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Falling Free (2004)

Falling Free (2004)

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3.81 of 5 Votes: 5
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About book Falling Free (2004)

Falling Free is part of the Vorkosigan Saga, although I can't (yet) see the connection. I've read both Shards of Honor and Barrayar, the next two books in the saga and Falling Free does not appear to relate, but that is just fine, because I liked this tale.Leo Graf, our main protagonist, is an engineer who is sent to work at the Cay Habitat in zero gravity with a group of very intelligent yet emotionally naive Quaddies. Quaddies are genetically engineered human beings bred with a second set of arms in place of legs (for a total of four arms). They were engineered in such a way as they do not suffer the typical side effects common to humans due to prolonged time in space, such as bone loss and atrophy of the muscles in the lower extremities. They were never intended to live their lives in space and were to serve as a space bound work force. Leo's job is to educate the Quaddies about engineering.“This is the most important thing I will ever say to you. The human mind is the ultimate testing device. You can take all the notes you want on the technical data, anything you forget you can look up again, but this must be engraved on your hearts in letters of fire. There is nothing, nothing, nothing, more important to me in the men and women I train then their absolute personal integrity. Whether you function as welders or inspectors, the laws of physics are implacable lie detectors. You may fool men. You will never fool metal. That’s all.” ― Lois McMaster Bujold, Falling FreeLeo soon finds himself in a bit of an ethical dilemma. He does not like the pretended benevolence with which the Quaddies are treated by their care takers and recognizes it as actually something more akin to the type of patriarchal benevolence practiced by a master toward a slave. In fact, as it turns out, the Quaddies are less than slaves, if that is possible, as they are characterized as post-fetal experimental tissue cultures. This is particularly significant when, suddenly deemed obsolete, the Company decides to sterilize the entire lot of Quaddies and house them downside somewhere until they die.Leo teaches the very naive and childlike (most really are technically children) Quaddies that they are to be valued as any other human being and he helps them break away from the care takers in order to strike out on their own among the stars.I've read multiple reviews of this book and overall people tend to believe this book to be passable but definitely not one of Bujold's best. Personally I find that Falling Free has some of the most honest and brave character portrayals, showing people as they really are... hovering somewhere in the realm between good and evil. Certainly there are characters that cross the line, but most of us have our moments good or bad) and these characters do too. They, like most humans, make decisions based on their own self-interest, even the good/right decisions. And, as with much of humanity over history, the people in this book have found ways to neatly reason their trespasses. This tale also explores what can happen to a person who does not value their self-worth, that they might sell themselves cheaply, as does Silver, a very bright and pretty Quaddie who she allows her body to be used for small favors.Leo is a true hero. He puts himself in the line of fire, so to speak, in order to help the Quaddies escape sterilization and an unjust imprisonment for the chance to begin a new life on their own.“There was no limit to what one man might do, if he gave all, and held back nothing.” ― Lois McMaster Bujold, Falling FreeThis story has a happy ending. I wouldn't have it any other way.All of that said, Falling Free is none too subtle. It makes some very clear statements about slavery, prejudice, humanity and what constitutes humanity, justice, honesty, and human duty. While I appreciate subtlety, I can tolerate Bujold's presentation here. It works for me.There is one thing about which I did experience a bit of discomfort with regards to this tale, and it may be simply my misunderstanding, and I hope this is the case. The Quaddies are described as being children essentially, teenagers. Yet, their caretakers encourage them to mate on cue. In other words, they decide who should try to become pregnant, and with whom. Like cattle, eh? I am uncomfortable with this on the one hand and yet, I had to keep reminding myself, on the other hand, teenagers do have sex and have children and while this isn't the preference, it happens all over the world and is acceptable in many cultures. In that regard I can't find a lot of fault with it, and this further lends to the bravery had honesty with which this story was written. In that, it challenges some of our long held understandings of what is "supposed" to be right and wrong.To me, this is what good writing is all about.

