Monday, October 8, 2018

Falling Free Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Lois McMaster Bujold

Publisher: Baen Books
Genre: Space Opera, Science Fiction
Series: Vorkosigan Saga Book Four (Publishing Order)
Pages: 307

(May contain spoilers for Vorkosigan Saga Books 1-3).

Leo Graf has been a stellar engineer for GalacTech the past few decades. He has now been newly assigned to Cay Habitat, a part of the free fall station orbiting the mining colony Rodeo. Here Graf is tasked with educating GalacTech's newest genetic creation: the Quaddies. These four armed humans have been genetically modified to have a significant working advantage in zero gravity. But that may be just the problem, as GalacTech and Cay Habitat manager Bruce Van Atta only see the Quaddies as "post-fetal experimental tissue cultures."

There are a lot of elements to Falling Free that have since started to become cliche in science fiction since its being published. Evil corporations denigrating the rights of humans and warnings about the dangers of genetic experimentation never feel cliche though. In fact they feel spot on and more relevant than ever, even after thirty years from first being published.

The whole evil corporate culture in particular is so reminiscent of some of my working experiences I could just feel myself getting angrier the more I read. Hiding behind carefully constructed corporate rules to justify treating workers like shit, working for mid-level managers that think they're the second coming of Christ, and creating a culture of nothing matters more than our "bottom line" should sound very familiar to a lot of people of have found themselves "working for the man", so to speak. Falling Free is as much a story about one group of people seeking freedom from their oppressors as it is condemnation of the way capitalism has let corporations grow and grow more powerful until they can shit on human rights virtually unimpeded. 

Leo Graf is essentially the middle man in this story. He has a lot at stake in his working with GalacTech for the past few decades: a well earned retirement that's not too far away, an impeccable reputation for safety, and being a master pedagogue of sorts. But he also gets to know the Quaddies first hand, and their plight to be granted the same rights as the humans they work for is a cause that even the hardest of hearts would have a difficult time not supporting.

New Quaddie parents Claire and Tony are fully sympathetic, even when they make mistakes. Silver is rebellious but mostly due to wanting to learn more about what it's like to live life on a planet and to experience gravity for the first time. The doctors that are assigned to managing the Quaddies are in a similar position as Leo. They're career GalacTech employees, but due to their close work with the Quaddies they also get to see their plight. The doctors though are at different stages of their journey in their sympathy at the start of novel, which leaves room for them to eventually pick sides.

Again another standalone without any major Vorkosigan characters, as Falling Free takes place about 200 years before Miles is even born. Even without familiar faces Falling Free manages to tell a story with more relative social commentary and a lot more emotion than any of its predecessors. It is easily better than any of the Vorkosigan novels published before it. 

Score 9.5

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