The Vorkosigan Saga novels by Lois McMaster Bujold are a fast-paced collection of genre-blending fun. The series leaps from murder mystery to epic space battle to romance to political drama, and what ties it all together are Bujold's skills in character development and world-building (galaxy-building?).
The hero of most of the stories is Miles Vorkosigan: charismatic leader, strategic genius, crippled hunchback, and son of one of the most powerful men on his militaristic backwater home planet. Though over the years the series has developed a large and colorful cast of characters from a diverse array of backgrounds, some of whom headline in their own novels. It certainly doesn't hurt that Bujold always maintains a sense of humor, even the darker novels have their comic moments.
I first picked up Shards of Honor, the first in a two part story of how Miles' parents met, while in high school. (At Carnegie-Stout we have these two books as the omnibus Cordelia's Honor.) I read these books two times before I realized they were part of a larger series, and it's only this year that I've made the organized attempt to read them all in some sort of order. I've always been somewhat haphazard when it comes to reading a series, starting with the third book and stumbling over the other books at random. Of course, I'm the sort of reader who often flips to the last page before I've finished the third chapter, so spoilers (usually) don't bother me.
Happily, this is definitely a series where you can get away with reading the books out of order because Bujold doesn't just experiment with the type of story she's telling, but where in the larger chronology the individual story fits. So some readers follow the order of publication, others follow the internal chronology, and I happily muddle my way through, picking whichever one looks more interesting at the moment.
Cordelia's Honor (technically Falling Free comes earlier on the time line, but it's so early that there isn't a character overlap). Cordelia's Honor is also a good pick if you're looking for a bit of romance with your science fiction. Young Miles (omnibus containing The Warrior's Apprentice and The Vor Game, the first two novels with Miles as protagonist) has more of a focus on fast-paced action and mystery.
While I haven't loved every book in the series, I keep returning to these characters and their world because Lois McMaster Bujold has managed to capture a piece of my imagination.
~Sarah, Adult Services