Werthead

The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Book 9: Memory

A horrendous error of judgement sees Miles Vorkosigan summoned back to Barrayar to face disciplinary measures from his superior, head of Imperial Security Simon Illyan. As Miles contemplates a future outside of the military, he becomes aware of a growing crisis in ImpSec. Things are going wrong and the cause may be to horrible to contemplate...

Memory is, chronologically, the tenth out of fourteen books* in The Vorkosigan Saga and marks an important turning point in the series. For the previous eight volumes Miles Vorkosigan as been masquerading as Admiral Naismith of the Dendarii Free Mercenaries, carrying out missions for the Barrayan military with total deniability. In Memory that abruptly comes to an end after Miles - suffering the after-effects of his death, cryo-freeze and revival in Mirror Dance - inadvertently slices the legs off a fellow agent he is supposed to be rescuing and then covers it up. The result is the most game-changing novel in the series. Such long-running series tend to do well out of stasis, maintaining the status quo and bringing readers back each time to enjoy the same cast of characters and the same format. Whisking that away can be creatively liberating for the author, but dangerous if the change does not go down well with fans.

In this case the change is well-judged, although it takes a while to execute. At a bit less than 500 pages Memory joins Mirror Dance as one of the longest novels in the series, but it's also a lot less active a book than its forebear. Mirror Dance had multiple POV characters, clandestine infiltrations, full-scale combat missions and a huge amount of character development packed into its pages. Memory, fitting its title, is more relaxed and reflective a novel. It gives Miles a chance to dwell on everything that's happened to him and what he is going to do with his life now his default position has been snatched away.

This reflective mode works well for a while, but it starts to bog down the book. As amusing as seeing Miles tackling getting a pet cat, hiring a new cook or going fishing is, it goes on for a bit too long. When the mystery kicks in and Miles is granted extraordinary powers by the Emperor to sort things out, it's a relief and soon the mystery is unfolding nicely. However, the longueurs at the start of the book lead to the investigation and resolution taking place quite rapidly and a little too neatly. There also isn't much personal jeopardy for Miles. This may be the point, as the book is more about Miles's growth and maturing as a character, but there is the feeling that this story could have been told a little more effectively as a novella. That said, it does bring about some dramatic changes in the set-up of the series and is among the best-written books in the series.

Memory (****) opens slow but finishes strong and succeeds in its task of resetting the series and giving Miles a new job to do. It is available now in the UK and USA.

* If you count Falling Free, which is set in the same universe centuries earlier but isn't part of the core saga.

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This book is interesting in that Bujold deals with the consequences of illness, injury, aging, and bad choices.



Miles' plot armor means that he gets a new, cool role to take on in the end, but the relative quiet of this book is because the primary challenge to the protagonist is a result of the failures of the protagonist as he deals with poor decisions, getting older, living with infirmity, and so on.



Thanks for another good review.


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I have no idea why you thought Memory slow though Wert. It is to date my favourite Vorkosigan novel since it wraps up a lot of threads from the past, from as far back as Shards of Honor and Barrayar (with regards to Simon Illyan's and Alys Vorpatril's destinies). I was always quite moved by both of those secondary characters since they spend so many years doing their duty to the empire, basically, and ask nothing in return. (I might add there there is another scene with Alys Vorpatril which I absolutely love, in Captain Vortpatril's alliance which ties off all the threads from so long ago).



Further, the fact that Miles' choices in the past come back to haunt him is fitting, I think. He can no longer fast talk his way out of everything. Dying - being revived is also a bit of a rebirth for Miles since he is different after being cryorevived, not just physically, but mentally, too.


Edited by Lyanna Stark

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Well, we were looking at a long drought for a new Vorkosigan book, the twilight of Bujold's career I was thinking, but Cordelia decided she wasn't going to put up with that! The good news:





new book


I am pleased to report that a new Cordelia Vorkosigan novel has been sold to Baen Books for publication, tentatively, in February of 2016.


The title is Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.


It is not a war story. It is about grownups.


And that is probably all I ought to say right now in a venue read by the spoiler-sensitive. It is, after all, a long haul till next February.


2016 will also mark the 30th anniversary of my first publication by Baen, which ought to be good for a little PR fun.


Ta, L.


-------




Copied from her goodreads site blog.



Whooooooo!



Regarding Jole, a commenter on goodreads said: (SPOILERS i guess?)





Jole, hmm...as in Admiral Jole?



As a Lieutenant, he served as Aral Vorkosigan's military secretary. Later, he served as Commodore and as an Admiral on Sergyar, commanding the Sergyaran Fleet. He was one of the pallbearer's at Aral's funeral.



Miles on Jole:



"He was flanked by his aide, a tall blond lieutenant named Jole. Miles had met Jole on his last home leave. Now, there was a perfect officer, brave and brilliant—he'd served in space, been decorated for some courage and quick thinking during a horrendous on-board accident, been rotated through HQ while recovering from his injuries, and promptly been snabbled up as his military secretary by the Prime Minister, who had a sharp eye for hot new talent. Jaw-dropping gorgeous, to boot, he ought to be making recruiting vids." ―(The Vor Game)



Edited by SpaceChampion

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Wonderful news. Very pleased to hear this. I wonder if we'll see much of Sergyar, Jole was there is CVA, and it might make a nice closing of the loop which began the series.

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Excellent news. I'd been putting off reading the last (chronological) Vorkosigan Saga book because then I'd have run out of her books to read.



I am a little sad she seems to be pretty firmly against any 'war' books though. The more sedate post Memory books are still great but I wouldn't mind the occasional return to Miles engaging in some mayhem in the Admiral Naismith role.


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She has no more Chalion books currently in the pipeline, I think she's just waiting for a story to spark.


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Great news. I've been craving a new Vorkosigan book recently.


