Apr 13 2009 1:04pm

This is my old identity, actually: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Memory

Memory (1998) is in my opinion the worst place to start the Vorkosigan saga, because it is a sequel to all the books that have gone before it. I know that by saying this I’ll be prompting several people who started with it to say that no, it absolutely hooked them, but even so, I think you will get more out of Memory if you come to it with knowledge of the earlier books, and the most if you come to it with all of the earlier books fresh in your mind. It contains some very sharp spear points on some very long spears. Memory was nominated for a Hugo but did not win, and I suspect that might have been partly because it is so very much a sequel. (It was a very strong year, though. There are three of my all time top favourite books on that ballot.)

The themes of Memory are temptation and elephants.

This is the book where everything Miles has been getting away with from the beginning catches up with him. The text—the universe—has always been on Miles’s side. He’s always been right, against all odds, he’s always won, he’s always got away with things. It hasn’t been without cost, but he has always got away with everything. He’s been incredibly lucky and he’s even survived death. It’s been the kind of life that real people don’t have, only protagonists of series with the author on their side. In Memory, it appears at first that Bujold has stopped being on Miles’s side. The first part of the book is really grim, and really hard to read. Then the plot begins, and it gets really distressing. I’m not safe to read Memory in public because it always dissolves me into a pool of tears. Then Miles wrestles temptation two falls out of three and wins, and wins through. The whole book is about Miles’s identity, Miles split identity as Naismith and Vorkosigan, Miles discovery of his own identity, his own integrity.

My son, reading the first part of Memory, still ten years old, asked me if Miles ever got off the planet. I deduced from that that he wanted Miles to run off to the Dendarii, and when he’d finished reading it I asked if he was sorry Miles hadn’t made that choice. “Jo!” he said, furious with me, “The one thing you can’t give for your heart’s desire is your heart!” After that, I let him read whatever he wanted, because once you know that, you can’t go far wrong.

The elephants are an underlying motif, they keep cropping up. I thought about tracking all of them this read-through and decided not to bother. Somebody has probably done it. There are a lot of them.

The temptations—well, there’s the central one of Miles’s temptation to run off back to the Dendarii. The first time I read it I, like Cordelia, would have bet he would go. But the centrality of his Barrayaran identity, of what he’s fighting for, goes back to “The Mountains of Mourning” (1989), and the central turning point of Memory is his visit to Silvy Vale, where nothing has been standing still. He’s tempted again afterwards, he’s tempted, not to say bribed, by Haroche. Miles resists the temptations, he comes to his central (and much quoted) realisation that “the one thing you can’t give for your heart’s desire is your heart.” The author is still on his side, he finds integration and integrity, and he gets to be an Imperial Auditor—which might work slightly better if we’d ever heard of them before, but never mind.

Haroche though, Haroche was tempted and gives in. The Haroche plot totally fooled me the first time through—of all the books in this series with mystery plots, this one is the best. All the clues are hidden in plain sight, it all makes perfect sense when you’re re-reading remembering exactly what they are, and so does the reason you didn’t see them the first time. The whole plot is brilliant. And the way it’s interleaved with the themes and the incidentals is incredible. I would be in awe reading it, if I wasn’t always in tears.

The plot is against Illyan, who we have seen constantly in the background since Shards of Honor (1986) and who now comes into the foreground. I don’t think for a moment that when Bujold wrote about his memory chip in 1986 she thought “and in 1998 I can write about it breaking down.” This isn’t that kind of series. I like Ilyan. The description of his disintegration remains very distressing. The first time I read it I actually broke down and sobbed on the line “Ivan, you idiot, what are you doing here?” Yesterday, on a bus, and expecting it, I just had tears in my eyes. The whole section is almost unbearably brilliant.

There’s a lot of romance in this book. There’s Gregor’s marriage plans, Galeni’s marriage plans, Ivan proposing to Delia and Martya Koudelka on the same day, Alys and Illyan, Miles and Taura at the beginning, Miles and Elli Quinn giving each other up at the end. That looks forward to the other books in the series, where romance becomes increasingly a theme.

