Lois McMaster Bujold
Mirror Dance (1994)
Winner of the 1995 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Reviewed: 1999-12-28

Without a doubt, this is the most ambitious volume in the Vorkosigan series yet. Bujold has set herself a formidable goal and she manages to pull it off.

Some two years have passed since Miles and his clone-brother Mark went separate ways after their adventure on Earth. Now Mark is back. His aim: To mount a raid on a clone crèche on the world of Jackson's Whole. There, fully functional human clones are raised to physical maturity, at which point their brain is scrapped and replaced with that of their progenitor, transplanted from an aging body into a fresh young one. Mark, who grew up in such a crèche, albeit with a different fate, feels a deep compulsion to at least save some of the children there, if he can't put an end to this despicable business entirely. Masquerading as Miles's Admiral Naismith persona, Mark requisitions a Dendarii warship and embarks on his mission. Needless to say, when Miles returns to his fleet a few days later, he is not amused, and mounts an expedition to get back his ship and capture his brother, whose enterprise is just about to turn into a fatal disaster. Much complication ensues.

Mirror Dance is a character novel. I would have almost written that the book is about Miles and his clone-brother Mark, and with this I would have involuntarily confirmed the central concern of the book. In fact, the book is, in this order, about Mark and his brother Miles. The focus is clear. This is a Mark Vorkosigan novel, and while some chapters are told from Miles's point of view, he's there for contrast. For all his life, Mark has tried to become Miles, then in rebellion he turned to be not-Miles. Either way, his whole identity has been defined by his brother. With the clone rescue Mark also embarks on a mission to find his own personality.

Given the stress on character development, this volume is somewhat longer and slower paced than previous installments of the series. Bujold works hard to display Mark and Miles as different characters despite their outward similarity. The result of the author's efforts is a resounding success. The brothers come across as distinct and different, and in particular Mark undergoes a gradual, but in the end very substantial change over the course of the book. A remarkable achievement, on top of the by now customary superb story telling and impressive mastery of language. I'm in awe.

Yet another engrossing read in Bujold's Vorkosigan series and quite deserving of its Hugo Award.

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