The Mountains Of Mourning by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Third read, 2/3/18:
You know, maybe it's just me, but the other times I'd read these books in a row, I really wanted big pew-pew military action. I wanted something big and outrageous like we had in Warrior's Apprentice.
When I read this in the timeline order, I was mightily pissed to have a measly character-building and societal change message wrapped tight in a murder mystery in the boondocks on Vorkosigan lands, in what should have been a lull right after graduation.
Upon a lot of reflection and ratcheting up a just eye, I'm reading this novella as if it had nothing to do with anything. I took it on its own merits.
What did I come up with?
Great mirroring of themes. Prejudice against mutants among all the ignorant peoples. Infanticide, blind fear, and a Miles who is automatically assumed to be the devil because he looks like a mutation. And even if he isn't, it'll be impossible to look into a murder of a child for being a mutant without having a ton of hate also centered on him. Maybe the backwater population of his own people should have been justified in being afraid of what Miles would do.
He's livid. But he's also trying to be just and clever and impartial even when it doesn't seem remotely possible in this situation. What can he do in a day and a half? Where can justice be found? Children are still being murdered in ignorance. In his own people's eyes, he should have been murdered in his own crib.
It's a powerful story.
Miles is still reeling under the effects of his own impossible grandfather who had been such a source of pain and a rift in his own family, who had wanted to do the same to him as the rest of these people, and yet Miles had won him over just by being super stubborn.
The young, freshly graduated military man Miles, having broken nearly every bone in his body from experimental treatments to keep him alive throughout his childhood, survived and thrived by this same stubbornness.
The solution and the resolution of this particular murder mystery are very bittersweet. It requires a lot of understanding and a lot of painful wisdom... all of which Miles must cultivate through his own tears.
I upped my rating. I didn't give this enough justice. There are no spaceships, but there is fast-penta interrogations, horses, firebombs, and vitriol. Sometimes scaling it all back is worth it for the penetrating look into a people.
(This won the best novella for hugo, btw)
This novella was intended to underscore social change and flesh out the backwaters of Barrayar and did so in murder-mystery fashion. Miles got himself into it and eventually got himself out, as well. The story takes place right after his graduation, and while it doesn't create immediate and widespread social change, it's a start. It's also not particularly my favorite out of the series, but it does have its place. There's no space battles, mercenary fleets, or megalomaniac dictators. That being said, it's certainly not a bad story. It should be judged on the murder mystery sci-fi standard.
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