Falling Free is one of several Hugo winners for Lois McMaster Bujold, she is practically sci-fi’s counterpart to Meryl Streep in term of awards. This book is set in her popular Vorkosigan universe but does not have any Vorkosigan in it, not even a mention. In the time setting of this book Miles Vorkosigan will not be born for another 200 years. However, this does not mean this book is like a cup of coffee without any coffee in it, it is well worth anybody’s time.Basically this is a story of a race of bioengineered humans called the “Quadies”. They have four arms but no legs, the lower pair of arms are placed where the legs normally are. This configuration is designed for living and operating naturally in freefall. They live in a space habitat where they carry out engineering and other work for no payment. Their needs are provided by GalacTech, the company that fund their creation and own them. As such the Quadies are basically lower than second class citizens, they are perhaps only a few steps above beasts of burden. They lack the most basic human rights, as these do not extend to transhuman rights.As you can imagine the central theme of this book is about the right to live a good life, free from tyranny. A right which we would have to extend to any sentient beings we create, be they transhumans or artificial intelligences. Thematically it reminds me a little of Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. However, Falling Free is not some heavy-handed propaganda, Ms. Bujold never loses sight of her role as a storyteller. The story of the Quadies’ struggle for independence and freedom is told in Bujold’s dependable breezy and graceful narrative style. The ethical aspect of the story is for the readers to infer at their leisure or completely ignore if they just want to kick back and soak in a few hours of escapism.As always Bujold is able to create a cast of relatable characters, the hero Leo Graf (human with legs) is suitably resourceful, honorable, slightly insecure and humble. The main Quaddies characters are very likable and tend to have a childlike earnestness to them. The villain of the piece, Mr. Van Atta, the general manager of the space habitat project, is not one of fiction’s most formidable antagonists. He lacks the competency, his villainy is more of a “boo-hiss” variety. This is not a densely plotted novel, but it does move along at a fair clip.The Vorkosigan series is often classified as “military science fiction” but Falling Free does not have any military in it, just a few ineffective security guards. This is closer to being a “hard SF” novel than a military one. In fact the science or the “SFnal” aspect of the book may be its best features. The advantages of having four arms and no legs is vividly depicted, as is the Quaddies’s first experience of a planet with gravity, how mobility suddenly becomes much more of an issue. I can just about imagine being a Quaddie. The outcome of the book is fairly predictable but given the plot trajectory I do not see that Bujold had any choice. If you are new to the Vorkosigan series Falling Free is not a bad start, it works 100% as a standalone book, though I believe there are some better books in the series.About 4.5 stars.

Do You like book Falling Free (2004)?

Science Fiction. I have one word for you: prequel. I knew this wasn't the best place to start reading the Vorkosigan saga, but I like to start at the beginning, and this is, apparently, the beginning -- 200 years before Miles is even born. This book is heavy on useless infodumps (pages and pages on stuff like welding and tax write offs that I think were supposed to help sell the plot, but just got in the way) and light on characterization. Silver was the only one with any personality. The main guy -- I've already forgotten his name. It was on his jumpsuit -- Graf! Super boring, absolutely dull.For a story about a genetically engineered slave race that steals their freedom, this should have been way more exciting. Instead they break free with only one shot fired. There's no sacrifice, no real struggle, only a series of dry technical problems. Everyone makes it out the other side! Please, it's a revolt. Someone has to die. Those are the rules. Also it suffers from a seriously bad case of What These Four-Armed People Need Is A Biped. Two stars. This was clunky and boring, but I'm going to keep reading until I hit Miles because supposedly he's awesome.

The Vorkosigan universe prequel, set approximately 200 years before Miles’ birth. Interesting to read AFTER Diplomatic Immunity, as that book deals with the modern-day Quaddies; this is their origin story. Quaddies are people bioengineered for free-fall, with a second set of arms instead of legs; I still can’t quite picture exactly how this would look, which frustrates me. Nevertheless, this is a solid, if not spectacular, space adventure; Bujold, as always, packs her book with interesting ideas and dynamic set pieces. I’m not sure I was entirely sold on the Leo/Silver relationship, but whatever: adventures in spaaaaaaaaace.

Falling Free: Interesting book. Sci-fi engineering pr0n. One of the most intense plot threads weaving through the climax involves (view spoiler)[fabricating a very large, very precise replacement for a jumpship part out of scrap metal and scrounged tools with extremely clever physics and engineering---IN SPACE! (hide spoiler)]

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