Pseudo-Hugo: Memory

Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold, published 1997
(In-Universe #10 chronologically in the Miles Vorkosigan Saga)

I’ve discovered that I have this strange sympathetic, semi-symbiotic relationship with Miles Vorkosigan. Lack of Miles gives me anxiety attacks. When Miles screws up and falls into his major depressions, my depression gets even worse. The people that Miles cares for, I adore. The people he doesn’t like, I hate. The only places that I seem to disagree with him, I’ve already mentioned (and they generally have to do with the theoretical ethics of sci-fi universes). On to the actual review of this book. By the by, this one was truly nominated for a Hugo. Also, it’s probably my favorite since The Vor Game.

Miles screws up big time and gets fired. Illyan becomes mysteriously ill and his brain goes crazy. Miles, Gregor, and Ivan are all still the most exceedingly lovable Vor boys ever. Gregor gets engaged. And Miles actually does an awesome job at his makeshift position, and gets a new job. Tada. There really isn’t anything else to say about this except it is a fantastic exploration of what happens to you emotionally when you screw up so bad that you lose all of your dreams.

I’ve got three more out of the library right now, there are two more I can get from State, and the newest one I will just have to hunt down. Then I will have read them all. I’m not sure I’ll keep writing up these reviews. I just sort of wanted to say that, while I was highly upset by the beginning of this novel, I think it settled back down into an acceptable continuance by the end.

Hugo: Mirror Dance (1995)

Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
Read March 6, 2011 – March 17, 2011

Premise: Miles’ clone from Brothers in Arms turns up, pretends to be Miles, gets into a hell of a lot of trouble, Miles goes after him, gets into even more trouble, and much angsting ensues.

Verdict: This is the third and final Hugo winner to date in Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. There are, however, five more novels after this one.

Look, very seriously, no one in their right mind—not even Miles—would be pleased that they had a clone and immediately accept him as a brother. The psychology and ethics on that one are so far out the window that I don’t even buy Beta Colony originating them. Miles is just a nutcase. That’s more beef with Brothers in Arms than with this one, but it still was a major driving force of “wtf” behind my reading. I’d also like to note, for readers of this series, that Miles is MIA (literally) for over half the novel, and Mark (the clone) spends that half of the novel angsting and being annoying. Mark eventually redeems himself and one grows to rather like him—after he stops being an idiot. And after everyone on Barrayar has the sensible reaction of being dubious and wary of clone-Miles (Aral Vorkosigan—I continue to love you to absolute pieces. I’m fairly certain that you still beat Miles by a close margin). Nevertheless, I sort of wanted to kill people for the lack of Miles. It didn’t help that I was reading this book in the midst of a bout of depression and it was actually feeding my anxiety attacks more than anything else. I was also fairly upset at the “badass decay” of Bel Thorne. I loooove Bel and s/he (still refusing to say “it” like the text!) was one of my favorite non-Barrayaran characters. It wasn’t badass decay so much as gigantic mistakes and essentially being kicked out of the plot. I guess s/he was getting into too uncomfortable of a situation, but I am glad that s/he finally kissed Miles. I’ve been begging for that for volumes. And, two of the best characters from Barrayar (does anybody else remember that long ago??) sort of resurfaced. I was always upset that Kou and Drou just disappeared off the face of the plot-earth. They apparently had four daughters, all of who are gigantic Valkyrie blonds. Kou and Drou are still sort of absent, but at least they (sort of) show back up.

At any rate, in the end this book redeemed itself, Mark redeemed himself, everything was pretty good, and I suppose I enjoyed it. Minus the anxiety attacks and wanting to throw it out the window for lack of Miles and it taking me two weeks to read because of all manner of things.

Sometimes, I just shake my head and keep reading. But, well, I guess it turned out all right. I’ve got the rest out of the library as we speak.

Pseudo-Hugo: Borders of Infinity

Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold, published 1989
(In-Universe #8 chronologically in the Miles Vorkosigan Saga)

This was a compilation of the three novellas in the Vorkosigan universe, with a little bit of a frame narrative to string them coherently together. These three novellas (“The Mountains of Mourning,” “Labyrinth,” and “Borders of Infinity”) have also all been collected in the various omnibus editions, but placed in the proper in-universe chronological order between the novels.

The Mountains of Mourning. You know, I was reading up on historical methods of birth control for one of my stories. Turns out the most common, socially acceptable, and widely practiced method of birth control was infanticide. Miles, honey, I love you, but I can’t decide if the human rights stance in these books is extremely liberal or the most horrifically conservative thing I’ve ever seen. It seems to be some terrifying mixture. Basically, a kid born with a harelip is offed and Miles is sent to figure out who did it. Ladeeda.

Labyrinth. Further proof that Miles will screw anything female that shows interest. Also further proof of Miles’ bordering-on-unbelievable human rights stances. It occurs to me that, long long ago, before I was made aware of intense overpopulation issues and zealots dedicated to the human meat puppet, I would have more-or-less agreed with all of these positions. But now they just make me fairly uneasy. And I want to say “Miles, get your ass back out into space and play soldier.” Jackson’s Hole, by the by, seems exceedingly interesting. Also, it’s very much a shame that Miles won’t screw Bel Thorne as he/she (I cannot say it, like the text) is a Betan hermaphrodite—but aside from that is one of the coolest characters in this series. See, Beta colony screws my mind up because you have people who are violently against abortion but are exceedingly sexually free. The way you get around that, as an author, is that you give Beta Colony default sterility treatments until people actually want to reproduce. This does not make things better, in my opinion. Also, I just wish Miles could practice what he preaches. It’s not like Bel isn’t female.

Borders of Infinity. This is the story that gets the whole little compilation an A+. It has war, intrigue, tactics, crazy people, Miles-being-Miles, and no strange sexual situations of a dubiously political nature. This is also the “Dagoola incident” that I heard so much about in Brothers in Arms and was like “um, hello, I want to read that.”

I know that I’m way over-thinking these books by this point. I also know that most books aren’t written to be in-your-face socio-political at every turn. But I certainly tend to read things that way. Plus, trying to apply my socio-political position to books from the ’80s and ’90s is not the wisest thing to do, but I don’t usually have such deep-seated problems with books that I whole-heartedly adore. That’s just the power of Bujold, I suppose! I can overcome even my personal issues with the books while I’m reading them. They are that awesome.