Cetaganda (1995) is the last of the books to be written out of order. The series preceding Memory was written all over the place, chronologically. From Memory on it marches straight forward, one books succeeding the next, chronological and publication order are the same.

I’ve talked about the different ways the series begins, and I’ve talked about the way all the books stand alone and recapitulate important information so you don’t necessarily have to have read the other books. I started this re-read thinking about how this is a series that got better as it went on, instead of starting with a brilliant book and declining. I think a lot of what made it get better was starting with adventures and a deeper level of realism than adventures normally get and then going on taking those adventures seriously and making the realism more and more realistic. There’s this thing where a reader accepts the level of reality of fiction as part of the mode, part of the “givens” of the text, the controlling axioms. So we don’t really think that a seventeen-year-old could create the Dendarii out of bluff and illusion, but we go along with that because we get enough details, and because the emotional level of plausibility is there, and the cost is there—Bothari, and Naismith not being Miles’s name. And by Memory, the mode is different, and what we have is a psychologically realistic novel about the psychological cost of having got away with all of those things for so long.

Endings are a problem with an unplanned series, because the series isn’t working towards an end point, just going on and on. Bujold is particularly good at endings on individual volumes, there isn’t a single book that doesn’t have a satisfactory climax. But the series as a whole doesn’t have an end, doesn’t go anywhere. Memory is one possible place for the story to end. It’s a capstone for all that’s gone before. It’s not as if there isn’t more than can happen to Miles—and indeed, we have three more (and a fourth being written) books about Miles. But what happens from Memory on is a set of different things, going on from there, not really reaching back to the earlier books. You can see it as two series—three. One about Cordelia, one about Miles growing up and being Admiral Naismith, stretching from The Warrior’s Apprentice to Memory and the third post-Memory, a series about Miles’s love life and his career as Imperial Auditor. Memory is a climax for the whole series so far, and I think if it had ended there there would have been a feeling of rightness, a satisfaction, about that. I do not urge people to stop reading at Memory, but when you’re looking at the series as a series and how it works, it’s worth considering it as a possible end.

It is also my opinion that Memory is the point where the series stopped getting better. The other three books, while they’re a new direction for the series, while they’re never repetitive or just more-of-the-same, are no better than Memory. (The new one when it comes may well prove me wrong, as Bujold has certainly gone on getting better as a writer in her post-Miles career.)

CD Covington
1. ccovington
Memory is one possible place for the story to end. It’s a capstone for all that’s gone before.

This might explain why I haven't re-read the subsequent volumes more than once each, but I've read Memory so many times. (And I totally agree: this is the worst place to start the series, despite being IMO the best of them all.)

It's also a very nice companion piece to The Mountains of Mourning: We meet Harra again, see the Raina Csurik school and Silvy Vale with electricity. And the theme of Miles finding Lord Vorkosigan is strong in both.

I love Ivan in this one. He's the ass Miles can trust absolutely (to haul those high explosives.)

I've used "Money, power, sex ... and elephants" as my signature for *years*.
2. mjreed
I can confirm Memory being the wrong place to start. I read it first and thought it was okay - just good enough to make me pick up one of the earlier books.

It was only when I came back to Memory later that I realised just how brilliant it was.
3. OtterB
This is my favorite of the Miles books. I love the "Money, Power, Sex ... Elephants" theme, but I disagree on the other theme. I see your point in calling it temptation, and the "two falls out of three" scene sticks vividly in my memory, but I'd call the other theme redemption. In many respects, Miles and Haroche made the same mistakes. They lied in the pursuit of a position in the Service that would let them accomplish the things they thought they were cut out to do. Others were hurt in their singleminded pursuit of their self-defined destiny. But Haroche, at last view, is still trying to persuade Gregor, or perhaps himself, that his choice was understandable and even admirable. Miles had the grace to regret his choice, tell Gregor he's sorry, re-ground himself, and go on.
David Bilek
4. dtbilek
Your reviews of the Vorkosigan books have been some of my favorite things on the Tor site thus far, Jo. Do DEEPNESS next! DEEPNESS!

