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Lois McMaster Bujold – Memory

Title: Memory
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Year: 1996

I hate being disappointed by good authors. After reading books such as The Vor Game and Mirror Dance I’ve come to expect that everything McMaster Bujold touches turns to, if not gold, at least silver; all books read so far have been good or very good. With enthusiasm, I throw myself into Memory, but instead of being pulled in by a marvellous story, I find myself in some sort of marshland and have to drag myself through the first half of the book. After that, I find some dry land underneath my feet, and story becomes more solid and the journey towards the end is even enjoyable. This does not remove all the mud from inside my boots, though.

Miles Vorkosigan has suffered defeats before, but none so humiliating as when he wakes up and realises that he’s had a seizure, and not only that, but also that he has accidentally maimed a man he was supposed to rescue. In fact, this foul up is so bad that he tries to hide it behind something even worse: A lie to his superior officer, the almost omniscient Illyan of Barrayar’s Imperial Security. After being dismissed, he only has a short breathing space before Illyan becomes seriously ill; sabotage cannot be ruled out. Miles is unexpectedly called into the fray to sort things out and find who is really behind this devious plot and for what purpose.

Summarising the story as I just did, the novel seems fairly interesting, but that is mostly because it’s a summary. About half the book is spent on something vaguely interesting setting the stage for the real plot. This is by far too long an introduction. Some authors can get away with this (see Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks), but in Memory, McMaster Bujold can’t. I feel that this books could have been reasonably good if it was edited properly, cutting down drastically on certain sections, expanding others. However, in its current state, there are too much unrelated or uninteresting passages to make this a good read.

So, why do I still give it three snails? Why not less? That would be strictly impossible, for although the rule of the author’s ability to turn things into precious metals has been broken, even the darkest parts of the marsh are sprinkled with specks of silver and gold. She knows what she’s doing and she does it well. Also, she knows her characters, and Miles himself never ceases to be interesting. This isn’t enough this time, but I’m sure Memory is an exception to a rule rather than something more ominous.

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