Miles up to Memory

Miles, Miles, Miles.  Je t’aime.  I’ve just finished Memory so…here be spoilers.

The Warrior’s Apprentice—First, I have to say; what’s up with this title?  Could they have picked a more high-fantasy title is they’d tried?  The Vorkosigan Saga’s science fiction, thank you very much.  I don’t have much to say about this book, except that it’s awesome.  The plot never went where I was expecting, and it snowballed amazingly.  First, it looks like he’s going to overcome his physical limitations and get into the military—wait, no, he just broke both his legs.  Ok, now he’s going to Beta colony to visit his grandmother and get off of Barrayar—no, ok, he’s deeply in debt and is supervising a smuggling operation that’s going blockade running.  And now they’re going to bluff their way past the blockading mercenaries—erm, wait.  How did seventeen-year-old Miles end up commanding a mercenary operation?  No, no.  I think I’ll just go with it.  It’s better this way.

In other words: awesome.

The Vor Game—I didn’t like this one as much.  Miles spends too much of the book reacting to events and trying to smuggle his emperor (who’d run away from his job) back to Barrayar.  Finally he got his act together and reprised his role as Admiral Naismith, leader of the Dendarii Mercenaries, but he took his time getting there.

Cetaganda—The Cetagandan society was bizarre, but I liked how this shadowy group of haut women were the real power behind the society, and almost no one knew it.  The calm way in which they discussed whether the current generation of men were getting too aggressive, and how best to genetically modify the next generation to get the results they wanted…they sounded like dog breeders.  I must say, I had a bizarrely inaccurate bit of prescience partway through the book, and spent about half of it waiting for it to reveal that Rian was using her feminine wiles to blind Miles to her true goals.  However, Rian never budged from damsel-in-distress mode and I was actually really relieved about that.  There is something I find exquisitely painful about having my protagonist get taken in by feminine wiles.

Brothers In Arms—I don’t know exactly why, but Mark kept making me think of Artimis Fowl.  It’s the evil genius part, I guess.  I giggled quite a bit during the scene where Miles was exposed to fast-penta.  I’m not quite sure whether it was because of the horrified looks I was imagining on his captors’ faces, or the shock, or the confusion, but whatever it was had me laughing so hard that Shu got worried.  Actually, I also got a kick out of the clone explanation that Miles fed to the reporter, and then he was proven right….

Mirror Dance—Also known as, shit just got real.  I got pissed a few pages into the book, because I did not want to read about Mark.  At all.  I wanted my Miles, and I begrudged Mark every single page he took up.  That is, until he got carted back to Barrayar and I got to see Cordelia again.  Suddenly Mark was more likeable, and by the end of the novel I would have been happy to read a book dedicated entirely to him.  His Black Gang is dark (obviously) but hellishly interesting.  And there’s this one quote, from when he was being tortured, let’s see…

“’I hate to be the one to tell you this, Baron,’ said the technician, ‘but your torture victim appears to be having a wonderful time.’”

I howled (haha) with laughter for a few solid minutes after hearing that one.  Luckily, Shu wasn’t around.  I can’t imagine trying to explain that one to her.

Borders of Infinity—Damn you, Bujold.  Trying to decipher the proper reading order of these books was much harder than it should have been, thanks to these novelettes (novellas?).  Ok, “Labyrinth” needs to be read before Mirror Dance; “Borders of Infinity” before Brothers in Arms; “Mountains of Mourning” definitely before Memory but possibly even before that.  And then the framing story used to sandwich them together for this book thing seem to indicate that this is taking place before Mirror Dance.  This construction means that it’s impossible to read this book without running into spoilers, no matter when you do it.  And for me, spoilers means any time an event that has happened (but I haven’t read about yet) gets mentioned.  For some reason, if I haven’t experienced the original event, I can’t file away mentions of the event properly.  This means that I’m in for a lot of rereading.

Anyway, the novelettes are all good and important and wonderful.  I liked them all.

Memory—Awesome.  I guess that all of the Miles books start out a bit slowly; you get a few hints of things happening, something building, but everything seems pretty leisurely and listless until WHAM.  Stuff starts happening, we start seeing the shape of the mystery….

But this one was very convincing in its aimlessness.  And despite that (or maybe because of it), I think this book’s been the most…stressful…to read of the lot.  I’m so emotionally invested in Miles that I was scared and upset right along with him (which led to me banning reading before bed, because I couldn’t fall asleep afterwards).  And yet, it was the most satisfying of the bunch.  For the first time in the series, Miles is complete.  He isn’t stuck keeping his dutiful Barrayan half in Lord Vorkosigan and his lively, adventurous half in Admiral Naismith.  He’s found a position where he can be himself, and it’s made me unspeakably happy.  The little admiral is not the answer!

And Miles as a royally appointed auditor?  Awesome.


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