Nitpick, though: MEMORY was nominated for a Hugo in 1997 which I don't think was a particularly strong year. It is A CIVIL CAMPAIGN that was nominated in 2000 which I agree was one of the strongest years in a long, long time and also has 3 of my all time favorite books on it.

I suspect the three books are the same for both of us.
Jo Walton
5. bluejo
DTBilek I did DEEPNESS. It was practically the first post I did here.
Ursula L
6. Ursula
I'm pretty sure that we've heard about Imperial Auditors before - perhaps in the framing story for Borders of Infinity? There was one who was going over Illyan's budget, thinking there was a huge amount of corruption, because of the vast amounts of money it consumed without obvious result, due the the hidden expense of the Dendarii. A passing mention, if I remember correctly, and they sound like an ordinary financial auditor, rather than the near-all-powerful ears of the Emperor.

The auditor was definitely powerful enough to give Illyan a headache, though. So I suppose the level of power was hidden in plain sight, since you'd think that an auditor who tracks the ordinary budget wouldn't have access to the secrets of ImpSec.
7. Lois Bujold
Something one might miss, in skipping the outlier books, is what I think of as a sort of two-cycle rhythm in my writing. I can almost never do two "big" books in a row. They leach the minerals from my bones, or something; the recovery takes time, during which I may as well be writing something to keep up with the insatiable maw of the market as writing nothing at all, which would be the only other choice, and in fact might be a worse choice. (A person gets out of condition with no exercise, after all.)

So the line of my work in the 90's really goes, ferex, Barrayar - The Spirit Ring - Mirror Dance - Cetaganda - Memory - Komarr - A Civil Campaign. Then a break in the usual cycle with Curse of Chalion (because this is a trend, not a rule), then Diplomatic Immunity, then Paladin of Souls.

Each book was the best I could do at the time, in that year, with that theme, with whatever else was going on in my life. All were hard in different ways. But the readerly demand of "Each one better than all the others!" really does become a nearly unavoidable problem for the writer with more than one book.

And really, one book out of a career really does have to be the best, by the constraints of the question, the way there will always be a leading cause of death; pity the poor writer for whom that was their first.

Lucky for me, readers' tastes also vary...

Ta, L.
David Bilek
8. dtbilek
Jo - Thanks for the link to your review. The really, really sad part? I see a comment of mine in that very thread. The memory, she ain't what she used to be.

LB: My own opinion is that A Civil Campaign is the best you've written thus far (caveat: I'm not caught up on your two most recent novels). And given the subject matter of the book that's saying something. I never thought a book dedicated to Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Georgette Hayer, and Dorothy Sayers would be my favorite novel by a multiple-Hugo award winning author.
9. Lois Bujold
Ah, Jo, this thread brings back memories... sort of...

Iirc it was about _Memory_ that, among other people, you and I ended up arguing with that strange young man on rec.arts.sf.written, back when I still dropped in from time to time, who had read the start of the book and decided it violated some list of particularly stupid don't-do rules for newbie writers that he had taken in (but not yet digested). I think it was the "rule" about not letting your character wake up in a blank room at the start of a story because, supposedly, it revealed the writer at a loss. (Related to that thing -- it probably has a name -- where the baffled writer stops and has a sip of coffee, then has the character do likewise, etc.) On the basis of this, he decided I must be a really clueless newbie writer, and demanded people present him with, wait for it, *sentences* that showed whether or not I was a good writer. Sentences. In isolation. Out of the context of a frickin' *novel*, where everything mainly means something due to what has come before or what follows.

