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Mirror Dance
Lois McMaster Bujold
Narrated by Grover Gardner, unabridged
Blackstone Audio, 18 hours, 6 minutes

Mirror Dance
Lois McMaster Bujold
Lois McMaster Bujold was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1949. She attended Ohio State and later worked as a pharmacy technician at the Ohio State University Hospitals. She has two children and now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her first novel, Shards of Honor, was completed in 1983 and published in 1986. Her first professional sale was a story in 1984 to Twilight Zone Magazine. Falling Free was her first Nebula Award. Since then she has won another Nebula, and 4 Hugo Awards.

Lois McMaster Bujold Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Cetaganda
SF Site Review: Borders of Infinity
SF Site Review: The Vor Game
SF Site Review: Cryoburn
SF Site Review: Brothers in Arms
SF Site Review: Ethan of Athos
SF Site Review: Falling Free
SF Site Review: The Warrior's Apprentice
SF Site Review: Barrayar
SF Site Review: The Sharing Knife: Beguilement and The Sharing Knife: Legacy
SF Site Review: The Miles Vorkosigan Saga
SF Site Review: Paladin of Souls
SF Site Review: The Curse of Chalion
SF Site Review: The Spirit Ring

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nicki Gerlach

To the Jackson's Whole geneticists who created him, he's a perfect clone, a work of art. To the Komarran terrorists who raised him, tortured him, and trained him, he's the ideal assassin. To Barrayaran Imperial Security, he's a dangerously unknown quantity and potential threat. And to Miles Vorkosigan, he's a wayward younger brother. But who is Mark Vorkosigan, really?

As Mirror Dance opens, Mark has been laying low since the events of Brothers in Arms left him free to pursue his own desires. At the top of that list of desires is freeing his fellow clones from Jackson's Whole, saving them from their terrible fate as brain-transplant recipients, and proving himself as much of a hero as his own clone progenitor/older brother Miles. In order to stage this kind of operation, however, Mark has to pose as Miles, and briefly "borrow" some of the Dendarii Mercenary Fleet. This part of the plan goes off without a hitch, and soon Mark, Bel Thorne, and a squad of Dendarii commandos are on their way to Jackson's Whole.

Once the raid actually starts, however, things rapidly start going downhill. Security forces are alerted, the clones don't want to be rescued, and Mark's team is pinned down without means of escape. To make things worse, older brother Miles comes swooping in to save the day -- only to get shot through the heart by a stray bullet. In the aftermath of the raid, Miles realizes that while he, the clones, and most of the Dendarii have gotten safely off the planet, the cryochamber that contained Miles's corpse somehow got lost in the chaos. Now Mark must not only find Miles's body -- and hope against hope that it can still be repaired and resuscitated -- but he must also learn to find his own place in the universe: no small task for a clone whose entire life has been built around someone else.

Is it wrong that what is now my favorite Vorkosigan Saga book is one in which Miles himself is mostly absent? Because Mirror Dance is told primarily from Mark's point of view, and it was truly, truly, excellent from beginning to end.

Actually, I suspect that the fact that Mirror Dance focuses so heavily on Mark is a large part of what makes it so good. At this point in the series, readers have had five books to get familiar with Miles: how he thinks, how he speaks, how he acts. So by giving us a new lead character who is so like Miles, and yet so different, Lois McMaster Bujold really gets the chance to showcase her talent for character development. Mark is fascinating in the ways that he resembles Miles, and in the ways in which they differ radically, despite their identical genes. Bujold sells it well, giving them each a distinct personality, so that there's never any question about who's who. Even in the opening pages, where the character's identity is purposefully left vague, there's a clear sense of something being not quite right with Miles -- because of course, it's not Miles, it's Mark.

Grover Gardner's narration of the audiobook should also be given due credit here. I've said in the past that he has become the voice of Miles in my head, but I'm going to have to amend that: he's now officially the voice of Miles and of Mark. He manages to create a voice for Mark that is so similar to that of Miles, yet at the same time, completely distinct and recognizable. It adds a fantastic layer on top of Bujold's already masterful character development.

As interesting as I found the Miles/Mark dichotomy, there were a number of other things about Mirror Dance that were equally memorable. I particularly loved the parts of the book that featured Mark on Barrayar, trying to navigate his way through his newfound family and the responsibilities that come with it. It was wonderful to see Aral and Cordelia having major roles in the plot again, and heartwarming to watch their distinct ways of interacting with Mark. I also liked the chance to see Barrayaran society -- so familiar after all of the previous books -- through the eyes of a relative outsider.

Mirror Dance is without question the darkest of the Vorkosigan Saga books so far. It's got a heavy psychological aspect to it, and there are some nasty remnants of past horrors in Mark's psyche that get brought to the surface, not to mention parts of the plot that are not exactly light fare. Still, it's not unrelentingly dark; one thing Miles and Mark share is a dry wit, so there are a fair few funny spots scattered throughout, and a sense of family, and of duty, and of hopeful possibility that runs underneath it all.

Mirror Dance is not a stand-alone novel by any means; at the very least, it needs to be read after Brothers in Arms. But it's so good that it would be worth reading the rest of the Vorkosigan Saga just to get there.

Copyright © 2011 Nicki Gerlach

Nicki Gerlach is a mad scientist by day and an avid reader the rest of the time.  More of her book reviews can be found at her blog,

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