Book Review: Brothers In Arms

Brothers In Arms, by Lois McMaster Bujold

Like the previous books in the Miles Vorkosigan series [1], this one deals with plotting where personal politics and larger politics combine. Thanks to the events on Dagoola IV (told in “Borders Of Infinity”), Miles and his small fleet of twelve vessels are on the run from much larger and very upset Catagandan forces that a planet they thought conquered showed a lot more fight than they understood. Ironically enough, Miles Naismith/Vorkosigan (who has to play both sides of his personality far too often for comfort) sees both sides of the problem of imperialism, though perhaps without any awareness. As a loyal citizen of Barrayar, despite the fact that the planet and its politics has not been kind to him, he uses his unrestrained alter ego to engage in subtle warfare on behest of his home planet, which even his own mercenaries are (mostly) unaware of. This leads him to oppose a hostile empire while defending his own empire’s interests, without engaging in a great deal of soul searching about the nature of empire in the first place.

The plot of this particular book revolves around a parallel set of assassination plots. The aforementioned furious Cetagandans are trying to murder Admiral Miles Naismith for his meddling in their internal affairs, which leads the Dendarii mercenaries to seek a place at earth to rest and relax and recharge their batteries and repair themselves and their ships in a shore leave in a disunited but culturally respected planet. Of course, this accident of fate brings Lord Miles Vorkosigan into an assassination plot designed by some fanatical Komarri rebels (who are trying to overthrow Barrayaran imperial rule over their own home planet, who had been responsible for a costly invasion that left millions of Bayarrans killed in their own struggle for freedom) and who seek to assassinate him and replace him with his own clone. As if that family drama was not enough, the proper chief of security in the Earth embassy is found out to have been an early Komarri graduate of the military academy of the imperial power, and the relative of vengeful and hostile rebels against imperial rule, forcing him to choose the future and his own ambitions or his bloody family past and the choice of death. Within this volatile and complicated mixture, both Miles and Galeni the Komarri seek freedom from the past even as they are both, in their own way, historians of it.

At its heart, this is a novel about family. The plot of the novel revolves around troubled relationships between brothers, between fathers and sons, of men seeking to marry and start families while dealing with the attractions of those around them (or being, alternatively, casual flirts with no desire for a family). Despite the fact that our families may be dysfunctional, our love for others and our desire of the best for them, even if we have little influence over them directly, shows ourselves to be people of decency even among the brokenness of our world and the people in it. Sometimes that desire for the good is rewarded, and sometimes it is not. Still, we treat others well because of who we are, not because of who they are. This is a book that is long on exciting action, and also full of much material to reflect on about our own lives as well as the geopolitics of our world. To combine such elements is the work of a subtle genius, and one that is worthy of the praise that she receives for her writing so consistently.

[1] See, for example:

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11 Responses to Book Review: Brothers In Arms

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