Lois McMaster Bujold
Since certain distractions have slowed my reading I decided to brush the accumulated dust off an older title and hopefully entice some new readers.
If I’m not mistaken Bujold ties Heinlein for the number of Hugo’s she has won. She is a diverse writer dabbling in both fantasy and science-fiction and managing to invest each genre with its own unique style. She is probably most well known Vorkosigan series featuring the energetic, and frequently trouble making Miles Vorkosigan.
While the series properly begins in Cordelia’s Honor, Young Miles is the first book (or couple of books since it is rightly a collection) to feature the series’ most well known and titular hero. Born a mutant overly prone to fragility and sickness as a result of an attempt on his parent’s life Miles must make his way through the harsh militaristic society of Barrayar. A society that typically dealt with mutated children by killing them at birth.
Cursed with a fast metabolism Miles is an energetic character whose mind suffers none of deformations that his body does. In fact it is his mind, and frequently his mouth, that gets him into trouble and it’s usually both that manage to extricate him from the same.
Relatively early in the first of Young Miles’ two novels, The Warrior’s Apprentice that agile mind breeds Admiral Naismith. Miles’ alter ego that quickly becomes a mercenary leader and a distinct individual apart from Miles Vorkosigan. If there is one thing that Bujold does extremely well it is characters and Miles, and his alter ego, rank amongst some of the most endearing and entertaining characters in fiction.
Bujold’s strength as a writer, particularly in The Warrior’s Apprentice and The Vor Game (and the series at large) lie in her ability to combine humor, action, adventure, and drama to craft a believable story despite its fantastic setting. This isn’t hard sci-fi with carefuly wraught science but character centric adventure fiction of the highest caliber. While Bujold certain piles on the action and hijinks she does indeed to take time to explore the social aspects of the world she created. Young Miles more so than the material in Cordelia’s Honor explores the social taboos and prejudices of Barrayar by contrasting them with the value espoused by Beta Colony (Miles’ mother’s home) and the galaxy(ies) at large.
The creation of Admiral Naismith, while a fun excursion here, has greater ramifications in later novels. The entire Vorkosigan series works a fantastic character study that explores the devlopment of single character over many years. While less evident here than either in Cordelia’s Honor or later novels Bujold has a strong romantic streak in her fiction. It is an element that is never overwrought and, with the exception of one novel, functions more as an extension of Miles’ isolation and doubts as a result of his genetic deformities.
Supposing you adhere to the belief that action oriented military science fiction has a primarily male readership the romantic element of Bujold’s writing, combined with fantastic characterization and exciting adventure manages to create a novel that likely bridges that gender gap. In a similar vein Young Miles is likely equally appealing to people of various ages from young adults on up to the septegenarian crowd I firmly believe that Young Miles has a universal appeal that few authors can manage let alone master; something I think Bujold has done here.
Young Miles, while by rights sequels to Cordelia’s Honor, works well on its own. If you’re truly interested in the series I recommend starting at the beginning, but if you wanted to dabble a bit (especially considering Miles remains the focal point of the series in all material after Cordelia’s Honor) than Young Miles. A contemporary classic, high recommended. Librarians take note: Young Miles, in my opinions, makes an excellent book to recommend readers wary of sci-fi.