Brothers in Arms

by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cover image

Series: Vorkosigan #7
Publisher: Baen
Copyright: 1989
Printing: September 2002
ISBN: 0-7434-3558-3
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 240

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I read this book as part of the Miles Errant omnibus, which is what the sidebar information is for. Miles Errant also includes the novella "The Borders of Infinity" (of which this is a direct sequel), but it's probably best to get the short story collection Borders of Infinity unless you're buying all of the omnibuses. In addition to "The Borders of Infinity", you also want to read "Labyrinth" before this book (although it's not vital).

Brothers in Arms is more of the same for the Miles Vorkosigan stories, but that isn't a bad thing. Miles ends up on Earth and quickly gets in over his head while juggling his alternate identities, there's more conflict between his Barrayar superiors and his duties (as he sees them) to the Dendarii Mercenaries, political complications arise, and Miles fast-talks his way to a solution through multiple twists and turns and a running battle finale. It's not a story to win awards as great literature, but it's an enjoyable adventure tale.

The start of the book was a bit frustrating (and this seems to be a common pattern for this series). I could see the train wreck happening and was cringing a little as Bujold pushes her characters into sufficient difficulty for them to have something to do. I was ready to dislike this one as a simple repeat of the same pattern: Miles gets into trouble, Miles frantically runs around trying to get out of trouble while not telling anyone anything, and then Miles finds a brilliant solution mainly by being in the right place at the right time. But, yet again, while Bujold mostly follows that pattern, there's enough new happening here to keep the story interesting and fresh. Brothers in Arms introduces Mark, who goes on to become a major supporting character in the series and who adds some emotional complexity to the story, but the primary depth comes from the interactions between Miles and his superior. A nice change of pace, as Miles's superiors have previously been vague supporting characters.

Bujold's world-building tends towards the simplistic; she's not trying to create a deep and believable future universe so much as create a good backdrop for adventures and political intrigue. Brothers in Arms lacks even the neat ideas of Cetaganda. Earth is unfortunately depressingly normal and uninteresting. That's not too much of a flaw, as there are other things to hold one's attention, but I would like to see a book in this series that combines both neat ideas and some emotional depth in the same story.

I doubt this is a book that will blow anyone away, but Bujold's Vorkosigan series is a good modern successor to pulp adventure novels. She isn't trying to do anything earth-shattering or unique here, just write a solid adventure story. Brothers in Arms lives up to the general quality of the other Miles stories; recommended when you're looking for an undemanding adventure.

Followed in series chronological order by Mirror Dance.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-10-21

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21