Short Book Review: Young Miles

Being on a space sci-fi kick, I’ve been wanting a book that was intelligently written enough to not bore or frustrate me, but light and fun enough to read before bed. Dan suggested Young Miles, a compendium of two novels and a short story from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, a serial adventure about a “deformed” nobleman in a military society (IN SPACE!). It focuses more on character interaction and mystery than your standard space opera, but still has its fair share of punch-ups and laser fights. (I’m convinced that Bujold plays or has played role-playing games, especially due to the familiar “an adventuring party suddenly forms” scenes.) Actually, it had been so long since I had read a book that wasn’t of the “single novel with a point” model that I kind of forgot how much fun it could be to read adventure fiction—not scrabbling around for an intellectual meaning, but just enjoying an adventure and its characters for being witty, unpredictable, and fun to observe, like sitting down for a few episodes of Firefly.

The series has a previous collection of novels, Cordelia’s Honor, but I liked the blurb on the back of this book better, and this focused on a different protagonist, so I started here. I plan return to that earlier one later, treating it as a prequel; for now, I’m already on the next book, just because it’s what the store had in stock.

I’m pleased that I’ve gotten both you and Brian to read this series this year, and even happier that you’ve both enjoyed it so much. This remains probably my favorite series of books since I first read it back in my senior year of college.

Re your comment about the “adventuring party,” it’s an interesting question, though I might argue that construction pre-dates video games/RPGs: consider The Fellowship of the Ring or any other number of fantasy books. In fact, I’d suggest that it’s probably an archetypal construction of these types of adventure stories, much in the same way as the Hero’s Journey.

I can see that to some extent, but even in LOTR, I felt like the buildup to the formation of the fellowship was so slow and deliberate, and everybody in it had a reason (or an order) to be in it. By contrast, in this book, the protagonist just suddenly decides to recruit a couple people to be his underlings, basically.

It felt a lot like Mass Effect, where you’re not even the captain of your own ship yet and you’ve already got people volunteering to join you on the epic journey they suspect you’ll be having. (I often wonder how the captain of your ship would have reacted to the motley crew of aliens you bring by if you hadn’t been put in charge of your own ship…)

I like the idea that in a story that doesn’t happen in Mass Effect, there is a guy with a bunch of underlings who doesn’t get his own ship and doesn’t go on a epic journey, but instead, like, becomes the really well connected guy who is a middle manager on a space ship.

[…] up on reading Lois McMaster Bujold’s serial sci-fi collection Young Miles, I decided to read a two-novel omnibus featuring the titular Miles’s mother, Cordelia. I read […]