Ranking LMB’s Oeuvre

Given yesterday’s post asking how people tend to rank Bujold’s major series, an obvious thing to do today is lay out all the individual books. Always a tough and yet fun thing to do with a favorite prolific author!

Let me just take a stab at it. Let’s see. Hmm. Okay, from top to bottom, I would more or less put them like this. This order does reflect personal taste and, I realize, may tend to put books I read long ago higher than objective measures of quality might suggest. If I read them all for the first time this year, the order might be different.

Also, the top fifteen or so are all tightly compacted together in a “REALLY GOOD” category, while below that I’d tend to spread them out a lot more.

When I put two books in one spot, it’s because I feel that particular pair of books is essentially a complete duology and the individual books should be considered one story.

  1. The Warrior’s Apprentice
  2. Mountains of Mourning
  3. Borders of Infinity
  4. Ethan of Athos
  5. Curse of Chalion
  6. Komarr / A Civil Campaign
  7. Brothers in Arms
  8. Penric’s Demon
  9. Sharing Knife Passage / Horizon
  10. Mirror Dance
  11. Memory
  12. Penric and the Shamen
  13. Shards of Honor
  14. Paladin of Souls
  15. Penric’s Mission
  16. Barrayar
  17. Prisoner of Limnos
  18. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance
  19. Orphans of Raspay
  20. Sharing Knife: Beguilement
  21. Knife Children
  22. Falling Free
  23. The Vor Game
  24. Diplomatic Immunity
  25. Penric and the Fox
  26. Cryoburn
  27. Cetaganda
  28. Labyrinth
  29. Sharing Knife: Legacy
  30. The Spirit Ring
  31. Myra’s Last Dance
  32. The Hallowed Hunt
  33. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
  34. Physicians of Vilnoc
  35. Flowers of Vashnoi

Okay, there! What would you all argue should be placed significantly higher or lower?

For me: plots that revolve closely around sexual issues lack interest. Bad family relationships move a book sharply downward because I just don’t like reading about those. If the whole story seems slow and/or rather pointless, it drops way down in the rankings — but if the story foregrounds positive family relationships, it may move higher even if nothing much happens, eg “Knife Children” appealed to me much, much more than SK: Legacy. And I just did not much like The Hallowed Hunt, even though none of those situations apply to that one.

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8 thoughts on “Ranking LMB’s Oeuvre”

  1. I noticed that the last four Vorkosigan books are in the bottom part, and two of them are at the very bottom. I agree with that. I had been thinking I had actually stopped reading around then, but it seems I made it through all four but lost interest in the series as a result and hadn’t realized no more had been published since then.

    I don’t remember many of these well enough to quibble about precise rankings. In terms of top fifteen / rest, and the very worst ones, my impressions are about the same. I’d be surprised if they weren’t, though. I find your recommendations to be very on point, so our tastes seem pretty aligned.

  2. I would move Spirit Ring up a good bit, and Beguilement down. Otherwise, I mostly agree. That said, this is very much a bell curve, with a whole lot of books close together in the middle, and a few extreme outliers well above and below.

  3. I will put Shards of Honor/Barrayar on top just because I love Aral and Cordelia; their steely strength of character in the face of some really horrible circumstances and choices out of duty. And what about that head in the shopping bag? I will also put Paladin of Souls immediately after Curse of Chalion because I like Ista’s story. I mean, the tragedy of failing as the Mother’s instrument, losing her husband and son and then ending up the Bastard’s instrument and facing off against some major league demons – no wussiness in this queen! I agree with Peter, mostly really good books with outliers at either end.

  4. Bujold is my favorite author, and when I try to rank her books, or grade them, I have to keep them in s separate category from most other authors, because even those books I like least of hers are still substantially better than those by most others. (Except The Spirit Ring. I could never really get into that book. It drags, for me.) Of the Vorkosigan books, I think I like Diplomatic Immunity the least. (And yet I’ve read it at least four times!) The early books in the series have a lot more freshness in them – they quiver with the same kind of tension you imagine Miles constantly conveys. It’s almost like the books reflect his state of personal peace. Still great in the later books, but a lot more studied. Depending on my mood, my favorites are The Warrior’s Apprentice, Brothers in Arms, The Vor Game, Memory or A Civil Campaign. (That’s a lot of favorites.)
    SK always feels like one book to me. It’s my comfort, pastoral Bujold. But probably not on the top of the tier.
    The Curse of Chalion is very high on the list – as good as any of the Vorkosigan books. I really like the rest of the series, and The Hallowed Hunt was much more appealing the last time I read it (the polar bear scene really stuck out), although it has never felt as cohesive and memorable as most Bujold books. But The Curse of Chalion is absolutely my favorite of the series.
    I like Penric a lot, but I feel like I want a novel length Penric. Greedy of me, but novellas leave me hungry for more, and short stories are downright irritating. I want to be immersed, not just dabble my toes!

  5. Kathryn McConaughy

    I really like Hallowed Hunt… Though when I’m looking at this list I realize that while I like it more than average for books in general it is about average for LMB.
    I think I would tend to put the SK saga lower and the later Vorkosigan books higher (although not GJ&RQ. That one is definitely at the bottom).

  6. Kathryn, I really like some of the later Vorkosigan books, but still think they’re flawed — like, I love The Vor Game, but it’s really two stories jammed together. I like them both, but structurally it’s not cohesive. And, I like Cryoburn quite a bit in a lot of ways, but I prefer seeing Miles from the inside, not the outside, and dislike having so much of the book be outside his pov.

    Mary, I think “quivering with tension” vs “studied” is a very useful way of looking at the early Vorkosigan books vs the later ones, and contributes a LOT to why I put the Warrior’s Apprentice right up at the top.

    Kootch, I love Shards of Honor and think it’s a practically perfect SF romance — and I like Barrayar a lot too — which is why I said really the top 15 or so are all jammed together in a “really great” category.

    Pete, not really a bell curve for me, but a curve skewed WAY OVER to the “really great” side and then tailing off to mediocre.

    I think from all your comments that I’m really going to need to re-read The Hallowed Hunt. I want to see that polar bear scene!

  7. I’m surprised to see Ethan of Athos up there at the top, because that and Falling Free are the two Vorkosiverse books I’ve never re-read. Maybe I should try it again, because I generally agree with a lot of your order.

    Would put Komar/Civil Campaign and Curse of Chalion above Warrior’s Apprentice, and Borders of Infinity above Mountains of Mourning, but all still in that top section.

    I would put the Vor Game higher–yes, it’s two books in one, and I didn’t like the first quite as much but really liked the second—the development of the Miles-Gregor relationship is so great.

    I would put Memory higher: it makes me cry every time. I can’t re-read Mirror Dance: watching Mark fumble his way to disaster is just too painful. Though I lie about re-reading, because I do re-read the second half with Miles rediscovering himself.

    I don’t re-read the Sharing Knife series as much, but after really enjoying Knife Children I went back to the others and re-discovered that they are quite wonderful.

    How did you even make this list? It’s not hard to say which are my very favourite and which I don’t care so much about, but ranking the ones in the middle, especially from different series against each other, is quite impossible!

  8. Kim, my trick with that particular list was not to think about it too hard! Otherwise I could never have sorted them into any kind of order. I think they are mostly kinda-sorta where I would put them, though.

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