This is the first review written for The Bujold Nexus.
Some dark day, Lois McMaster Bujold will eventually tire of writing about Miles Vorkosigan, his sundry identities, and his world. That day, our own world will become a markedly (no pun intended) poorer place.
When we last left the story of Miles and his clone-brother Mark, in Mirror Dance, I feared that the end was near: Miles spent nearly the entire book recovering from a mild case of death, while Mark attempted to fill his shoes and find his own place in the society of Miles's native planet, Barrayar. It was engaging, but the author seemed to have become ill at ease with her creations.
Memory shows why: Bujold has decided that her rambunctious hero should grow up. As the new closing entry in Miles's revised timeline pithily says, "Miles hits thirty. Thirty hits back."
So it does, good and hard. Miles attempts one deception too many, and the consequences that he's always, previously, been able to out-clever suddenly come crashing down on him. Temporarily cut off from family, bereft (by his own manic misjudgement) of both his job and his heroic alternate identity as Admiral Naismith, Miles must quietly take stock.
He doesn't like what he finds: In his own name, he's a cipher, a placeholder nonentity from Barrayar's privileged class, used only as cover for secret Naismith missions that he can't even talk about. No one has reason to respect young Lord Vorkosigan, or, ironically, even pay attention to his stunted and hunched physique, as Barrayar outgrows its ancient prejudices against "mutants".
Characteristically, Miles at first reacts by going into a blue funk, smarting from Fate's severe blows and huddling in his empty family mansion. Memory's story is that of Miles re-emerging from his understandable depression and making something of himself -- his real, original self.
The result is not so much a new side of Miles as a gathering of all his previous sides into a single, whole person -- an impressive sight, indeed. Along the way, we are treated to a large helping of the wry dialogue and warmly drawn characterisation for which Bujold is well known. Then, too, the book's humour has a special glow to it, deeply rooted in the characters and their interactions -- laugh-out-loud funny in a good dozen places.
All in all, this book is a must for those who are already Bujold fans, and holds promise of much more to come -- but is not a suitable starting point. Friends who express curiosity about the Vorkosigan Saga should instead be firmly lead to The Warrior's Apprentice and Barrayar, and told "Read. Now."
© 1996 by Rick Moen
Added to The Bujold Nexus: October 13th 1996
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