Miles Meets His Match -- Almost.
The Dendarii Mercenaries thought shore leave on old quaint, placid Earth would be a nice change of pace from chasing Cetagandans. But with Miles Naismith Vorkosigan around, things just seem to get complicated. With Miles and his clone both in the same place at the same time, life gets too crazy for even Miles. Good thing Elli Quinn and the Dendarii are on hand to bail him out. (from Amazon)
Once again, Lois McMaster Bujold messes with several popular sci-fi tropes. Unlike my experience with Ethan of Athos, I actually spotted them on my own this time! First there’s the whole split personality thing– I’ll be honest and say that I knew this was going to happen eventually in the series because I read most of the Vorkosigan saga TV Tropes page and there’s lots of nice spoilers on it.
Done well, a split personality can be very frightening. It’s just in the beginning stages in Brothers in Arms, but it’s still pretty terrifying. Miles is la-de-da about it for most of the book, though, until the other thing pops up. His (evil) twin! Or rather, his evil clone. Or, rather, his misguided brother.1
Plot-wise, Brothers in Arms was a bit uneven. It didn’t find its center until just about the last third of the book, and before that third it was all “Miles does a thing and then he gets in trouble.” Which is basically ALL the Miles books, really, but in this one it never turned interesting until nearly the end.
Once the clone DOES show up…he’s a bit disappointing. Partly that’s because he’s young and stupid and (as said earlier) misguided. He’s supposed to be just as smart as Miles it, but he doesn’t really seem like it.
Maybe LMB was avoiding the whole Sherlock Holmes-Moriarty thing (because Mark isn’t REALLY evil, see), and if so then I applaud her. I HATE that thing– it’s done way too much nowadays (Law and Order!) and the only thing I can stand it in is an actual Sherlock Holmes story. It’s so annoying! Sometimes the villain is a villain because he’s not two steps away from being the hero. Sheesh.
Anyway, by making Mark a bit dim, he’s differentiated even more from Miles. He’s already different not just because of his upbringing, but because of his morals and whatnot. That whole thing was cleverly handled by LMB; by making Mark morally ambiguous(/black hat) she can highlight how good Miles is…while at the same time poking at his split personality problem.
So it’s a pretty good book! A bit wobbly, a bit lax on the action, but lots of good emotional stuff. The next book has got more Mark in it, though, and I’m having a hard time getting enthusiastic about it. He’s such a dull character, for all that he could be sparkly and awesome. Oh well.
Read: March 4, 2013
- Who I also knew would pop up eventually. Sometimes spoilers bug me, but in the case of this series they just make me want to read the books MORE. ↩