I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Poor Miles Vorkosigan! Right from the start of Memory (1996), perhaps the fifth novel featuring Miles in Lois McMaster Bujold's entertaining Vorkosigan space opera saga, he is suffering from both the worst physical afflicton in his nearly thirty-year life and the worst self-inflicted debacle in his thirteen-year career. The former involves his being prey to unpredictable, debilitating, and apparently untreatable seizures, rendering him a threat to any action undertaken by his Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet. And if the Chief of Barrayaran Imperial Security (ImpSec) Simon Illyan were to learn about it, Miles' sensational career and liberated alter-ego as Admiral Naismith of the Dendarii, as well as his official but modest career as ImpSec Lieutenant Vorkosigan of Barrayar, would be finished. So he writes a false report for Simon Illyan, putting himself in an impossible position. It is unsettling to witness Miles being crushed by circumstances of his own making that leave him apparently without the slightest hope of being able to jury-rig a plan involving improvisation, subterfuge, sleight of hand, b-essing, or any other tool from his usual bag of “forward momentum” tricks.
The promising opening to the novel also provides glimpses of Miles' doomed relationship with Sergeant Taura, the eight-foot-tall, genetically engineered super soldier with a brief built-in life span, his intense but ultimately hopeless relationship with Dendarii Captain Elli Quinn, who will love only Admiral Naismith and refuses to marry Miles Vorkosigan, and his sadly nostalgic relationship with Elena Bothari, who wants to retire from the Dendarii and raise a family with her husband. And as soon as Miles returns to his home in the Barrayaran capital, Bujold summons several interesting characters from Miles' past, including his gormless Cousin Ivan, his former hot-tempered superior in Brothers in Arms (1989), Captain Duv Galeni, an unprecedentedly love-smitten Emperor Gregor, and, most compellingly, Simon Illyan, when his eidetic memory implant chip goes haywire, making his behavior increasingly disoriented and pathetic in a manner reminiscent of the dementia that has wiped out my father's short term memory.
Memory is one of the Miles novels that take place nearly entirely on Barrayar away from his (Admiral Naismith's) Dendarii Free Mercenaries. Miles spends most of this novel in his family castle-mansion in the Barrayar capital, in his family's hill-country estate, or in the daunting ImpSec headquarters (dubbed by Miles "Cockroach Central"). Despite or because nearly the entire book is set on Barrayar and features no space battles or exciting action scenes, Memory is a page-turning novel with an interesting cast of characters and an intriguing mystery. And will Bujold finally have Miles resolve his ever conflicted dual identity as Mercenary Admiral Naismith and ImpSec Lietuenant Vorkosigan?
Some scenes are funny, as when Emperor Gregor offers Miles the chance to play at being an "Auditor":
"I thought you'd like it."
"Like it! It'll be downright orgasmic."
"Don't get carried away."
And some scenes are moving, as when Miles unburdens himself to Simon while fishing:
"I liked the winning . . . . I always got away with it somehow. Any way I could. On the table or under it, I won. This seizure thing . . . seems like the first enemy I couldn't outsmart . . . . "I was beaten . . . . Yet I survived. Didn't expect that. I feel . . . very unbalanced about that. I had to win always, or die. So . . . what else was I wrong about?"
Grover Gardener is his usual professional and appealing self, smoothly reading the novel as though he were born to voice Miles and managing to enhance the text in all the right places and ways without ever showing off or trying too hard to alter his voice for female or old voices. And his clear, dry, DJ-esque voice is as pleasant to listen to as ever.
All that said, I must admit (SPOILER ALERT) that although Bujold had me smiling as the long resolution of the novel plays out, the part of me stimulated by bracingly tragic tales of human self-destruction was disappointed by how ideally she works out the initially devastating predicaments of Miles and especially Simon Illyan, so that they both come out of their afflictions far better than they went into them. And Gregor's doctor love interest appears too more zaftig and not intelligent enough, and General Haroche is not as wiley as he's supposed to be. And I missed Miles' socially challenged clone-twin Mark.
But overall, Bujold is in fine fettle here, writing another solid entry in the Vorkosigan saga, each novel of which feels fresh and fun, because she is so adept at coming up with new ideas for Miles' trials and triumphs.
After a unexpected and crushing blow to his career, Miles sinks into a long but thoughtful depressive period which is a little slow, though still interesting to read. However, seeing "Auditor Miles" at work later more than makes up any lack of space battles. Miles crazed and entertaining maneuvers still keep you on the edge of your seat crying, "Go Miles!" The scenes between Illyan and Miles were gut-wrenching and absorbing. Must read for Miles fans.
I could listen to Grover Gardner read the ingredients list on a box of corn flakes- every morning!
I think this is my forth (fifth, sixth...) time listening to the Vorkosigan series. Restarting the series when a new book is released is a good excuse. I try to avoid the, "What are you reading/listening to?" questions when I do restart to avoid hearing, "Again?!?" when I tell them, "Miles". Oooh, maybe I'll tap my foot and bob my head to pretend I'm listening to a Miles Davis piece!
I don't understand how her books just keep getting better and better.. They aren't stories about Miles. They are stories about the human spirit. They are stories about me.
Also, a moving psychological story about everyone's favorite Miles. The character relationships start building and there is a crescendo of interconnected developments that climax in A Civil Campaign.
Miles is awesome
I don't want to give too much away so I will be vague. My favorite moment is when Miles stops feeling sorry for himself and realizes that just because he has some new medical problems does not mean that he cannot contribute to society anymore. He is not worthless just because his first career is over.
Miles. Grover Gardner has a great way of narrating his thoughts in exactly the right tone.
Yes. It is one that I have listened to multiple times and each time is engrossing.
This book is especially meaningful to me because I have epilepsy and I have suffered memory loss in my 20s and can really identify with both Miles and Simon. Lois McMaster Bujold really captured the feeling of helplessness when faced with permanent medical problems and how that can close some doors. However, she also managed to show Miles rising above it, or rather, around it.
There is also an awesome story with a mystery to solve. This series does science fiction right. There is enough technical information to make it feel like science rather than magic, but not so much that it bogs down the story. Overall, a fantastic and engrossing book.
I think McMaster Bujold is a superb author and am loving this series! I also love the narrator! I will say I didn't like this one quite as much as the previous books because it seemed the most sad overall of the books thus far, but you can tell it's setting up for something big and I'm excited to see what Miles gets up to next.
This installment in the wonderful series gives a much better look inside of Miles. If you have read any of the others u need to read this one. Highly recommended.