As part of my attempt to read through the Vorkosigan Saga - in preparation for a reread of CryoBurn - Memory was, of course, on my list. As the only book in it that I hadn't yet read, I was doubtful. Because one of my favourite aspects of the series was Miles' military escapades, the blurb did make me wonder whether Bujold could pull it off - a book without the Dendarii? Fortunately, despite my doubts, it really did work, and Memory is a great book. For those who haven't yet read Mirror Dance, or would prefer to keep the novel's beginning unknown, the rest of the review does contain spoilers, so look away now!
As I've said, Memory is largely devoid of the Dendarii - mainly due to the repercussions of the events of Mirror Dance. Suppressing any report to his superiors of his repeated seizures, Miles is heading a mission to retrieve an Imperial Courier taken hostage when disaster strikes (of course): a seizure causes him to perform an impromptu amputation of the hostage he was meant to rescue. Fudging the report, he is caught out and dismissed from ImpSec. Obviously bad enough on its own, Miles breaks down: but more is at stake, because Simon Illyan (the head of ImpSec)'s memory chip is breaking down and rendering him unable to lead. Miles, meanwhile, is forced to untangle the plot: sabotage or natural accident?
Oddly enough, I actually liked the plot better than Mirror Dance. It really allows Miles to go back to his original strengths as a character: the willingness to dive into a situation knowing absolutely nothing, and make it all up - and that's also what's fun to read, in my opinion. Thankfully, Memory does this in exemplary fashion, and it's very much a fun novel, and really sets up Miles' new situation for forthcoming books. I won't spoil it, but let's just say that it's certainly as good as the Dendarii for creating new plots! Illyan, I think, really comes off as far more convincing in this novel, and there are some good moments between him and Miles. And, of course, there's an awesome climax to the mystery in the midst of the ImpSec building - what more can you ask?
On the whole, I'd recommend Memory for any fan of character-driven space opera, but also to a Bujold fan who's grown a little bored with Miles' more military escapades!
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