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Lois McMaster Bujold – Brothers in Arms

February 4, 2011

154. Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold (1989)
Vorkosigan Saga, Book 8

Read my review of book:
1. Falling Free*
2. Shards of Honor*
3. Barrayar
4. The Warrior’s Apprentice*
7. Ethan of Athos*
(stars indicate stand-alones/starting points)

Read By: Grover Gardner
Length: 9h 52min (352 pages)

Genre: Science Fiction

Started: 06 December 2010
Finished: 14 December 2010

Where did it come from? From the publishers for review.
Why do I have it? I’m hooked into the series for good and proper.

Sometimes Miles feels like
he is two different people.
But what if he’s right?

Summary: Miles Naismith Vorkosigan is used to living a double life. On his home planet of Barrayar, he’s Lord Miles Vorkosigan, a member of the elite ruling and military class, and son to the second-most powerful man on the planet. Off-world, however, he’s Admiral Miles Naismith, commander of the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet. Although the Dendarii are secretly funded by Barrayaran intelligence, it’s critical that Miles keep his two identities separate – not always the easiest thing when a prenatal gas attack left him with a crippled physical appearance and brittle bones that are distinctly memorable.

After a nasty run-in with Cetagandan forces, the Dendarii put in at Earth for repairs. This much-needed downtime also gives Admiral Naismith the chance to lie low for a bit, considering the Cetagandans have put a substantial price on his head. But Miles isn’t used to switching back and forth between his two personas quite so often, and the strain is starting to show. And to make matters worse, a rumor – started by Miles himself in an attempt to deflect attention from his dual roles – seems to be coming true, with consequences more widespread than even Miles could have imagined.

Review: I’ve already gone on at length elsewhere about how much I enjoy Lois McMaster Bujold’s novels, both in general and the Vorkosigan Saga in particular. She creates marvelous science fiction that focuses on the people, and creates marvelous people to fill her worlds. She’s wickedly funny, with a great ear for dialogue, and can write a tight novel that contains plenty of twists and turns with minimal filler. All of that, it almost goes without saying, remains as true for Brothers in Arms as it is for the series as a whole.

One thing that I thought Brothers in Arms did particularly well, however, was show off Bujold’s skill at character development. She’s not starting from scratch; Miles is already an established character by this point in the series, and Brothers in Arms wouldn’t really work as an entry point. However, in this book, Bujold takes the character of Miles and makes him deeper and rounder, giving him layers to his personality that hadn’t been visible before, but are perfectly in tune with what we had already seen. Watching him try to maintain his multiple identities like shells around himself, while simultaneously trying to crack those shells enough to let the people he loves see the real him, was completely fascinating.

I also really enjoyed the storyline. The Vorkosigan Saga has been called space opera, but there’s really very little space to speak of in Brothers in Arms; almost the entire book is spent planetside on Old Earth. The plot’s got a definite touch of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors about it, but it’s tempered with a sizeable dose of pathos, a few helpings of psychology, and some well-done but not overwhelming internal politics. The ethical issues about identity and personhood and individual rights that Bujold addresses in several of her other books are present as well, although they emerge naturally from the premise of the story, rather than being shoehorned in as The Moral.

Grover Gardner did his usual excellent job with the narration, with the slight exception that he’s changed his pronunciation of “Dendarii” since The Warrior’s Apprentice (he’s now pronouncing the second “i”). He’s perfectly consistent within each book, but until I got used to it, I found the switch somewhat distracting. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: As I said, Brothers in Arms is not a place to start with the series, but it was a great continuation, especially for those who – like me – prefer their science fiction with as few space battles as possible. I’m excited to see what Bujold does next with the possibilities raised in this book.

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

Other Reviews: Mervih’s Book Reviews
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: His combat-drop shuttle crouched still and silent in the repairs docking bay – malevolent, to Miles’s jaundiced eye.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Woods permalink
    February 4, 2011 4:35 pm

    “After a nasty run-in with Cetagandan forces, …”

    The story of which is told in “Borders of Infinity”, published in the anthology of the same name.

    “[Bujold]’s wickedly funny, …”

    “Boys will be boys”, jokes Admiral Naismith, while in the background his troops sack London. :)

    • February 7, 2011 9:36 am

      Bill – I’ve actually read Borders of Infinity; I’m posting these reviews with somewhat of a delay from when I originally write them.

  2. February 5, 2011 12:50 am

    I’ve just skimmed this review because I don’t want to accidentally spoil myself– but I’m definitely going to read LMMB’s sooner rather than later, now! I don’t mind space battles but I do prefer my sci-fi with the focus on the people rather than the tech, so this is exciting. :D

    • February 7, 2011 9:35 am

      Anastasia – Hooray, another future convert! I’ve loved both her fantasy and her sci-fi, so wherever you choose to start, you can’t go wrong.

  3. HeatherF permalink
    February 5, 2011 10:38 pm

    My first comment! Fyrefly, I’ve been reading your blog for about two years, and I’m so excited that you have “Mirror Dance” and “Memory” coming up! “Mirror Dance” is probably my favorite LMB book – which means almost my favorite book of all time. It’s just so great. :)

    • February 7, 2011 9:38 am

      Heather – Thank you for being a long-time reader, and a first-time commenter! I’ve read these books somewhat out of order (based on the internal chronology of the series), so I’m actually going back and filling in the gaps first – I’ve read The Vor Game, and am currently working on Cetaganda – but I’ve definitely got Mirror Dance in my queue! Can’t wait!

  4. February 6, 2011 4:38 pm

    I plan to read this series one of these days! I have to figure out where I am going to start because there seems to be a lot of opinions on that!

    • February 7, 2011 9:41 am

      Kailana – If I can add my voice to the throng, I think it’s a good idea to read the series in internal chronological order (which is how I’m listing it above), starting with Shards of Honor. Falling Free is a completely independent prequel that can be read at any time before Borders of Infinity, but it’s not as good as some of the later books, so I wouldn’t recommend starting there.

  5. February 11, 2011 4:43 pm

    Ooh, this is one of my favorites!

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