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Lois McMaster Bujold – Memory

June 17, 2011

61. Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold (1996)
Vorkosigan Saga, Book 11

Read my review of book:
1. Falling Free*
2. Shards of Honor*
3. Barrayar
4. The Warrior’s Apprentice*
5. The Vor Game
6. Cetaganda
7. Ethan of Athos*
8. Brothers in Arms
9. Borders of Infinity
10. Mirror Dance
(stars indicate stand-alones/starting points)

Read By: Grover Gardner
Length: 14h 32m (480 pages)

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery

Started: 16 April 2011
Finished: 02 May 2011

Where did it come from? From Blackstone Audio for Review.
Why do I have it? Must we even ask? It’s the Vorkosigan Saga!

What’s worse: a boss who
can remember everything,
or nothing at all?

Summary: Miles Vorkosigan has made a lot of mistakes in his thirteen years of military service, but he’s always been able to bounce back stronger than before. But at the start of Memory, Miles makes a series of errors in judgment that could cost him everything. After his brush with death in Mirror Dance, Miles’s cryo-revival procedure has seemingly gone without a hitch… except for the fact that he now has unexplained, unpredictable, and uncontrollable seizures. When a seizure causes some unfortunate friendly fire on an otherwise routine Dendarii rescue mission, Miles tweaks his report to hide the fact, fearing being pulled from active duty and getting stuck on a desk job.

The consequences of his report wind up being even worse than Miles had feared. Simon Illyan, the head of Imperial Security, has an eidetic memory chip that allows him to catch Miles in his lies. Furious at this deception from someone who was being groomed as his replacement, Illyan discharges Miles from the Imperial Military Service… which simultaneously strips away his ability to use his alternate identity as Admiral Miles Naismith of the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet. In one blow, Miles sees all of his future plans – both as Admiral Naismith and as Lieutenant Vorkosigan – stripped away, just days before his thirtieth birthday.

Miles sinks into one of his black depressions, but his self-pity doesn’t last for long; something is going seriously wrong at ImpSec. Simon Illyan appears to be losing his mind… or at least the part of his mind that’s contained in his memory chip. As his condition deteriorates, ImpSec higher-ups are left with a puzzle: is this a natural chip malfunction, or deliberate sabatoge? And even though Miles no longer officially works for ImpSec, he’s determined to get to the bottom of this mystery one way or another.

Review and Reccomendation: Memory is in many ways a transitional novel: the closing of one phase of Miles’s life and the beginning of another one. Yet it’s simultaneously an independent and relatively self-contained story, and I appreciated Bujold’s decision to give this book a plot of its own rather than attempting to hang an entire novel on Miles’s personal development. As a result, though, the plot is somewhat oddly structured: a self-contained mystery novel bookended by large segments of series continuity. The result is that the “real” plot feels like it takes a long time to get started; the crisis that sparks the mystery (i.e., who or what destroyed Illyan’s chip?) doesn’t appear until roughly 3/8s of the way through. Reading about Miles doing nothing except simmering in his deep depression is not uninteresting, per se – Bujold throws in too many nice character moments, callbacks to previous books, and dryly funny bits for that – but it is also not something that I would describe as “action packed.”

Once the mystery starts, however, the plot picks up the pace. It took me a bit to get my footing in the plot – while I’m sure Illyan’s memory chip has been mentioned in the series prior to this point, it wasn’t something that I made any particular note of (not having an eidetic memory of my own), and thus its failure as a key plot point seemed to come from left field.

But my larger problem with the mystery was that I didn’t find it all that mysterious. I’m not a huge reader of mysteries, but in this case, I had the solution pegged – correctly, as it turns out – almost from the word go. Miles is usually so intelligent that as the investigation went on, and clues continued to be dropped, I felt like his failure to see the right answer was a result of his being deliberately obtuse. It wound up making what would otherwise have been highly enjoyable listening – see above re: funny, clever, and excellent character development – more frustrating than it needed to be. If only there were a way to reach into a book and slap the main character around until they remember the basics of criminal investigations…

But, for all that, any time spent in the universe of the Vorkosigan Saga is time well-spent, even when an individual installment doesn’t quite live up to the heights set by some of its predecessors, and I certainly enjoyed the listening experience. The audio production and Grover Gardner’s narration were seamlessly excellent, as always, and I’m looking forward to listening to more, especially given the new path on which Memory seems to have set Miles’s life. 4 out of 5 stars.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Dear Author, Drying Ink, Fantasy Cafe, The Good, the Bad, and the Unread, Mervi’s Book Reviews
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Miles returned to consciousness with his eyes still closed.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 20, 2011 7:03 am

    I felt Miles’ obtuseness rather in ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ – but I’m not so familiar with Cetagandan politics, so I saw what was happening long before Miles got his head round it!

    • June 20, 2011 2:35 pm

      Ela – I haven’t read Diplomatic Immunity yet – although it’s coming up soon! – but in this case, I could sort of excuse Miles being dense by giving him the benefit of the doubt that he’s seeing what he wants to see, and is overwhelmed by events, etc. But still…. c’mon, smarty-pants! The solution’s RIGHT THERE. :)

  2. Bill Woods permalink
    July 6, 2011 3:23 pm

    As a mystery, the weakness is that the perp has to be a character known to the reader. By the point that you know that a crime was committed, you also know that there’s only two or three such who might have had access to the weapon. But *Miles* has to deal with a much longer list of suspects, so his problem is much harder.

    • July 6, 2011 3:27 pm

      Bill – I see your point, but there’s also a question of motive… and shouldn’t the number one question of a murder investigation be “who benefitted?” I feel like that should have narrowed the list down quite a bit.

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