Monday, September 30, 2013

The Warrior's Apprentice

by Lois McMaster Bujold

Grade: 5 stars
Story summary: Sequel to Shards of Honor and Barrayar (chronologically speaking--the order of publication is quite different), starring Miles, the son of the magnificent main characters from those books. Also features battles in space, manipulations, lies, and the "accidental" creation of an entire mercenary fleet.

Thoughts: Miles Vorkosigan. I am fully and completely in love with him.

He's the sort of person that will cover up his small lies by telling really massive lies, and then somehow, through all the plots and chaos and manipulations, the lies will end up true. He's one of the the few people that can match Moist von Lipwig (from some my favourite Discworld novels, Going Postal and Making Money) in pure, brazen audacity and "manic 'forward momentum'"*. As Moist himself says, "If I am going to fail, I would rather fail spectacularly".

He's the sort of person that has this strange effect on the people around him. In this way, he's one of the only people I've met (perhaps the only?) whom I feel like I can properly compare to Eugenides, from the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. (You might not realize how important this is, but it really is! Eugenides pretty much tops everybody as a character for me.) There's a similar sort of charisma and presence. If he for a moment switches his entire attention on you--well, you're not going to come out of that the same.  And somehow, people find themselves following all sorts of insane schemes that they'd never dream of trying normally.

To sum up in the words of one of his men: "Your forward momentum is going to lead all your followers over a cliff someday. On the way down, you'll convince 'em all they can fly. Lead on, my lord. I'm flapping as hard as I can."

Really, this book is all about Miles. I could talk about the plot and secondary characters, as they are quite excellent. But the plot events are pretty much all brought about through him, and many of the great secondary characters are put into focus through his relationships to (and manipulations of) them.

There is one thing I want to discuss briefly that is a huge spoiler. Visit to decode it:
Obgunev...ubj pbhyq ur qvr fb rneyl va gur frevrf! Ur jnf fhpu n snfpvangvat punenpgre, naq znqr fhpu na vzcnpg ba gur punenpgref va gur svefg guerr obbxf. Fvtu. Vg vf irel fnq.

P.S. I've heard lots of talk about how horrible the covers for this series are. Are they really that bad? I mean, they could be better, obviously. But they never struck me as being that horrible... Anyway, I was just mentioning it in case anybody was turned off by the cover image up there. Please, in this case at least, follow the old proverb about not judging books by their covers.

P.P.S. I also want to emphasize that these are adult books, and widely acclaimed throughout the SciFi community (winning lots of Hugos and other awards). In other words, although you might get the impression that this is more similar to my usual fare of YA and children's SF/Fantasy, there is depth and excellent writing--especially as the series progresses. (Not that YA and children's don't have that, of course.) Basically what I'm trying to say is, they're fabulous and you should read them, even if it might not seem like your type of book. I keep getting terribly worried that something I say in this review is going to turn you off, and it really shouldn't!

*Quote taken from the Goodreads description.

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