And it was in that argument that you first came up with your fruitful metaphor of the spear-point. And I the one about the highlight in the eye of the mosaic portrait, revealing the subject mad or sane; which, without the surrounding portrait, would merely be a blank white square.

I always regretted not presenting him with the "Ivan, you idiot! What are you doing here?" line, telling him that it regularly brought readers to tears, and gently inquiring if he saw how?

What made it worse (but, I see in retrospect inevitable) was that he'd just gained a degree in English, and was full of his own, er, expertise. Leaving not much room for anything else, just then.

Ta, L.
10. Tom Scudder
The linked Hugo ballot is 2000, in which A Civil Campaign was the Bujold novel up for the Best Novel award. (I think it's the year Jo is thinking of, with A Deepness in the Sky and either Cryptonomicon or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as the two other books. But I could be wrong.)

1997 doesn't look like as strong a year, though I very much like Holy Fire and haven't read the KS Robinson MARS books, which seem to be books that people either love or can't stand.
CD Covington
11. ccovington
"Ivan, you idiot" makes me ... smile? laugh a little? It's almost a break in the heaviness of that scene - because even when Simon is incapacitated, he can't catch a break (poor Ivan.) It's not a particularly funny scene, not at all; it's just, I don't know, dark humor? A wry little twist of the knife? I can see why it makes other people cry, though.
Kate Martin
12. julian
I wasn't particularly fooled by the Haroche plot, IIRC (though that may be me giving myself too much credit in retrospect), but that didn't stop me from loving the book. It's all the payoffs to stuff she's been building up, yes indeed.
13. Tom Scudder
I wonder if there's a divide between seasoned mystery-readers and mainly-sf-readers in whether they spotted the Haroche plot ahead of time. I was totally taken in, but the reaction of someone on rec.arts.sf.written seems perfectly reasonable in retrospect (from memory): "Every character is a recurring character from previous volumes, except for the boss's right-hand-man who is introduced in this book. Who do YOU think is the traitor?"
14. wsean
Lois - It's funny how if you take the books in chronological, rather than publication order, they still line up rather nicely that way. I've always felt like there was a bit of a rhythm in that sense. One book that establishes a situation, or a theme, and then a follow-up that takes that and runs with it. Shards-Barrayar, Warrior's Apprentice-Vor Game, Brothers in Arms-Mirror Dance, Komarr-Civil Campaign (and Cetaganda-Borders of Infinity, though that's maybe a wee bit of a stretch). The odd one out of course being Memory. That's maybe part of why Memory stands out so much to me. It's the fulcrum on which the rest of the series moves.

I still find the beginning really hard to read.
15. PixelFish
Memory is undoubtedly my favourite. It and Civil Campaign got me through a bad breakup and the aftermaths of that breakup. (The line about not giving up your heart for your heart's desire saved me several times. It was one of those lifelines when stuff seemed really bleak and I wanted to give up. The other line, from CC, was Aral's speech about honor versus reputation. I also tend to think both books have a lot of Miles NOT getting away with old tactics, which I think is good.)
CD Covington
16. ccovington
@TomScudder #13: Belike. I don't read mysteries (that is to say, I don't peruse the shelf labeled "mystery" to find a book to read) and the whole whodunnit was a shocker the first time I read it.

The next time, and the one after, and when I read it last week, the foreshadowing was a lot more obvious: Anything done twice is tradition re investigating the murder of the ImpSec boss you're replacing; well, that especially.

(Sometimes, I have to force myself not to pick the book up, because I'll inevitably sit down and start reading it. Which isn't always the thing I should be doing ;) )
Jo Walton
17. bluejo
Lois: I'd forgotten about that twit, oh dear. I hope he's grown up in the intervening time!

