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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-07-09 14:16
Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold
Memory (Vorkosigan Saga, #10) - Lois McMaster Bujold

If you choose an action, you choose the consequences of this action.

 ... and this novel is ripe with consequences.

 

First of all, Miles's cryorevival comes with a seizure-condition that rears its ugly head in the most inconvenient moment - moreover, Miles then lies about it in his mission report, and Illyan has little choice but to dismiss him from service.

 

And Miles now has to learn for himself who he is if he doesn't have ImpSec and through them the Dendarii Mercenaries to prop him up. Who is he on Barrayar? Just the little mutant who gained access to the Imperial service through nepotism? Can he be Lord Vorkosigan, and survive without the little admiral?

 

Add to that Gregor falling in love - and Illyan himself falling to pieces. And Miles's focus quickly shifts from personal anguish and depression to that which he does best: problem-solving.

 

I've reread Memory now 5 or 6 times from cover to cover with countless repetitions of the various most memorable scenes, like the confrontation with Illyan over lying, or all the meetings with Gregor... and I'm still as pulled into this story as if it's the first time. The Vor Game was Gregor's story, Mirror Dance Mark's - and this is finally Miles coming fully into his own, accepting and embracing who he is (and not only what he created for himself). He's wrestling with temptation: go down the easy route, or do it right; the realization that despite all insecurities and yearnings there are lines that he won't cross; and the moment calm finally settles his mind, and clarity focuses it - that's still immensely satisfying to read.

 

Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart.

 

It doesn't come as much of a surprise that I especially love the Barrayar-set novels within this series. First of all, Bujold's talent to create characters is fantastic, and it's one thing to see Miles in all his glory among the Dendarii (as head of the chain of command), but it's a wholly different experience to see him in a more socially complex setting. Remember, on Barrayar children like him were killed not so long ago (and boy is it an intense scene when he seeks out Raina and Harra Csurik to ask for forgiveness!), even his own grandfather tried to kill him. He's had to fight his whole life to make a place for himself, and most people still think that nepotism is all that got him into service. And that most of his service was in covert ops doesn't help with his self-esteem issues. So, coming from the top of the food chain, he's suddenly the odd one out, having to find his way against prejudice, suspicion and jealousy.

 

Seeing him interact with Gregor, his foster-brother, friend and ultimate liege-commander is always a joy because of the various, sometimes contradicting layers of their relationship. Love Gregor, pure and simple, and seeing him find love and joy is one of the many highly enjoyable facets of this novel (as is his courtship told from Miles's PoV - the horse, groomed to within an inch of its life!!!). The same goes for Illyan who was a confidant of Miles's father, always the protector... but who couldn't protect Miles from himself. Again, so many layers of loyalty, familial and personal, not to mention the chain of command make for a complex and differentiated relationship. Add to that Ivan and Galeni whose lives are inextricably bound to Miles's through various reasons, and the story unfolds. Loyalty, friendship, trust, all these build the foundation and, paired with Miles's (and Gregor's) inimitable judgement of character and indomitable drive, make for a fascinating study of loss, betrayal and overcoming adversity.

 

Yes, Memory isn't an action-packed, fun romp through the galaxy. It's introspective, it's sometimes painful, but, again, oh so rewarding. Chicken always come home to roost. My favourite of the entire saga.

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review 2017-06-20 22:44
Nope!
She-Hulk (2005-2009) #1 - Dan Slott,Juan Bobillo,Greg Horn

This posits that Jennifer Walters is a smart, studious lawyer, and She-Hulk is an uncontrollable party girl.   It's actually an intriguing supposition, if it hadn't been dealt with the way it had been. 

 

See, Jennifer Walters is embarrassed that people might sleep with She-Hulk and wake up to see her.   It's the look on their faces that make her want to be She-Hulk all the time.   And again, this could be an interesting conundrum, if only Jennifer thought about this.   (Like the way the model she's dating tells her she's too shallow.   She just fumes, instead of considering that maybe if she spent more time as Jennifer she'd be less shallow - since that's what this book seems to be saying.)

 

There were a couple fun moments, but mostly I really didn't like this direction.   She-Hulk did feel shallow, and portraying her as a bimbo didn't make sense to me given how others seemed to worship She-Hulk until Jennifer thought it was better to be She-Hulk.   I find Jennifer to be not only more thoughtful - of others, as well as more thoughtful in general - but also more interesting, so I wasn't happy with the direction this went in, to be honest. 

 

The art was actually nice, but not enough to save this book from the writing.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-05 22:22
Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
Mirror Dance - Lois McMaster Bujold

This is a novel that grows on you. When I first read it back in 2005, I reasonably liked it. Except for Cordelia's Honor it was the best part of the saga up till that point in the narrative, but I didn't love it. So I only reread parts of it, but never in its entirety - until now. And boy, this time I absolutely fell in love with it. It has a bit of a slow start (which costs it the half star-reduction), but once the shit hits the fan it's one tour de force of psychology and emotion that keeps you biting your finger nails.

