any anxiety or tension. If I hadn't been sick, I would have been bored.

Gentleman Jole is a very quiet book, where all the action takes place inside the protagonists' heads. I appreciate that the protagonists, Cordelia (the Red Queen) and Jole (the Gentleman) are recovering from grief, and trying to figure out what their new lives could look like. I also appreciate that they're finding their futures. I really like the idea of a book in a space opera series that isn't a space opera. I am pleased by Sergyar, whose complex ecologies set up plenty of callbacks to Shards of Honor.

As a married lesbian who is having trouble figuring out how to start producing children, I was hit surprisingly hard by the gamete donation sections at the beginning of the book. There was real narrative power there.

Unfortunately, Oliver Jole, as a character, is ... flat. Who is he? How did he become himself? I read a whole book about him, and I still don't know.

As with the last several Bujold Vorkosigan works, I can see the book that Bujold wasn't brave enough to write hovering behind the book that Bujold did write. "Winterfair Gifts" should have been about Ekaterin's fear and positive choice to marry Miles, not about Roic and Taura's romance. Diplomatic Immunity sidelines Ekaterin, who should have been holding the stage for at leats half the book. Cryoburn was one powerful page about Aral Vorkosigan's death attached to a forgettable plot (which I have indeed forgotten). Others (like [personal profile] mme_hardy, here, and [personal profile] legionseagle, here) have written much better than I can about the problems with Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. (Can anyone find the post that pointed out that Tej's family are Jacksonian and Cetagandan war criminals benefiting from Barrayaran nepotism and corruption in the linked Vorpatril, Vorbarra and Vorkosigan families?)

The missing book here is a story about Oliver and Aral and Cordelia in the early, or even late, days of their lives together. The missing moments here are between Oliver and Aral. What brought them together? What did Jole think about it? What did Aral think about it? What did their desires look like? Why does Jole have to think about Cordelia rather than Aral while donating genetic material for his and Aral's children?

Bujold has written a seventeen-book series, containing at least eight gay or bisexual men (Aral, Ges, Serg, Ethan, Janos, Terrence, Byerly, Oliver), in which the only primary on-screen M/M relationship is the brief and toxic one between Ethan and Janos. Aral's bisexuality (like Byerly's, and Oliver's), only ever appears in backstories and brief flashbacks. Ges and Serg are evil queers. Terrence hits a "pair the spares" with Ethan in the very last sentence of Ethan of Athos. The pattern is marked and troubling.

Gentleman Jole is a heterosexual romance that never finishes engaging with the queerness in its setup, and this absence bothers me.
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rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
rymenhild

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