Also, how interesting about the pattern of alternating. How does that work with the Sharing Knife books, or are they all one thing? And what does this portend for the New Miles Book, and does it have a title yet?
18. R. Emrys
Memory is my favorite of the Miles books, both because of the emotional stuff you discuss and because it gets the neuroscience right. (I'm a memory researcher. There are very few genre books about memory loss that don't cause me to throw them across the room, let alone cause me to nod and say, yes, I never thought of that but that's how it would work.) It's a good book to read when things are falling apart. Memory, and the scene in A Civil Campaign where Miles and Ekaterin talk about the reset button, have gotten me through some tough times.

I'm now rereading The Vor Game. This is partly your fault for reminding me of the series, and partly the fault of the book I read right beforehand. It was a well-written book in which the protagonist acts dishonorably, complains that she's uncomfortable with her actions, and then continues to act dishonorably. And then I felt the need to spend some time with Miles.
19. Lois Bujold
Bluejo @ 17 --

I think the Sharing Knife books upwhack all my prior patterns, in this as all else. It really is one 1600-page epic, or counter-epic; simultaneously, it's two big pushes, Books 1& 2 being, really, Big Book One, and 3&4 conceived together as, potentially, another Big Book that underwent mitosis rather sooner in the creative process.

Or, I might-could have stopped the series at the end of #2 (which had reached closure for the romance plot*, with the Last Temptation of Dag being not another woman, but his duty), but not at the end of #3, which required #4 to reach closure. The episode with Crane was a mid-book event, in my first dim conception; I had the climax of _Horizon_ in my eye from the first page of _Passage_.

The new Miles book still has no title, alas. Nor ending. I might be out of the mire of the middle and into the end game in a few more chapters. Or not. The central problem of the book, politically speaking, is another demographic one, which fights traditional narrative structures with a truly surly stubbornness.

Ta, L.

* -- Which, of course, the skiffy crowd tends not to recognize as a plot at all; see my WorldCon speech about the personal vs. the political.
20. OtterB
I'm with ccovington @11 ... "Ivan, you idiot" makes me smile. If I was watching it in a movie theater, I'd break into applause.

Now, the scene were Illyan takes back Miles's ImpSec silver eyes - that one makes me tear up every time.
CD Covington
21. ccovington
@Otter #20: Oh, yeah. Also, Gregor's scene with Haroche in the jail: That's some powerful stuff. "That's what rage looks like." And parts of Miles' trip back to Silvy Vale. *sniffle*
22. Rivka5
I re-read Memory a *lot.* But I always start after the scene where Ilyan takes Miles' silver eyes. I can take Miles being catatonic in an empty Vorkosigan House. I can't take watching him throw his life away, and get caught.
23. Carrie V.
Jo, thank you for these discussions. The Vorkosigan books are my "how to write a series" manual, even though it's been a long time since I've read them. I've now gone out to replace all the copies I've given away over the years and will be diving back in soon.
24. sylvia_rachel
I just finished re-reading Memory as well, and ... yes, everything you said. Except that at "Ivan, you idiot! What are you doing here?" I couldn't quite decide whether to burst into tears or burst out laughing: there's just so much going on at that moment.

I had somehow forgotten the elephant discussion since my last re-read, which made it seem an extra-brilliant stroke. In fact this book is perhaps more than usually (though that's saying a lot) full of memorable lines and scenes that keep repeating in my brain for days afterward.

This time I made myself read the whole thing from beginning to end, even the scene in Illyan's office and the run-up to it, which is like watching your child run heedless and headfirst onto dangerously thin ice over deep water and knowing that nothing you say can stop her. And it's part of the brilliance of this book that even though I know how it all comes out, how Miles (and for that matter Illyan) will remake and reintegrate himself and go on to find other kinds of happiness, I'm still terribly afraid for him here, I want to prevent him submitting the doctored mission report and I suffer with him in Illyan's office and cringe with him in Gregor's ... And I imagine what Cordelia and Aral are thinking and feeling, knowing what's happened and not knowing how it will turn out, and ... yeah.
Paul McCall
25. PaulMcCall
And when can we expect the new Miles book?
Jo Walton
26. bluejo
PaulMcCall -- if it doesn't have a title or an end yet, don't hold your breath. I'd rather have "good" than "soon".
Ursula L
27. Ursula
"Ivan, you idiot..." generally feels like a breath of fresh air, for me, on Illyan's behalf. He's so frightened and confused.

