book coverDecades ago, the Komarrans invaded the planet Barrayar and dropped nuclear weapons on the region of Vashnoi, rendering it uninhabitable before being driven off by the Barrayarans.

In "The Flowers of Vashnoi", Lois McMaster Bujold tells the story of attempts to cleanse the blighted region by introducing genetically-engineered, radiation-eating insects, developed by scientists Enrique Borgos and Ekaterin Vorkosigan. Ekaterin is the wife of Lord Miles Vorkosigan, the main protagonist of Bujold's generations-spanning Vorkosigan saga; and Enrique, along with Miles's clone/brother Mark first created a version of these insects labeled "Butterbugs" in a failed attempt to create an inexpensive food source and a business venture.

On a trip to Vashnoi, Enrigue and Ekaterin discover that children are living in the radioactive area and that these children are collecting their bugs - attracted by the glowing marks on their backs.

Soon, the scientists are seeking to save not only the environment, but the children who are being slowly poisoned by the radiation of their environment.

"Vashnoi" is a novella of approximately 100 pages, but it is more than a filler story in the science fiction series. The story reveals more of Ekaterin, who was introduced in the novels "Komarr" and "A Civil Campaign". She proves one of the more interesting characters in this collection and her late entry has given the readers little insight into her personality.

As usual, Bujold combines plot twists with character development in creating a believable and entertaining story. In this case, these elements are simplified to accommodate the novella's brief length.

Although "Flowers" stands on its own, it is more enjoyable as an aside to those already familiar with the Vor universe. The story of the Butterbugs takes place in "A Civil Campaign" and the nuclear war was originally described in "Memory".

If you are invested in this universe, this story is well worth your time.