by Lois McMaster Bujold



462pp/$22.00/October 1996

The Curse of Chalion
Cover by Gary Ruddell

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The most recent Miles Vorkosigan novel is also the most recent in the internal timeline. It is a novel of changes and of endings and of beginnings. It points to a Barrayaran future which is extremely different from the books which preceeded it. For those who have liked the Vorkosigan novels as they were, I'm sure Bujold will continue to fill in Miles's biography. For those who prefer the direction set forth in Memory, I'm sure Bujold will continue to move Barrayar into the future.

Memory begins about one year after Miles was killed and brought back to life in Mirror Dance. One of the side effects of his resurrection is a series of seizures, which he has tried to keep hidden from both the Dendarii and Simon Illyan at ImpSec. His cover is blown, however, when he has a seizure during an attempt to rescue a kidnapped Barrayaran courier, Lord Vorberg. Although Vorberg is rescued, Miles's seizure results in Miles cutting off both Vorberg's legs at the knees.

This snafu results in Illyan having to cashier Miles from ImpSec, not for the mistake, but because Miles chose to falsify his report. Miles spends the first half of the book moping and feeling generally sorry for himself as he is stuck in an empty Vorkosigan House in Vorbarr Sultana. Events aren't made any easier when, after Miles introduces Duv Galeni's girlfriend to Gregor, the Emperor decides to woo and marry her and Galeni turns on Miles for being Gregor's pimp.

The plot doesn't really begin, however, until events conspire to remove Illyan from his position as head of ImpSec. Miles sets out to discover what has happened to Illyan and who is responsible for it, if anyone. It doesn't help that Illyan's second-in-command, Lucas Haroche, views Miles as a prime candidate.

One of the problems with the novel is the limited number of possible suspects. Of those, one is a recurring character, which doesn't entirely rule him out, but it does scream red herring. Of the other two possible candidates, one is very obvious and the other is so obvious Bujold generally manages to avoid anybody pointing the finger in that direction.

As a mystery, therefore, Memory, while not a failure, does not succeed. As an examination of the characters (especially Miles reaching his thirtieth birthday) and of the society on Barrayar, Bujold hits the nail on the head. Not as humorous as several of the earlier installments of the Vorkosigan saga, Bujold manages to tie this book to the past by bringing in several characters from the Dendarii to the family from the story "The Mountains of Mourning (in Borders of Infinity).

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