Miles's presence is calming, in that he trusts Miles completely. But it is also agitating, because so many crises have involved Miles. Illyan loves Miles as a nephew - and routinely sends him into the most difficult and dangerous situations. Memories of little Miles are associated with Aral, whom Illyan backed up during crisis after crisis.

But with Ivan, Illyan knows that he's safe. Ivan doesn't cause problems, or go running off into danger. Ivan isn't someone he cares about whom he just might send to his death. Time spent with Ivan around is time to relax, time in-between disasters when good memories can be triggered. Little Ivan playing in the corner while Illyan and Alys discuss the Emperor's next political ceremony.

Yeah, Illyan calls Ivan an idiot. But Ivan doesn't seem to mind - it seems to be something of a family joke. Almost a pet name. (The "family" being Gregor's foster-family of the Vorkosigans, the Vorpatrils, the Koudelkas and Illyan.) It's a relief to see Illyan relax and even joke a bit, after his desperate pleas to Miles.
walter tingle
28. wjtingle
I've always considered "Memory" the end of Naismith, and "The Mountains of Mourning" and "Komarr" the beginning of Vorkosigan. We all have those "better, wiser, not happier" watersheds in our lives. Miles had a two-step. Since I started paying attention at "Komarr", I never really warmed up to Naismith*. Vorkosigan is a much more interesting person.

Jack Tingle

* I can't recall if I read any of the others before I read "Komarr", but I can say they never made much of an impression if I did.
Ursula L
29. Ursula
Also, the "Ivan, you idiot" and explicit mention of Illyan being more relaxed was useful, plot-wise, for letting me pay attention to the next few scenes.

Illyan's breakdown is intense and distressing for me, as a reader. (As it is supposed to be.) Illyan's response to seeing Ivan lets me know that he'll be okay (for some highly relative measure of okay) for a little while. However distressed he was talking to Miles, he's calmer now.

So I don't have to worry about him quite as much, and that leaves a few brain cells to follow everything else that is going on. (This is particularly important on re-reads, when Illyan is so much better known and cared for than when you only know him from previous books.)

Memory is a book that could easily go from intense, engrossing, and impossible to put down to being overwhelming, distressing and impossible to read, particularly if you know the characters from earlier books, and care about them. Reducing the tension, temporarily, from Illyan's crisis helps keep a balance between the parallel story lines of Illyan's breakdown and Miles's redemption, and allows a mental shift from one to the other.
30. cbyler
Also, Gregor's scene with Haroche in the jail: That's some powerful stuff. "That's what rage looks like."

Which, in turn, sets up Ivan's comment in _ACC_ when Byerly asks him what Gregor looks like, pissed. (As in angry, not drunk.) "Identical to what he looks like the rest of the time. That's the scary part." I briefly thought "when has Ivan seen Gregor pissed off?" and then remembered. Oh yeah. _Then._

BTW, I happened to be rereading _The Vor Game_ recently (inspired by this series of posts, in fact) and near the end there's an apparently throwaway line from Illyan about retiring and getting the chip taken out of his head. It seems a little more significant now, but considering the publication dates... was it really planned all along?
31. DevinB
Somehow I hadn't realized until just now that Auditors had never before been mentioned. (In reply to the commenter above, the investigation in Borders of Infinity is not identified at that time as conducted by an Imperial Auditor. It is so labeled retroactively in 'Memory,' but at the time I read 'Borders' I think I assumed that it was coming out of the Council of Counts, probably backed by Vordarian's party.)

