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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Currently Rereading... Brothers In Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold

The latest of my Bujold rereads is Brothers In Arms, the first one I ever read, the one that got me hooked on the series. My copy is a remainder with a slash mark across the pages and two ends of the cover cut off. There was to be no mistaking this for a full price copy! The cover is pretty awful, as are most of the covers of my copies of this series. It shows a smirking Miles Vorkosigan(it must be, he's short) sitting relaxed on a rather uncomfortable-looking chair and a woman who is presumably meant to be Miles's reliable - and beloved - Commander Elli Quinn sitting on the platform on which the chair is parked, in what looks like a painful position but is meant to be relaxed. And both of them are wearing a uniform that has no connection with the story. The Dendarii uniform is grey and white; this one is a sort of dark blue leather which looks suited to motorbike riding. I have to wonder if the artist had ever read it - or even was commissioned by someone who had. 

Ah, well. I really must do a post on book covers, but it's just as well I didn't judge this one by its cover, isn't it? The remainder price certainly helped, and it's not the first time I have discovered a favourite author via the remainders table, with a dreadful cover; Mack Reynolds comes to mind.

I remember the first time I read Brothers In Arms. I had never come across these characters before, or their universe. I had no idea who they were. It was in the middle of the series. And yet I loved it and its hyper hero, Miles Vorkosigan, and even his much-upon cousin Ivan enough to go and find more. Take note of this, publishers who think that if you end a book on a cliffhanger this will be enough to force readers to buy the next book in a loooong series! Publishers who think it's enough to start a mid-series novel with a "story so far". All you had to do was ask your writers to create a character who is so likeable the readers want to know more.

There is, mind you, a chronology at the back of the book so that you know where you are in the series. And admittedly the later novels do form a story arc. There's not much point reading, say, A Civil Campaign, in which the likeable Emperor Gregor gets married and  Miles is finally accepted by a woman he loves, without knowing what led up to it. But in the earlier books you can go back and catch up with the storyline - and you'll want to!

Brothers In Arms is the novel in which Miles, on Earth and trying desperately and unsuccessfully to get the much-needed payment for his mercenary fleet, tells a journalist who has unfortunately seen him in both his personae - as Admiral Naismith and Lord Vorkosigan -  that this is because he has a clone, only to find out that he does have a clone, who is part of a conspiracy against his father and homeworld. Reading it the first time, who would think this clone would become a regular character - Mark - in the later books? That he would find love and a niche  for himself?

And this is the thing about this series - the stories are exciting and entertaining, but in the end they're about the characters. And they're funny while making serious points. There are scenes that made me laugh out loud, scenes that were a bit sad - and always, always I cheered on the hero.

In Komarr, in which Miles is on his first investigation as an Imperial Auditor, Ekaterin, the woman he will eventually win in A Civil Campaign, asks him what has happened to his former girlfriends and she spots a pattern he hasn't and maybe never will: that all the women in his life went on to do great things, even if they had to be without him, but usually with his help. I've just reread this one - I seem to be rereading the series backwards and all over the place.

That's fine - this is comfort reading.

Anyone else have favourite comfort reading?

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