 

After 2 years, Mark turns up and basically kidnaps the Dendarii posing as Miles for a raid of House Baraputhra's cloning facilities on Jackson's Whole (where he was created as well). Miles races after him and arrives just as the mission fails spectacularly. He ends up shot in the chest and put in a cryotube which then gets lost in the following chaotic retreat. Mark and Elena have the unenviable task of relaying the news to the Vorkosigan parents which means for Elena a return to a difficult past - and for Mark a step into an uncertain future. But the race to recover Miles (dead or alive) isn't over, and Mark won't stop until there's certainty of his clone-brother's fate.

 

This is Mark's story, who he was, who he is and who he ends up to be. The various roles he has to or chooses to play showcase this, from impersonation, to reluctant and unsure son, to brother and business man - dealing with doubt, guilt, and all the aftereffects that his upbringing with Galen (which is elaborated on here) left him with. Add to that the torture he's put through here, and you get a young man who's somehow toeing the line towards insanity, but nevertheless has never felt more sane and true to himself. It's a veritable tour de force to come to that point, and some chapters are incredibly difficult to read (the black gang's emergence) and make no mistake, Bujold doesn't pull any punches here. This might be the most explicit book in terms of violence and torture against one of her main characters in this saga so far (and overall), and even immoral acts perpetrated by a main character, but it's so rewarding nonethess. Honestly, up till now I've never liked Mark, but in a way Bujold managed to bring him to life in just one (albeit very long) book just as much as she did with Miles. And the Vorkosigan-universe is richer for it.

 

Miles himself takes the backseat here, but of course he gains a new perspective in life - having an brother, not just a clone, for once not being in the heart of things... and a glimpse of mortality. But his resurrection doesn't come without a price as we'll see. Among all the psychology and character-drama the plot surrounding the Duronas and the despicable machinations on Jackson's Whole get a bit sidelined. But I guess we'll revisit both. Overall, I love the image of reciprocity in this novel: every action has a reaction, just like in the Mirror Dance, a popular dance on Barrayar, and that's transferred to practically everything that's going on here.

 

Other than Mark himself, the parts that most fascinated me (and the ones that I kept coming back to) are set on Barrayar: the effects Miles' not-quite death has on the Vorkosigans, Mark's introduction into this family, Aral's health crisis which suddenly turns an academic question of succession into a very real one, Cordelia going toe to toe with Simon Illyan, even the small glimpses and huge nudges of Gregor and Kareen Koudelka who both accept Mark for who he is from the start - not just as Miles's clone, but as an individual.

 

Overall, a stunning novel.

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review 2017-03-17 22:24
Fairly good
Rogue (2004-2005) #1 - Robert Rodi,Rodolfo Migliari,Cliff Richards,Norm Rapmund

But the thing is that this kind of throws us into the middle of things.   Being number one, I expected at least Gambit's blindness to be explained, but nothing.  I was grasping at straws trying to figure out some things, and that dimmed some enjoyment as much of my attention was divided between the story and trying to piece things together. 

 

Furthermore, Rogue was incredibly depressed, didn't act well as she risked a girl's life to feel family herself, and was all 'I can't touch people so I guess I'll just think it isn't worth living.'  I guess I'm angry because I can't do a lot of the things she can - for different reasons - and yet I'm still struggling to find reasons to hope.  I probably hate her for this gloomy disposition as a reaction for hating myself even more when I fall prey to it. 

 

Or maybe it was just a sloppy first issue, without enough information for me to enjoy this although there was just enough for me to muddle through.   I'm unconvinced that Rogue can control the situation she claims she can: a child can get freaked out for many reasons, and I'm not sure she can just keep her calm because she says so after knowing her for five minutes. 

 

Basically, I felt like most of this was lackluster.  I was fooled by the beautiful cover and it was free on Comixology, but I was still disappointed. 

 

It was trying to set up a new team and did.   It seeded a lot for later, or so I suspect, but I'm not sure I'm interested enough to check the res of this out...

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review 2017-03-17 00:11
Not that flawed
X-23 (2005) #1 - Christopher Yost,Billy Tan,Jonathan Sibal

Mostly this is backstory: this follows the group of scientists who create X-23, including Zander Rice, son of one of the men who create Weapon X (who would later go by both Wolverine and Logan.)

 

As creepy as the movie storyline is - using unsuspecting women to carry your human weapons - somehow Dr. Sarah Kinney using herself will always just be creepier.   (Laura from the movie is named Laura Kinney in the comics.   Not only that, but her mother has a story filled with child abuse, and ends up going fro the cold scientist to someone who actually cares for Laura, even within this one comic, which adds another layer to that creepiness.)

 

And it's damn good backstory, the perfect setting for X-23s story.   And yet, I wish this didn't drag out so long.   We don't get to meet Laura at all in this story, and instead only see the slow unfolding of how she's created.  It would be more exciting if I didn't know who Laura was already and didn't want to get to that part of the story.   Or in other words, it's not uninteresting, I just happen to think what comes next is more interesting and so this pales in comparison. 

 

Still, a highly worthwhile read.   I got this for free, either via Comixology - in which case it's no longer free, although some other Marvel comics that I got, read, and truly loved are right now - or through one of those 'redeem this for three free comics' via a paper Marvel comic.  I can't remember which, but I enjoyed this regardless of how I received it.   (It wasn't a gift for a review, or otherwise, but something that I voluntarily chose to download.  It just happened to be free.)

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