*Cryoburn* by Bujold

by NancyLebovitz1 min read25th Oct 201012 comments

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This science fiction novel is probably the best I've seen about the amount of trustworthiness needed to make large-scale cryonics work.

Minor spoilers: It's set on a planet where large corporations do the freezing and revival and can vote (in politics) as representatives of their frozen clients. Things Go Wrong, and there's even an echo of the current mortgage crisis.

On the whole, I think Bujold mistrusts any organization which is too large for individual loyalties to make a difference.

Still, it may be worth thinking about what sort of emotional/governmental/economic system it would take to make cryonics work for a large proportion of the population and/or for long periods-- and remember that for unmodified humans, mere decades are a long time.

The book is basically unsympathetic to cryonics-- sympathetic presentation of characters who choose not to be frozen, and a mention of a society which is so busy avoiding death that it's forgotten how to live. That last is just sloppy, it's not supported by the text. At least it's in favor of non-atrocious methods of rejuvenation, and she may have a point that their development will be pretty gradual. I'm not sure it's plausible that brain-transplants into clones will be developed well before any aspect of rejuvenation.

It's a fair-to-middling caper novel, or maybe somewhat better than that. It's better than the two weakest novels in the series (*Cetaganda* and *Diplomatic Immunity*) and not as good as the best (probably *Memory*, *Brothers in Arms*, and *A Civil Campaign*, though I'm also awfully fond of *Komarr* and *Mirror Dance*). I think it would make sense for the most part even if you haven't read other books in the series.

 

 

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large corporations do the freezing and revival and can vote (in politics) as representatives of their frozen clients

That does not sound like real-life Alcor and Cryonics Institute.

Right now, it seems like people working in cryonics are primarily motivated by the thought of saving lives. If/when cryonics organizations get big and powerful (as they are in the book), that can be expected to change.

No, but I think things will be different once revival is possible and cryonics is common-- not necessarily different in the way which made an interesting plot feasible, of course.

I expect that when revival is possible it will be based on something like uploading (most likely), cloning a new body, or repair by nanotech. Which would work to reverse any cause of death that allows for cryonic preservation. At this point, if the revival technique is related to cloning, there may be a use for cryonics for known short time while a clone is prepared, but there would not be a use for today's practice of cryonic preservation for an indefinate time waiting for a revival technique to be discovered. When revival is possible, cryonics will not be common.

Well we are talking about a universe where designer babies (heck species), artificial wombs, etc. have existed for hundreds of years but there have been no real advances on the anti-aging front aside from reversible cryonics (yay!) and clone-body transplants (boo!). IIRC the lack of real anti-aging tech was hand-waved as being due to not enough people caring to fund the research because clone-body transplants work just fine for those few jerks that want to live forever badly enough.

But then again, I seem to recall that in one of the earlier books Miles was able to use his youthful appearance to trick someone into thinking he had access to a new technology for rejuvenation. Clearly there was some interest. Apparently curing aging is just really hard in this universe.

I disagree that the book is basically unsympathetic to cryonics. It's true that Miles is basically unsympathetic to cryonics, but Miles is, as we have seen in earlier books, somewhat prejudiced by his Barrayaran upbringing. The characters native to the planet seem to think that Cryonics is good, and that it's just the corporations that are going wrong. True, some of them later accept life-extension technologies in place of this, but I think that's natural--especially since the people accepting know that they can't keep running their cryo-place forever.

It's a fair-to-middling caper novel, or maybe somewhat better than that.

It's just fair-to-middling, in my opinion. The plot depends critically on the coincidence of spoiler.

It's a fair-to-middling caper novel, or maybe somewhat better than that. It's better than the two weakest novels in the series (Cetaganda and Diplomatic Immunity) and not as good as the best (probably Memory, Brothers in Arms, and A Civil Campaign, though I'm also awfully fond of Komarr and Mirror Dance).

Interesting. I considered Diplomatic Immunity to be very weak but I enjoyed Cetaganda (I think the main reason people consider Cetaganda to be so weak is that it has no Naismith and all Vorkosigan.)

I agree with your assessment 100%.

Why is no one mentioning The Vor Game? I thought it did the best job of carrying through on the main comic theme of the series - Miles bumbling and scheming his way to victory in a universe which seems determined to make him the butt of its jokes.

But the two best books in the series, IMHO, didn't even include Miles as a character - Barrayar and Ethan of Athos.

I agree that The Vor Game is the best exemplar of the comic theme you note, but it just didn't pack quite the emotional punch of Brothers in Arms or Memory.