Thursday, August 16, 2012

Musings: The Warrior's Apprentice

The Warrior's Apprentice
I first heard about Lois McMaster Bujold's on a Yahoo! Group dedicated to Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles and House of Niccolo novels. Miles Vorkosigan is often compared to Francis Crawford of Lymond, and after reading The Warrior's Apprentice, I can completely understand the comparison.  Both Miles and Francis have a lot of gumption for aristocratic teenagers.

I finally got my hands on the first book in the (Miles portion of the) Vorkosigan series via audiobook download!  I have no idea when I will read the next book in the series because the library sadly doesn't have all the books available in audiobook.  But now I've started the series, and I have plans to finish it, whenever that may be.

So what's the book about?  Miles Vorkosigan is a stunted and crippled 17-year-old who fails the physical exam to join the Imperial Army, so sets off on a trip to see his grandmother on a distant planet instead.  When he arrives on Beta colony, he somehow gains control and ownership of an outdated airship, a deserter from the Barrayaran army, and a commission to deliver weapons to a region in the midst of a horrible, long-running war.

I would talk more about the plot except that I was listening to it via audiobook and the OverDrive app often lost my place and I admit to being quite fuzzy on some of the greater details.  But, as you will see in any review of this book, it doesn't really matter what the plot of this book is.  What matters is Miles Vorkosigan, a man who begins the book as an idealistic and naive young man who values his honor and keeping his word and looking good in front of his childhood crush, and ends the book as a subtle, brilliant commander who is thrilled to have finally made his legendary father proud.  And I don't use the word brilliant lightly.  Miles is very, very intelligent.  This could get annoying very quickly, but Miles has such a self-deprecating sense of humor, such a burden on his shoulders of being too short, too slow, too handicapped in a society that practices infanticide of children it deems deformed, that he never gets annoying.

I have not read widely in the science fiction genre, but if there is more out there like this, then I think I will read both widely and deeply.  I don't enjoy dystopian fiction (well, except for Battlestar Galactica), but I enjoy reading about intelligent people finding clever solutions to problems that hurt as few people as possible.  That is really what Miles Vorkosigan does.  His development as a character in this novel is wonderful - he learns that keeping his word is not always the best action to take.  He learns that heroes can have feet of clay but that their flaws do not lessen the great deeds they've done.  He learns the value of loyalty and forgiveness and kindness and second chances.  Miles makes mistakes - sometimes huge mistakes.  He fumbles to choose the right words, and often misses the mark.  But he learns from those errors, apologizes for his mistakes, and attempts to be better.  He is always, always striving to be better, to be a son that his father can be proud of.  And really, every scene between Miles and his father is so emotional and so beautiful that you will just fall in love with them both (luckily, Miles' father has his own two books dedicated to him and Miles' mom, so I shall be looking for those as well!).

Truly a wonderful book with a flawed, passionate and brilliant man at its center.  Can't wait to read more in this series!

22 comments:

  1. You make this sound way better than the title makes it sound. And yes, I think good SF often does what you describe. Certainly the hero is usually smarter than other people. Heinlein, of course, originated the hero who is smart but lacks some physical quality that maybe doesn't matter in space. He originated the character--and the word--Waldo.

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    1. I know, I hate the title, too! I am not even entirely sure if I know which warrior it refers to. It could be two...

      I haven't read any Heinlein yet, but the way you make it sound as though I *should*, I think I'll add him to my list. Waldo is the character, I assume?

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    2. Sorry, I mean, is Waldo the title of the book? Or is it something else?

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    3. I think the title is meant to reference "Sorceror's Apprentice" and the way Miles creates the Dendarii. In that way, it's clever.

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    4. Oh, thank you! I shouldn't say that I hate the title just because I didn't understand it - I mean that it's not a title that generally would compel me to pick it up off the shelf and that is why I think it's weak. But your explanation makes sense - thanks for sharing it!

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  2. SO glad you loved Miles! I'm working my way very slowly through the series so I don't run out. I'd never heard of Dorothy Dunnett, though--do you recommend? I guess, if you were on a message board about her, that's probably a yes!

    I don't actually care for Heinlen, myself. I've only read a couple of books, but they felt quite dated to me. There's a LOT of free-love-style sex, which I don't mind, but there was so much that it was distracting. And it was kind of sexist at the same time, I felt--women were sexually liberated but still kind of second-class--but I'm remembering that from ages ago.

    If you haven't read it, another sci-fi classic I'd recommend is Ender's Game. Not the whole series, but that book is just excellent.

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    1. I do recommend Dunnett, and I think you'd really like her! But she is INTENSE and often has phrases in foreign languages littered throughout and it's a very dense style. If you'd be up for a buddy read, I am trying to motivate myself to read her King Hereafter, which I hear is her best, though she's much better well known for her Lymond series and to a lesser extent, Niccolo.

      I admit I avoid Ender's Game because Card sounds like a jerk. But I'll look into it!

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    2. That's so funny, because I won't read anything newer by Card, since he's become such an outspoken jerk. And you can definitely see things in some of his books that I don't like, especially sexism. But Ender's Game, being a YA military story, just doesn't have a lot of opportunity for those things--it's mostly male and a very focused story.

      And bless my soul, my library has an ebook copy of King Hereafter! I'm all in discussion mode about the books I'm reading lately; I'd love to read it together. I'll email you!

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    3. Sweet! I look forward to it :)

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  3. I have heard of these books before, but have never read a really detailed review of what makes them different and unique. I always have trouble finding books that my husband and I would both like to experience on audio, and I think that this one would be perfect. I love that Miles goes way beyond the physical limitations that are placed on him, and becomes a brilliant leader. Wonderful review today, Aarti! I need to hit up the library for some of these on audio!

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    1. Ooh, I do think it would be one you and Frank would enjoy together - give it a try, and let me know what you think. Lots of character development, but definitely action-filled, too!

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  4. I've heard good things about Bujold's writing - so much so that I have been adding her books to my paperbackswap wishlist over the past year. I just haven't had any time to read them yet. It's good to know that you liked this one. I'll have to keep it in mind.

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    1. Yes, in recent years, she has veered over more into fantasy, but I think the Vorkosigan saga continues, too!

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  5. I don't often read science fiction but I would love to try this series. Miles sounds like a wonderful character and I'm definitely intrigued by the comparison to Lymond!

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    1. Haha, I thought you would be!

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  6. Oh yes Bujold..I do think the library has her sci.fi ones too. But as I was not impressed but the fantasy I do not know

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    1. I don't recall loving Bujold's fantasy, either. I know I read one of them and I think I liked it, but I also don't think I continued with the series at all, so I am not sure...

      The sci fi feels very different.

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  7. I read the couple of prequels to this book, one that I wasn't fussed about, but I loved the one that told his parents story.

    Check Baen.com (I think) because they have some of the books in this series that you can download for free.

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    1. Well, I'll have to check out the prequels, then! I just didn't get them because they weren't available on audiobook at the library, really. I might look into them to read in hard copy. Thanks for the idea on Baen!

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  8. So glad you enjoyed this! I completely agree that Miles makes the book - and the rest of the series, for that matter - as he is simply a brilliant character who goes through an amazing arc over the course of the books. I also like how the anthologies going forward are grouped into themes that examine some issues more deeply; furthering the story and really making me think at the same time. I really do hope you continue! Marg is right, some of these are available as free ebooks in the Baen free library, if you can't find them at your own library.

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    1. I think I may stick with the series in auidiobook form- the narrator is great. The next one in the series is available, but not the prequels.

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  9. I can't believe I have only read one book in this series... I really have to get back to it!

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