This is an omnibus edition that contains full novels The Warrior’s Apprentice and The Vor Game and the short story The Mountains of Mourning. From the previous book to the beginning of Warrior’s Apprentice, Miles Vorkosigan has grown up (well he’s 18) and usurps the literary center stage from his parents.
Miles is one of those characters it is hard not to be fascinated by. He is less than 4 ft tall and deformed with delicate bones that break at the slightest strain. He makes up for this physical deficiency by an enormous personality. He’s smart, quick-thinking, creative and cheeky. He’s the type of character I love to read about but who would make me feel small and stupid if I ever encountered his likeness in real life. And of course he’s the type of character that finds himself in the middle and often in charge of fantastic adventures.
In The Warrior’s Apprentice, Miles has just failed the physical portion of his entrance exam into Barrayar’s Military Academy. As poor consolation, he is sent on a journey to his mother’s home planet of Beta colony. Miles heightened sensitivity to his weaknesses and how they isolate him leads him to try and redeem a couple of misfits he meets shortly after landing on Beta Colony. Through a convoluted set of circumstances, his attempts wind up putting him in charge of a fleet of mercenaries. It is fun watching Miles scheme his way through an increasingly desperate set of circumstances.
The Vor Game begins with Miles anxiously awaiting his first assignment as an Ensign in the Barrayar military. According to the military brass, Miles’ biggest weakness is not his physical issues but his tendency towards insubordination. So he winds up as the weather officer in Barrayars most outposty of outposts and of course ends up joining a mutiny against the harsh commander of the station. After a period of boring desk job punishment he is sent off world as a spy with part of his mission being to re-connect with his troop of mercenaries. He does to spectacular effect. So much happens in this story that I found myself running across references to earlier happenings and wondering if that really happened in this part of the book and not in Warrior’s Apprentice.
I can’t say I liked one of the novels included in this omnibus better than the other. Both had their slower boring bits. The best things about the books is Miles who is such a richly drawn character you can almost feel his anxiety, feel what it is like to be him. My one complaint might be that the books live a little too much in Miles’ head. Miles is so often playing a role, and while we the reader see the real him, the characters around him don’t and it keeps Miles and therefore the reader at a distance from the other characters. Even the characters he is meant to be very close to, we don’t really get to know.
There are some lovely moments like Miles’ love interest and childhood friend Elena turning Miles’ proposal down because there is too much of him and he would subsume her. And the fact that we see Miles’, who takes charge because he can’t help himself and he’s brilliant at it, but who spends the whole time wishing he were somewhere else and developing stress ulcers. It brings him back down to earth.
Overall really great – fast, fun read with some weight.