Jenny's Library

Reading Round-up 2013: week 23

Posted on: November 18, 2013

cover image for Falling FreeFalling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold

Leo Graf arrives at Cay Habitat expecting it to be much like every other job he’s done as a GalacTech employee.  And it’s true that he’ll be welding and teaching and supervising, as always.  But this time his students and subordinates are quaddies – people genetically modified to “adapt” to work on space stations, including having four arms and no legs.  Leo doesn’t have a problem working with the quaddies, people are people no matter how they look, after all.  What he does have a problem with is how GalacTech treats the quaddies, which they consider to be property rather than employees.

Bujold raises a lot of interesting questions in this prequel, and manages to create a scenario in which Leo’s choices are among the very few moral ones available to him, without making it seem like the answers are always so simple.  It’s a fun and thought provoking book, and makes me wish for more stories about how we got from now to Miles era.

cover image for The Mountains of MourningThe Mountains of Mourning by Lois McMaster Bujold

When Harra Csurik arrives at the doorstep of the Vorkosigan country estate, seeking justice for an unsolved crime, Miles sends her along to his father.  Aral Vorkosigan then turns right around and puts Miles in charge of the case; Harra’s infant daughter was murdered because of her mutation, an old practice that is no longer legal, but still common.  The hope is that Miles presence will make how the law now views “mutes” abundantly clear, and that the newly graduated Miles will keep himself busy and learn something useful about the people he will one day be responsible for as well.

A beautiful and heartbreaking story, and one of my favorites about Miles.  So much of Miles life has been about proving himself to the people around him, but in this story he starts to understand what it means to fight on behalf of others as well.  And it’s especially nice to see him deal with a problem that he can’t simply bluster his way out of, and where he has to learn how to show some grace and compassion rather than simply cleverness and generosity.

cover image for Brothers in ArmsBrothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold

Miles’ visit to Earth was supposed to be simple.  Uncomplicated.  Shore leave for the Dendarii mercenaries, and a stop by the Barrayan embassy for Miles so he can collect their pay.  But when is anything involving Miles ever easy?  Particularly now that there are two of them running around, Miles and…a clone!

This ought to have been the the story that jumped the shark – a secret clone? Really?  Instead, it’s a great story about the meaning of family and the horrors of war.  With Miles being Miles – times two.  It’s not quite as brilliant as some of the other Miles books, but it’s anything but disappointing.

cover image for Borders of InfinityBorders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold

When Barrayar hires the Dendarii mercenaries to rescue a general from a Cetagandan prisoner of war camp, Miles appoints himself to the person on the inside.  After being beaten and relieved of his clothes by the welcoming committee, Miles realized that this isn’t going to be as easy as he thought; the entire camp is in disorder, brought on by appalling conditions and psychological warfare employed by the Cetagandans.

There’s a lot in this story that I love.  As usual, Bujold handles questions of morality with respect, nuance, and compassion.  And the way that Miles plan comes together in the end is absolutely perfect.  However, I also happened to be reading this around the time that fandom was discussing the gendered reality of rape in combat, and – as Liz pointed out – the fact that rapes in this story are limited to male on female rapes is not at all accurate for such situations, which affects some of the emotional truth of the tale.

cover image for Mirror DanceMirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

Mark, Miles clone, no longer hopes to kill Miles – but his latest scheme might just do the job anyway.  In an attempt to rescue the clones on Jackson’s whole, Mark impersonates Miles and commandeers a Dendarii Free Mercenary ship and it’s crew.  When the plan goes south, and Miles finds out, he stages a rescue of the rescue operation – and plans on giving Mark what for as soon as he gets the can.  But will he get the chance?

As wonderful as this book is (and the scenes between Mark and both Aral and Cordelia are particularly wonderful) I have to admit that this book now mostly sticks in my mind for what it sets up later.  It’s awesome!  It’s also just a bit overshadowed by the stories that come before and after.

cover image for UnderneathUnderneath by Sarah Jamilla Stevenson

When Sunshine Pryce-Shah’s beloved older cousin Shiri commits suicide, Sunny is shocked devastated.  And when Sunny beings “underhearing” the thoughts of people around her, she begins to wonder if she may have found the real root of Shiri’s pain – and if she may be driven to kill herself as well.

This book was just kind of a mess. Not well written, not very engaging, and – as you can see yourself – the kind of book that randomly comes up with new terms for old and well-known ideas.

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