An award-winning series of science fiction books by Lois McMaster Bujold. The books mostly follow the life and adventures of one Miles Vorkosigan, but also of his parents and related characters. There are currently a total of thirteen full-length novels and three short stories.
The universe the series is staged in is home to a multiplanetary, multi-system civilisation connected by wormholes. Miles himself comes from the backward planet Barrayar, which at the time of the books has only recently come out of a centuries-long Time of Isolation where it was cut off from the rest of civilisation.
Miles Vorkosigan is the son of Aral Vorkosigan, Lord Regent and eventually Prime Minister of Barrayar, and Cordelia Vorkosigan, former Betan captain. The "Vor" in front of his name marks him as part of the planet's aristocracy. Born into a powerful family, his great problem is that due to poisoning while being still inside his mother's womb, he looks like a mutant - only five feet tall with a crooked spine, highly brittle bones and an oversized head for his height. Unfortunately for him, mutants are feared and hated on Barrayar. He mostly compensates for his appearance through intelligence and an almost disturbing ability to reason people into what he wants them to do. So, to escape from the pressures of the militaristic society of Barrayar, he invents an alter ego: Admiral Naismith, space mercenary commander who is even more hyperactive and persuasive than his normal self. (This happens in The Warrior's Apprentice. In the following books his (mis-)adventures of both of his identities are detailed.)
The Vorkosigan Series is space opera, no doubt of it. But it is possible the best-written space opera/military SF ever. The focus of the stories are not huge heroic space battles or future technology, but the characters, who are highly complex and well-described. The characters also change over time, they do not remain static, but age, learn, have accidents and occasionally die, even if they are important. (!) Nor do the series glorify violence, though some rather nasty things do happen (especially in Mirror Dance and also in Shards of Honor).
The books explore various questions about the ethics of command, conflict, government and biotechnology, so they can be considered literature, if you care about that. The universe the books take place in is so vast and complex that to describe it completely goes far beyond the scope of this writeup. In time I will node writeups about the various persons, books, planets and historic events of the series, and hardlink to them from here.
short stories are in italics
- The Warrior's Apprentice
This is the other sensible book to start reading the series at. It is the first book that features Miles Vorkosigan as an active character, while the three before can be considered to be backstory or prequels. The tone of this book is rather humorous compared to the later ones.
- A Civil Campaign
This book is rather atypical of the series in that it is a romantic comedy, though the other books are rather funny at times as well. Nevertheless it fits in perfectly well with the other books - no need to skip this one.
The Vorkosigan Clan (you can get a rather comprehensive Vor(-kosigan) family tree at http://home.st.net.au/~carlill/fiction/docs/vorkosigan.pdf .)
There aren't even any headers for most of the categories right now because there's nothing noded there yet, and I don't want to put a cumbersome and useless list of unlinked terms into this node. /msg me if you node or find something related that isn't on the list yet.
I am aware that there is a chronology and short summary (i.e. spoiler) of each book in the node Lois McMaster Bujold. However, I think that the series deserves its own (meta-)node.