Bujold, Lois McMaster. Memory.

NY: Baen Books, 1996.

If you’re a fan of the Miles Vorkosigan space-opera novels (and there are lots of them out there), you’ve gotten used to the essential psychological dichotomy between the necessarily proper and staid (relatively speaking) heir to the Barrayaran countship on one hand and the “Little Admiral” in charge of the Dendarii Mercenaries, who operates with the brakes and governors off. But this book constitutes a major change in Miles’s life.

In the previous book, Mirror Dance, Miles got himself killed, but not permanently. But even though he was eventually restored to his previous self, more or less, there turns out to be a lingering problem that causes him to suffer seizures at intervals — and always at the worst possible times, since stress is a major factor. Of course, he omits to tell anyone about his problem, and one such episode comes on in combat on his very next mission for Imperial Security, with disasterous consequences for a bystander. And then he makes it far worse for himself by submitting a false report, attempting to cover up his new weakness. A very, very bad mistake, as Miles himself quickly recognizes. His boss, Simon Illyan, the head of ImpSec, has no choice but to cashier him. Miles, about to turn thirty, hasn’t been out of uniform since the age of eighteen, and now he has what appears to be a long, dull civilian future stretching ahead of him. However, Bujold wouldn’t do that to her readers. And Illyan himself shortly undergoes a crisis that Miles finds himself in a position to do something about. Of course, as a “retired” lieutenant, he no longer has much clout, not even as the son of the ex-Prime Minister, ex-Regent, the Count his father. But Emperor Gregor takes care of that little problem by creating him an Imperial Auditor — speaking with the Emperor’s own Voice and with almost unlimited authority to carry out any investigation he thinks necessary.

Miles is obviously embarking on an entirely new second career, as well as a period of much-needed personal growth, and the author does a very good job of delineating the major psychological challenges involved. Not to mention Miles dealing with the knowledge of his own guilt regarding that false report, and the fact that his temporary stupidity has disappointed a number of people who are important to him. This is more an “internal” adventure rather than a shoot-‘em-up, but it’s one of the better installments in the series.

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