I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
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 till 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 1000 quaddies now all he had to do was teach them to be free.
This book reminded me strongly of C.J. Cherryh’s book Downbelow Station. In both books a huge intergalactic company is using and abusing a population of people who are considered somehow “less than” humans. In DbS, it was an alien race, the Hisa (also known as Downers in human slang). Here in Falling Free it is the quaddies, the result of human genome manipulation, who have four arms instead of two arms & two legs, supposedly to be make them more suited to zero gravity.
There are strong hints of the Frankenstein story, with people often being physically ill when first meeting a quaddie. There is also a security agent on the nearest planet who reacts poorly to them, having envisioned monsters rather than people. So-called normal people react very negatively towards quaddies, just as people reacted with fear & hostility to Frankenstein’s creature.
I also couldn’t help but think of Octavia Butler’s work, dealing as it does with issues of slavery and power differentials. Butler’s works are much more powerful, but this novel does deal with some of the same themes. The quaddies are considered property, rather than employees, and the breeding program that the company had devised for them reminded me strongly of a slave owner using a stock breeding scheme for his slaves rather than acknowledging their personal relationships and preferences. Add to that the sexual exploitation of at least one of the female quaddies, and that parallel becomes undeniable.
This book takes place in the Vorkosigan universe, but does not mention the family at all (for those of you who are most interested in Cordelia and Miles). Once again, like with Ethan of Athos, I am left wishing that Bujold had continued on with this story line, instead of this volume being a one-off. It seems to me that the story is just really getting going at the novel’s end.
Book 225 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.