I think the audit in Borders of Infinity is a decent and sensible cover for that (because it's not like even the Council of Ministers would dare audit ImpSec*, so it had to be someone high enough up that even Simon Illyan couldn't tell them to lay off) and it's also sensible that Miles would never have had any contact with an Auditor in his professional role.

But the main thing that sells the Auditors as more than a plot point up a sleeve is all the painstaking reality of the books so far, as these posts have documented. I think if another author had tried to give us a position of that magnitude that far into a series, I'd have seen it for a trick. Here, it just looked natural, even though (unlike so many other bits and pieces) it wasn't grandfathered in any previous book.

*In Barrayar-today, they would be safe to do so, I imagine, but that wouldn't have been true a generation ago.
- -
32. heresiarch
"Miles! Thank God you're here."
"Ivan, you idiot. What are you doing here?"
"Lady Alys!" His face softened. "What are you doing here?"

What an amazingly effective expository device that is. It gives us the readers an insight into Illyan's cloistered emotional life that we'd never get otherwise. And, incidentally, sets up his romance with Alys like it's been coming for years.
Joseph Blaidd
33. SteelBlaidd
Re Auditors @31

It also helps that the first one we meet is the "deadliest senile old Vor bore in Vorbar Sultana." Interspersed with a description of the office more than a little reminiscent of Piotr's explanation of the etymology of Count( from Accountant).

I must admit that one of my favorite scenes, in a somewhat masochistic way, is Duv's call to Miles after being invited to his "girlfriend's" wedding. Duv is a family favorite and I feel heart broken for the guy, but its also one of the most hilariously funny scenes I've ever read. "You smarmy g_ddamn little pimp," always produces fits of sniggeres.

Lois has always been one of the best writers of dialogue I've ever read, and manages to give words depth and weight beyond their usual limits. I can't even think the words "one pace wide by two paces long, to be mine in perpetuity," without tearing up.
34. Hatgirl
Ah yes, Memory. When Ivan became my favourite character. I just reread the icebath scene at Baen. The perfect reading for a post-long-weekend Tuesday.

And dammit, if LMB didn't lay it all out for us plain as day as early as chapter 7

"...No joy to Haroche, to be required to paper train some Vor puppy for the express purpose of being promoted over his head. He ought to be quite relieved."
Galeni said apologetically, "I gather he was, actually."


But my favourite Ivan moment is the donkey conversation. One forgets Ivan is Vor to the bone too.
CD Covington
35. ccovington
@Hatgirl: The foreshadowing hits you over the head when you know what's going to happen, doesn't it?

I also love the donkey conversation. If it weren't a long stretch of dialogue, I'd use that as my signature. (I'm an unapologetic Ivan fangirl. People have called me nuts for that, but I adore Ivan. Harumph.)
36. Hatgirl

I hope there is lots of Ivan in the next book.

I am reminded of the JK Rowling cameo on the Simpsons -
Lisa "Could you tell me what happens in the last Harry Potter book?"
JKR: He grows up and marries you – is that what you want to hear?
Lisa: Oh, yes!
Jo Walton
37. bluejo
The other line in that Illyan conversation that I find heartbreaking is when he says Miles is five years old, and Miles persuades him he is in fact Miles, and Illyan tells him to trust Bothari, and Miles says "Oh, I do." There's just so much in that, coming to it in the full sequence of the series.
CD Covington
38. ccovington
@Hatgirl: Me too! (I secretly hope he remains a bachelor indefinitely. He's never really expressed interest in the whole "heirs" thing, but there's the issue of his mom.)

@Jo: Oh, yes. The entire section where Illyan is in the hospital is marvelous.

I always find myself laughing when he discovers maps and pocket recorders and calls them "prosthetic memory." And "It even remembers things you never knew before!" Simon's amazement and Miles' "oh, duh, of *course* maps..." are so wonderfully balanced.

(Blatant self-promotion: I finally got my post on Memory up.)
39. Anne Zanoni
I'd disagree because _ACC_ is as brilliant as _Memory_. I began reading Heyer's mysteries because I suddenly missed her books a few years back.

