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Mirror Dance (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures) Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1995
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Miles Vorkosigan faces more than his share of troubles as the protagonist in Mirror Dance. Not only is he deformed and undersized but he has a cloned brother who gets into a jam in the free enterprise plague spot known as Jackson's Whole. Miles tries to help his brother but ends up injured, placed on cryogenic suspension and then lost in intergalactic limbo. And that's just in the first 100 pages. The following 300 pages add a wealth more to this fantastic tale that's both humorous and finely written. Mirror Dance won the 1995 Hugo Award for Science Fiction.
From Publishers Weekly
Honor and his sense of self place the fetally damaged, dwarf-like and brilliant Miles Vorkosigan in grave danger as he attempts to save his disturbed, younger clone Mark from the consequences of folly in this intricate and rousing new installment of the Vorkosigan adventures (after Barrayar ), the series' first appearance in trade hardcover. Passing himself off as Admiral Miles Naismith, Miles's secret identity, Mark commandeers one of the Dendarii Free Mercenary vessels to liberate clones being raised as brain-transplant hosts on the outlaw planet Jackson's Whole. When the plan goes awry, Miles is killed. He is preserved for resuscitation, however, in a cryo-chamber, which disappears in the confusion of evacuation. As the Dendarii search feverishly for their leader, the terrified Mark is sent to Barrayar to Miles's parents, Count Aral and Countess Cordelia Vorkosigan. The couple welcome him as a son and begin his training as their heir in case Miles is never found. The competitive and confused Mark, who had been created as a tool to assassinate his father and was brutalized by a madman in his youth, begins to find himself. His (and Miles's) penetrating intelligence flowers, and he plans a return to Jackson's Whole to find Miles and redeem himself. Hugo award-winner Bujold creates a tapestry of variegated human societies dispersed throughout a colorful galaxy. She peoples it with introspective but genuine heroes who seize the reader's imagination and intellect.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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There are a few big problems Bujold must overcome - problems she gives herself. First, there is Mark's lack of character. He is a poor-man's Miles who "grew up" with many of his problems (and more) and none of his role models or training. Then there is the betrayal of one of Miles' most loyal followers. No matter his/her motivations, it becomes a co-conspirator in a clearly underplanned, overconfident mission that leads to tragedy. Third, there's the 'then what' waiting that turns all of Simon Illyan's precision and cleverness into bumbling ineptitude.
And then there's the frankly disgusting torture. Not cool. I don't need to know these things. It doesn't make me pity/understand Mark more, it just makes me want him and all his issues to go away.
The 4 stars are largely for Cordelia and Aral. Oh, how I've missed them. They are written beautifully here, dealing with their more advanced ages, the family horrors, and the perfectly believable consequences of Mark's actions. Aral reacts to Mark as a man of his background would. Cordelia is the voice of the mother we all wanted and now try to be. Even Gregor and Ivan's outlines are filled in in ways that make me want to visit Barrayar just to meet them.
The book ends. And the reader likely has found a way to deal with Mark and his mountain of baggage. I will admit it makes me want to read Memory immediately, just to get the taste of him out of my mouth.
The other advantage of Bujold's style is that any reader can pick up any of the books in the timeline and still be able to read them and understand 99% of what's going on (and the other 1% acts as advertisements for the other books, rather than being confusing). Fans of Bujold and the Vorkosigan series will not need convincing of the quality of Bujold's work, nor will they care what one more reader thinks. It's probably more useful to address myself to those that haven't followed Bujold from Book 1. Like you, I first picked up one of Bujold's middle works with no understanding of the larger features of the overall series. Suffice to say that I never felt I missed something, rather, I always felt that I had been immersed into a rich universe that I didn't need to understand all of to appreciate the story. It feels that the author has taken the time and energy to fully develop a large and interesting universe, much like fans of the original Star Wars didn't need to know exactly how the Force worked or what the Kessel Run was in order to enjoy the film.
Thus, I encourage any rookies out there to jump right into the series anywhere you like - this book, or any of the earlier ones. They are all entertaining and action-packed. This one is perhaps a little darker that some others (fast penta has done away with the need for torture, except in cases of sadistic villians who happen to like it, which is the case in Mirror Dance). The backstory is this: Miles Vorkosigan, the heir to a significant duchy and son of the current Prime Minister of Barrayar has been cloned in a devious (and pretty convoluted!) plot that would have seen Miles murdered and his clone replace him in order to wreak havoc on the Barrayaran Imperium. This plot was all uncovered in a previous work and the clone, now named Mark, escaped and vanished. At the start of Mirror Dance, Mark decides to use his training as Miles's twin to hijack one of Miles's cruisers and attack the clone creche where he was raised, ostensibly to free the body-donor clones being raised there. When the plan goes awry and Mark is trapped planetside in the clone facility, Miles mounts a rescue attempt. Without giving away the details, suffice to say that there is much Shakespearean deception involving the identity of the two clone-brothers Miles and Mark, and who is captured or injured, and by whom, at any given time. Like in Shakespeare, we, the audience, are always privy to the actual identities, and always know more than any of the characters. Again, we know Miles and Mark will both survive, and the fun is in the journey, not the destination.
So, how does this novel rate on the Bujold scale? Certainly it keeps you entertained and reading obsessively throughout. I had a few minor quibbles where I thought characters were leaping to unwarranted conclusions, simply for the sake of advancing the plot. And while the story was entertaining, it took a long time (too long, in my opinion) for me to become invested in Mark's story. It's not until Mark's time on Barrayar, halfway through the book, that I started to care about his storyline at all. So, overall, I gave this episode 4/5. Don't get me wrong - it's very entertaining, and as a stand-alone offering it may well have earned 5/5. However, it's up against some stiff competition in its series, and isn't quite the best, so 4/5 it is.