Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my GIFTS AND GUILTY list.
Regardless of how many books are already queued patiently on my reading list, unexpected gifts and guilt-trips will always see unplanned additions muscling their way in at the front.
A few weeks ago I came down quite suddenly with the Norovirus which has swept across the UK this winter. One minute I was in bed complaining of a slight stomach ache, the next I was passing out on the bathroom floor after hurling into the sink, bath and finally toilet. My wife had some big exams coming up, so rather than nurse me she threw a bag and the baby into a taxi and went to stay with friends.
Because I couldn’t even keep water down, I quickly became dehydrated and my fever spiked. Have you ever had fever dreams? Weird aren’t they? I work for a finance company and had recently finished Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold. I was having very vivid dreams, trying to explain to Tyrion Lannister that I couldn’t approve his loan because he’d recently left his position as the King’s Hand, and we couldn’t lend to unemployed customers. I also had to turn down Daenerys Targaryen because she didn’t have three years residency in Westeros.
Once reality had reasserted itself (and my body would accept water again), I still needed a couple of days of quiet recovery. This book was a way down my reading list, but it was the one that found its way into my shaking hand and kept me company between my many naps.
If you’ve never read any of the Vorkosigan Saga:
1) You lucky person, you have such a treat waiting for you – they’re great!
2) Don’t start with Memory.
This is very much a transition story. Up to this point Miles has been a quirky (but brilliant) space adventurer; a pintsize aristocrat officer working as an undercover intelligence agent, posing as a mercenary admiral. In this book – that all stops.
So if Miles is no longer Admiral Naismith, who is he? That’s the central question of this book. Everybody is moving on with their lives – Elena and Baz set the tone at the start when they tell Miles they’re retiring from the mercenary fleet to start a family, and then Emperor Gregor is falling in love too! Miles has been through so much, and what (aside from his wits) has he got to show for it?
The pace and intensity is lower here than some of the previous adventures. This is a lot more of a reflective, contemplative Miles that we’re used to. But he still needs an adventure, he can’t just brood – and the story here is predominantly a detective case, investigating who sabotaged the memory-chip in Simon Ilyan’s head (Miles ex-boss). But this slower pace is no bad thing – Bujold is a character-centric writer, and taking her foot off the gas with the plot twists allows her time to dig deeper into the cast’s psyche – something she does very well indeed.
I often find that my state of mind plays a huge part in how much I enjoy a book. Recovering from the Norovirus could have been a very tiring and lonely time – but Miles Vorkosigan has joined that elite group of fictional characters who feel like old friends in my head. He was going through a tough time in Memory, and I was doing likewise in Cardiff – it felt like we helped each other through it.
My admiration for Bujold grows with each and every book I read. I've got Komarr lined up a few books down my reading list and I'm certainly looking forward to it!
After this I read: Thomas