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I disagree, Barrayar is really good. And I prefer Cordelia to Miles as a main character, even though Shards of Honor is far from great overall.

quoting an ooooold post here! lol I don't want to read too far into this thread because I've just started these and am only on The Vor Game now.

I liked Barrayar, and I liked Cordelia generally. Shards of Honor was definitely stiff but I was reading the omnibus so I didn't realize that it was two books at first... I just read them as one big story and it definitely got better in the second half (Barrayar)

The thing is, I didn't realize these books would eventually be about Miles--I had them sitting in my TBR pile for ages and don't recall reading any indepth review of them. I also didn't realize that Shards of Honor was supposed to be a space romance--someone upthread also mentioned that--cause it just wasn't!

but what really surprised me when I got to the third book is how much I disliked the setup for Miles' story. the whole thing seemed forced and ridiculous. Its kinda getting better, but it still seems like she's creating these outrageous situations to move the story along. It stands out as odd to me. I dunno, I'll keep reading them for now, but I really do like Cordelia of the first 2 books much better than in the Miles books. Her character changes quite a bit once the books shift to Miles... she's kinda an idiot doormat now--very 2D-- where before she was thoughtful, strong and interesting.

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but what really surprised me when I got to the third book is how much I disliked the setup for Miles' story. the whole thing seemed forced and ridiculous. Its kinda getting better, but it still seems like she's creating these outrageous situations to move the story along. It stands out as odd to me. I dunno, I'll keep reading them for now, but I really do like Cordelia of the first 2 books much better than in the Miles books. Her character changes quite a bit once the books shift to Miles... she's kinda an idiot doormat now--very 2D-- where before she was thoughtful, strong and interesting.

The Warrior's Apprentice is good fun but I wouldn't rate it among the best book in the series and I agree that some of the situations Miles finds himself in are very contrived, the same could be said about The Vor Game. I agree Barrayar was a lot better than either Shards or TWA, the latter two were the first two books Bujold wrote and I think she did improve as a writer later on. I can't really remember Cordelia's characterisation in TWA specifically, but I think she does get some good characterisation through the Miles books as a whole.

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The Warrior's Apprentice is good fun but I wouldn't rate it among the best book in the series and I agree that some of the situations Miles finds himself in are very contrived, the same could be said about The Vor Game. I agree Barrayar was a lot better than either Shards or TWA, the latter two were the first two books Bujold wrote and I think she did improve as a writer later on. I can't really remember Cordelia's characterisation in TWA specifically, but I think she does get some good characterisation through the Miles books as a whole.

Particularly in Mirror Dance.

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but what really surprised me when I got to the third book is how much I disliked the setup for Miles' story. the whole thing seemed forced and ridiculous. Its kinda getting better, but it still seems like she's creating these outrageous situations to move the story along. It stands out as odd to me. I dunno, I'll keep reading them for now, but I really do like Cordelia of the first 2 books much better than in the Miles books. Her character changes quite a bit once the books shift to Miles... she's kinda an idiot doormat now--very 2D-- where before she was thoughtful, strong and interesting.

Cordelia seems to do the hands off mothering style. She kinda lets Miles find his own feet, and basically works as a soundingboard for quite awhile and that's it. In one of the latter novels, can't remembe which one (Memory or Komarr perhaps?) there is actually hints that her view is that she will only get involved when asked, and she basically has to strongly hint that "well ask me then" and when she gets involved, she does it Cordelia style, which is kinda hilarious. Even if Miles doesn't outright state it, it seems Cordelia is also quite busy promoting uterine replicator and starting up various facilities for education. We see some examples of this in one of the novellas (The Mountains of Mourning) where one of her colleges is mentioned and plays a role as something strongly positive for the future. In that regards, Miles lives his life partly enabled by the changes his mother has set into motion in the background, so to speak.

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Cordelia seems to do the hands off mothering style. She kinda lets Miles find his own feet, and basically works as a soundingboard for quite awhile and that's it. In one of the latter novels, can't remembe which one (Memory or Komarr perhaps?).

A Civil Campaign, when Mark whines to Miles that he does not know what to do about Karen's parents. She does not make an appearance in Komarr, if i remember correctly. There is this scene bordering on the ridiculous where

she sits there, saying nothing, doing nothing, but when Mark so much as utters "help" she's like "well, GLADLY" and she proceeds to browbeat the koudelkas with the power of her stare, Aes Sedai style.

Eta: yes I know the coych is the one the koudelkas had their first sex on, in Barrayar. Still does not make the scene nor ridiculously ham-fisted.

Edited by Errant Bard

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I can't really remember Cordelia's characterisation in TWA specifically, but I think she does get some good characterisation through the Miles books as a whole.

Cordelia seems to do the hands off mothering style. She kinda lets Miles find his own feet, ...

We see some examples of this in one of the novellas (The Mountains of Mourning) where one of her colleges is mentioned and plays a role as something strongly positive for the future.

Well, I do hope she gets better then. I'm not far enough along to really know. Just at the end of Barrayar she was pretty much overthrowing Vor tradition to save her son, without a whole lot of concern about the political or familial turmoil that was creating. she stood up to the father-in-law, who tried to kill Miles, and cut him out of the family (with Aral going along with it of course) making a big deal about cutting ties with him and moving away from him. There was no hesitation there... he was gone. But then the next book starts with Miles as a teenager and the old guy living there saying rude things to the kid and Cordelia just rolling her eyes and letting him have his way. I just didn't buy it, people don't make those kinds of 180 degree shifts in my experience. And while I do feel that the parents do take a very hands off approach to parenting, I still think this was a glaring problem in character development. for me at least!

so, we'll see. I'll keep reading and see if it gets better. at this point, she's barely mentioned so its a moot point I suppose.

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