_Memory_ is rather like _Envious Casca_ -- SO COOL that I read it over and over. Now that I consider, in more ways than one. Hmmm.

But _Envious Casca_ does not make me weep and laugh, unlike _Memory_, which engages much more. Including my heart. Even during re-reads, I grieve just as much for Simon and Miles as my first read.

(Miles, you IDIOT, you deserved worse than ice cubes! I would have taken you back to that dratted island. I swear Faustus was hanging over your shoulder whispering "Hubris, pshaw!")

I adore _Memory_. I do tell people not to start there, because I want them to understand what's going on.

Also, I get the feeling that Ivan may not necessarily want to be in love, but he wants to be *with* someone...

LB @19: Yes. It's weird how they don't see other plots. Genre blind spot?

Thank you for your lovely books.

Nicholas Alcock
40. NullNix
Ursula@#27, I think 'Ivan you idiot' comes from his mother. We see her calling people idiots a lot...
41. VidaliazqtuJM
i couldn't help thinking as i read this tread: wow. do you think LMB is traveling in elephants?
Donna Camp
42. Vidalia
the above post was from me. can you make the zqtuJM go away? it looks so stupid.
Maiane Bakroeva
43. Isilel
Memory is also my favorite Miles book. In fact my most beloved Miles installments are BoI, The Mirror Dance, Memory and A Civil Campaign. Hm... 3 of those are the darker, deeper tales and 2 have POVs other than Miles and in fact other characters majorly contributing to solution of the problem du jour.

I have to say that this has slowly become my problem with Miles stories - that there is always that perfect solution for him to find, that nobody else sees and that costs nothing/little in the major scheme of things.
And that Miles never considers long-term consequences of anything he does and yet they never return to haunt him.
I am a little tired of Miles running around, being clever and single-handedly saving the Imperium/his corner of the galaxy from devastating crises. It started to feel like a juvenile wish-fulfillment.

But here the odds finally catch up with him and in a wonderfully believable, wrenching way. I really love the poignant beauty and complexity of Miles' psychological reaction.
Sure, his landing was made a little soft by the author :), but the way Miles misses what he had lost and continues to miss it did wonders for his growth as a character.
Which is why I was a bit miffed when Miles was back to his gung-ho ways in DI. But never mind.

I still wait for one of the places where Miles thoughtlessly interfered and never thought of again to turn into Chechnya, though. Particularly that planet in WA, where Miles chose his side purely by chance.

I also really liked how Illyan, whom I always enjoyed as a character, was fleshed out in Memory, as well as Gregor's, Galeni's and Ivan's (all 3 of whom I love) character development and shining moments.

I could have wished for Laisa to be more than a plot prop, though, and the whole romance sub-plot to be more than a device to get pieces in place. I mean, Gregor's forwardness was highly uncharacteristic and the issues of a normal woman entering a highly restricted existence of an Empress and sacrificing most of her freedoms forever could provide a lot of interesting possibilities.
Haroche also was a little obvious.

But those are nitpicks. A great, great book on the whole, IMHO.
Rob Munnelly
45. RobMRobM
I just finished essentially all of the Vorksigan universe books (still need Ethan of Athos and Falling Free) and Memory is the most emotionally powerful of the group - the scene where he sits down with Simon is particularly gutwrenching. Very well done (although I agree with Jo that it would have been nice for the role of Auditor to be teased better earlier in the books.) Rob
46. neroden
"The Haroche plot totally fooled me the first time through—"
Wow. Actually, I thought that was the weak part of the book -- I knew it was Haroche as soon as Miles was refused access to see Illyan. I was wondering why Miles was trusting Haroche so much.

To Lois's credit, she does provide plenty of excuses for why Miles doesn't immediately nail Haroche, ranging from his own distraction (life turned upside down, job gone, Illyan sick) to his attempts to follow the chain of command.

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