Book Review: Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold


Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold

Rating: 3 Stars 🌟🌟🌟

Publisher: Baen

This was another book in the box of old books we inherited and had a space station on the cover and if you've read my reviews, you know how this goes. This also happened to be the first of Lois McMaster Bujold that I've read. What can I say, there are a lot of books to get around to in life but I'm getting in my fair share of old science fiction in 2020.

So let me start with what I liked. I very much liked the set up of the story. Bujold drops you right into the story with Leo Graf, the protagonist, arriving at his new assignment Cay Station. Almost immediately, the hellscape alert goes off as the company he is working for has bought him out to teach welding to a group of genetically engineered slave workers. They literally gave them an extra set of hands where legs go so that they work more efficiently in free fall and they're able to withstand higher levels of radiation all so the company doesn't need to pay for employees to go planetside for a months rotation because of things like monetary compensation and time off. The group is called "Quaddies", receive no payment, are strictly monitored, taught not to question anything and told when and with whom to have sex and procreate. Oh and there's the not so small matter of 1000 of them ranging from babies of a few months old to teenagers. Let the cringing begin. As it happens, very soon after Leo's arrival, another company has come up with technology that outmodes the Quaddies and the company's solution is to eliminate the biological work product i.e. the Quaddies. This sets Leo off on a journey of finding his cause and undertaking the massive job of stewarding the Quaddies in their quest for autonomy and survival. A lot happens and it was all worth it. The ending is happy and left me wanting to find out what happens with them down the line.

Now to the other bits. The resident baddie Bruce Van Atta was just a bit too on the nose. He was thoroughly awful from beginning to end and it was a bit much. Also, the Leo/Silver relationship. Like, if your almost 40-year-old protagonist is struck by the fact that the Quaddies look like children & proceed with childlike innocence one minute, perhaps don't have him checking out one of them for a hookup the next (over and over and over). It took me out of the story each time and was frankly skeevy. I liked Silver and she showed personality and agency but there was still a cavernous differential between them that didn't work for me. I also felt like the fact that she'd had liaisons with Van Atta and Ti was supposed to make the thing with Graf cool and it just didn't. The former was definitely off in power differential and Ti wasn't so far off from her in age. Anyway, that's what kicked this down to a three-star read for me. I didn't feel like the story was made better by the Leo/Silver relationship but it did detract.

Recommended, if only for the space station and peek at the corporate and political situation that is operating in this universe.

Summary: Leo Graf was an effective engineer. Safety regs weren't just the rule book he swore by; he'd helped write them. All that changed on his assignment to the Cay Habitat. Leo was profoundly uneasy with the corporate exploitation of his bright new students... until that exploitation turned to something much worse. He hadn't anticipated a situation where the right thing to do was neither safe, nor in the rules...
Leo Graf adopted a thousand quaddies---now all he had to do was teach them to be free.

Falling Free takes place approximately 200 years before the events in Cordelia's Honor and does not share settings or characters with the main body of the series.

Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold

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