Title: Falling Free
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Hardcover: 288 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
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.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
It has been quite a while since I’ve delved into a sci-fi, and I’m so happy that I’ve done so with a Bujold book. Falling Free is a novel set in the Vorkosigan Saga that’s separated from the rest of the main storyline; no Vorkosigans are involved. Rather, it tells the story of the quaddies and how Leo Graf helps them free themselves and live as people rather than a corporation’s property.
There’s something magical about Bujold’s works, and I really can’t put my finger on just what it is. I fall in love with the characters every time — despite living in a completely different world, they seem so real and genuine; their concerns are very similar to our concerns, and I can’t help but internalize them and think of these characters as friends. The story of Falling Free is no different. Leo comes in to train “the quaddies” — people who were created for zero-gravity work and are considered the property of a corporation because they paid to genetically modify humans to create them; they are essentially humans, but have four arms rather than a pair each of arms and legs. He struggles with how the staff and higher-ups in the corporation that created them view them and talk about them, but tries to be a professional and insists to himself that he’s just there to train them — that’s all he needs to concern himself with. However, he gets to know the quaddies and befriends them, inspired by their innocence and strength. I love how real the struggle is for him and how we can see deep internal conflict within his actions.
One of my favorite things about sci-fi is that it gives us a different context for talking about issues; in this case, Bujold explores the meaning of humanity, the ethics of genetic experimentation and the results of that, among other things. She’s a pro at crafting a suspenseful, interesting story line around deep issues, which is part of the reason why I love her books so much. They’re fun, have just the right amount of action and romance, and then give food for thought. Absolutely perfect, in my opinion.
Falling Free is a fun romp in the Vorkosigan universe; we see a bit of the science stuff being developed that will be touched on in future novels and get to see how the quaddies originated. I greatly enjoyed reading this novel and recommend it to any science fiction fan — even if you haven’t read anything in the Vorkosigan series, you’ll be able to follow along without any trouble and I guarantee you will enjoy yourself.