A brief note on the Vorkosigan books before I get into Memory:
Memory is the tenth book out of fourteen total in the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold. That is, it’s tenth in chronological order beginning with the prequels about Miles’s parents and including the books that do not feature Miles. It may seem odd to include the latter two, but they are still in the series omnibus editions along with the other books so I’ve been reading them as they show up (one is about a member of Miles’s crew and the other takes place 200 years before Miles’s time – the latter shows up at the end of the omnibus editions, though, so I haven’t yet read it). Other than the newly released Cryoburn, Memory is the only book not available in an omnibus.
Although I think it is possible to start the series with either the prequels (Shards of Honor and Barrayar in Cordelia’s Honor) or The Warrior’s Apprentice (available in the Young Miles omnibus), I would definitely recommend reading all the books including Miles before beginning Memory. It picks up shortly after Mirror Dance and it is a transitional book for Miles as a character – familiarity with him is necessary to get the full impact of this novel. If you haven’t read the previous books and do not want to read potential spoilers, here are the reviews for both omnibuses that are good starting points for the series – Cordelia’s Honor and Young Miles. It is a series I highly recommend to fans of space opera adventure, especially if you like a clever main character with a tendency to get into trouble.
Miles Vorkosigan is once again on a mission in his guise as Admiral Miles Naismith, commander of the Dendarii Fleet. This time Simon Illyan, chief of Imperial Security, has charged Miles with retrieving a courier taken when hijackers took over a freighter. Instead of doing the intelligent thing and returning poor Lieutenant Vorberg to his homeland, they decided to put him up for sale. As can be imagined, the Emperor and the rest of the Barrayaran government didn’t take too kindly to this treatment of one of their men, thus resulting in dispatching a crew to rescue him.
Unfortunately, resurrection is a procedure that has some side effects – and in Miles’s case, they happen to manifest in the middle of the operation to save the lieutenant. As is typical of Miles’s luck they appear at the worst possible moment, much to the detriment of the poor lieutenant. To make matters even worse, Miles deliberately hid this issue from his superior officer at Imperial Security, fearing he’d be stuck behind a desk instead of allowed out into the field. When Miles is called home, he is not looking forward to facing Simon Illyan’s fury, and the end result is even worse than being designated to desk duty. However, when Simon Illyan’s memory chip begins malfunctioning Miles may be the only one with the ability to help – and the process of investigating this public and private disaster may even help him work through some of his own problems.
Despite some pacing issues, Memory is one of the best books in the series that I’ve read so far (along with Barrayar). It started off very quickly since the first part was the doomed mission, then it meandered a bit before eventually coming together. Miles has it rough in this book, dealing with the aftermath of his death from the previous book. It only gets worse for him, and this does result in some moping that seemed to drag on and on before the rest of the plot picked up. Sometimes I don’t mind introspection that lends itself to character development, especially in a case like this one where it’s entirely justified and expected, but it did go on for long enough that it began to get dull. [Ed. – I half expected Miles to start wearing a sad beret, visiting coffee bars where he reads elegies about weepy-eyed puppies every Thursday, and develop a crippling heroin habit; I was only partially right.] Then the mystery part of the story began to build up, Miles was back in action and it was moving along nicely. At that point it became very compelling, particularly since events progressed while he continued dealing with (and actually working toward resolving) his crisis.
This is the book in the series where Miles’s internal fight comes to a head. I certainly don’t want to give away how it ends, but the consequences of this decision mean that the series has forever changed from this point forward. It will be interesting to see how this plays out throughout the rest of the series and just what it means for Miles. The resolution has promise, but I’m also a little unsure about how different the next installments will be.
Aside from a slight fear about the next books, I’m fairly confident there’s no need for worry. After all, my husband [Ed. Hi!], who has read the rest of the books, said he was very annoyed by how Memory ended and the possibility of limiting some aspects of the series. After reading the rest of the books, he decided his concerns had been unnecessary. Also, once it picked up, Memory had all the same aspects I loved about the other books. The mystery concerning the breakdown of Illyan’s memory chip was fun, especially with Miles involved. He’s a great character – clever and his third person narrative is tinged with an amusing sense of humor. This novel also involved Barrayaran social structures, and learning more about Simon Illyan was a plus.
For those who have read the previous books about Miles, this novel is a must read although there are some issues with pacing. It’s certainly worth persevering to wait for the plot to progress, though, and I look forward to seeing how the big changes in this book affect the rest of the series.
My Rating: 8.5/10 (Again, this probably should have been higher on my top 10 of the year list. Apparently I need to write about books that are potential candidates before deciding on the final list.)
Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.
Reviews of other books in this series: