Mirror Dance - Lois McMaster Bujold image
Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father. As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life (so far).

When I picked up Mirror Dance I was coming off the back of a strong, post-Wedding run of books. Cryptonomicon, The Years of Rice and Salt, To Say Nothing of the Dog, The Diamond Age, and Doomsday Book – that’s five novels, all getting four or five-star ratings from me in a row.

I wasn’t sure what to do about the Vorkosigan Saga. There were three trilogies on my Locus Quest reading list – Mars Trilogy, The Baroque Cycle and The Uplift Saga – where books two and three had won the Locus Sci-Fi Award, so I’d convinced myself that I should read the whole trilogy in each case to understand the award winners in context. At the other end of the spectrum was The Telling, which is part of the Hainish Cycle, but stands alone – so I didn’t read any other books in the series before I picked it up. The Vorkosigan Saga is definitely a traditional series – and should therefore ideally be read in chronological order, but the award winners on my list were books two and nine in a fourteen (and still growing) book series. There was no way I was going to read twelve other books to understand these two in full context. Harsh as it felt I was going to have to sample those two books out of order and hope they stood up.

Such were my thoughts beginning Mirror Dance. “It’s been such a wonderful run of books, but it had to end at some point.” “You can’t just jump in at book nine, it will make no sense!”

Oh, how little did I know!

Mirror Dance is superb! Really, truly, hand on my heart, right up there with my favourite books. Pure sci-fi adventure, with wit and drama and action and heartache and everything! Wonderful characters, a brilliant scenario – just an awful lot of fun!

Every sentence I write to describe this book ends with an exclamation mark!

I highly recommend this book as an entry point to the series. As I understand it, it marks the beginning of a four-book arc within the larger series, involving Marc. It also introduces Miles through a more vulnerable lens than some of the other books, and there are plenty more Miles books to get your teeth into once your curiosity is piqued. Cordelia may only be a minor character here, but she’s still a powerful presence and it was exciting to learn that she has her own books too! Finally, this story does a whistle-stop tour of the various local worlds used in the saga, so in that sense it works as a brilliant orientation.

I’ve since read two more Vorkosigan Saga novels: Barrayar (the other Locus winner, focused on Cordelia) and The Vor Game (a Hugo winner focused on Miles). Both of them were also excellent, (and will be reviewed soon) – and I am definitely a Vorkosigan Saga convert. I am now determined to read the whole series (albeit probably all jumbled out of order!). Of the three I’ve read, Mirror Dance is definitely still my favourite.

I like long running series. I like characters you get to spend a dozen books with. I’m a big fan of Discworld and the Dresden Files – and I’ve always wanted a sci-fi equivalent to follow as eagerly. With the Vorkosigan Saga I feel I’ve found that missing puzzle piece – and it makes me very happy. Thank-you, Madame Bujold, thank-you.