I like the whole series, the style. Intensive reading enjoyment with time and money well spent Everybody progresses even when battered, and without artificial sweetness there is always a chance for happiness
This is one of my favorite books of the Mile Vorkosigan series -- although it's just as much a Mark Vorkosigan book. Lois McMaster Bujold has a reputation for writing "fun and fluffy" SF adventure. This book proves that she can go beyond that. She has always gone beyond "fun and fluffy," but not everybody was taking notice. The gloves are off with this book. There are plenty of dark moments. Characters we care about our hurt, both physically and mentally. Miles and Mark are both put through the wringer -- but they come out better men because of it. If your idea of an SF novel is something with an exciting plot and identifiable characters... come on in! On the other hand, if you're into wacky novels about Elvis clones worshipping computers in the near future, you already know this isn't your cup of tea. So when does Ivan get his book?... Anne M. Marble Reviewer, All About Romance
Lois McMaster Bujold is a surprising writer. If you pay attention to her cover blurbs, you'd think she writes shoot-em-up space operas. She does, but that's not all. If you read a synopsis of her Vorkosigan series, you'd think she writes sf soap operas. She does, in a way, but that's not all. If you read a little of her work, picking paragraphs here and there, you'd think she writes neo-gothic sf. She does, in a way, but that's not all. It's not until you've read several of her books that you realize that beneath the nuts and bolts of the spaceships, beneath the neo-feudalism of the setting of Barrayar, beneath the intricate plotting that weaves politics, romance and adventure into a wonderful tapestry, beneath all that lies stories that are sometimes capable of helping the reader not only see new worlds, but can actually help them see their own world from a new angle. Take "Mirror Dance" for instance. On one level it is an adventure story of a frustrated second son who wants to outdo his older brother. On another, it is based on super-high tech political intrigues generated by cloning the son of an empire's most powerful leader. On yet another, it is an adventure story in which a knight errant becomes the object of a mighty quest, a quest even HE takes part in, literally, because he must find himself. And through it all Ms Bujold does a wonderful job at tackling hard topics that range from familial love to mental health to questions of identity. The best part of Ms Bujold's work is that you can approach it from just about any of the levels I've mentioned and come away feeling very satisfied. Satisfaction, in itself, is surprise enough coming from any writer.
Mirror Dance remains my favorite Bujold book to date. I highly recommend reading Brothers in Arms before reading Mirror Dance. If you do not want spoilers, do not read the back of the mass market edition of Memory. Mirror Dance also remains the most epic of Bujolds books, containing her space fleets, Dendarii commandos, and political intrigue. This book justifies why Locus Magazine readers voted Bujold the third most important author of the nineties.
I actually love all the books in this series, but this one and Memory war in my mind for favorite. I've re-read both so often that I'm probably going to have to buy new copies, in fact. One of the best things about the Vorkosigan series is that the people in it are flawed. I don't mean their portrayal; I mean their characters. No one is perfect, no one is always happy, and most importantly, no one is shallow; there are things going on underneath the surface that are sometimes only hinted at and sometimes expanded on in a way that makes them real. This book in particular, although it's far darker than much of the rest of the series, gives you that depth. Without giving too much away about the plot, I would also like to commend Lois McMaster Bujold for handling less-than-sane characters in a way that does not come off as stereotypical, overused, cliched, or otherwise insulting. As someone who has studied a great deal of psychology, I appreciate this in a way some people may never understand, but even those who have only passing familiarity with the things that can trouble the mind will probably find this detail a bonus in an all-around well-crafted story.
After having the unexpected pleasure of becoming aquainted with Miles Vorkosigan in "Memory", I couldn't wait to get my hands on another Miles adventure. "Mirror Dance" definitely did not disappoint. The story is gripping on several levels, from the obvious 'how do we get out of this one?' scenarios, to the struggle Mile's clone brother, Mark, has with trust to become part of a family he has never known. The plot is complex enough to keep you wanting to turn the pages, without being so convoluted that one needs a score card to keep up with it. The characters are well-drawn and interesting, with just enough about their thoughts and feelings to make them come alive. Because "Mirror Dance" is part of a series, there is always the concern that the reader who is new to the series will not know enough background to know what is going on. Fear not! Ms. Bujold sprinkles the text with lightly placed explanations, and the reader is easily immersed in Miles Vorkosigan's world. Now I can hardly wait to get my hands on a new adventure!
This is not hyperbole --- I'm a pretty jaded reader when it comes to SF, but this is in a class by itself. I *had* read the other installments in the series so I knew the background, yet the book stands on its own. Exquisite attention to plot detail, elegant prose, very "alive" characters. If you want to start with the series next, I'd suggest to buy "Cordelia's honor" (which is the two first novels, "Shards of honor" and "Barrayar" in one volume) next. After that you'll probably buy the entire series.