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I love all of the Vorkosigan series (well, I like all of them, and I love most of them, but Mirror Dance tends to make me frustrated and Vor Game makes me want to beat Gregor over the head and I never actually made it through Falling Free), but Memory is without a doubt my absolute favorite book in the series. As mentioned previously, it is one of the few books I carry around with me at all times, and I am considering buying another copy when I have a real job and make real money, because my current copy is going to fall apart at some point and I need a backup.

Oh, Memory, how do I love thee, let me count the ways ...

I still remember the first time I read this book. I remember frustratedly flipping through the first 6-7 chapters with absolute dread as Miles waffled back and forth about his Supremely Stupid Decision. And then ...

And then, during that scene in Illyan's office, I cried.

(I cried the second time I read it, too, and the third, and the fourth. I don't cry reading it anymore because after I read something too many times the urge to cry slowly fades, but I still feel such heartbreak at that moment. It's because Miles so desperately wants and needs that ImpSec position, and we want and need it with him, but we also understand why he can't have it anymore.)

When I reread the books, this scene isn't one of the first scenes I reread, not because I don't love it, but because reading it is too emotional -- I have to be in the right mood. Okay, that makes it sound like reading it is a super-dramatic occurrence, but really I just mean that most days, I think "I am in a fabulous mood today. Let's reread the bits where Miles is absolutely brilliant." And only on days when I'm feeling introspective do I say, "Hmm, I feel like reading Miles at his lowest right now." And really, this IS an example of Miles at his lowest -- this is a Miles that falsifies his records for his own purposes, is confronted with the truth, finds that his forward momentum cannot take him anywhere, and then breaks down. He attempts to invoke nepotism because of his need for Admiral Naismith, that's how low he's sunk.

--

The next scene that sticks out in my mind is when Ivan and Duv show up and toss Miles into an ice bath.

I have to admit that I don't like Ivan, and my distaste dates back to Warrior's Apprentice (basically, he's an idiot with a history of sexual harassment, and assuming sexual harassment is giving him the benefit of the doubt), but his actions in Memory are why I merely dislike him instead of holding him in contempt (as I had done previously).

Basically, despite being kind of an ass at the beginning of the book (this is the book where he's like "YAY, I'm a captain!", right? I mean, he was just being normal and Miles was the one who was kind of dick about it, but because I love Miles and he was feeling down, I am on Miles's side), he steps up here and recognizes that he's Miles's only family in town, and does his best (and better than his best), doing everything necessary to draw Miles back to the land of the living.

Here, his knowledge of how Miles works comes in useful, everything from ice-baths to awareness of just how much Miles will wriggle out of doing anything if he's given the opportunity to what threats will work best.

I love the Miles-Ivan-Duv scenes because after Miles has reached the "depths of his despair" (such an Anne Shirley turn of phrase), he now has family and friends (although granted, Duv is more of a colleague/acquaintance than a friend at this point, having not shown up at all for a few books, but he's also one of the few people in the world who's aware of how awesome Miles is) to pull him out of it.

--

Miles slowly recovers, which is kind of boring. I skip over most of this on my Best Bits Rereads (TM), BUT I do have a soft spot in my heart for the trip to visit Raina. <3

I often feel like Memory is the book that makes the Vorkosigan more of a series, and less episodic in nature. There are callbacks to Brothers in Arms with the resurfacing of Galeni, to "Mountains of Mourning" when he visits Harra and Lem. It's nice to see old characters show up.

I love the stories we hear here -- I love the reminiscing about Miles and Ivan and the lightflyer competitions through Dendarii Gorge, I love Martin completely underestimating the maple mead and his hangover the next morning, I love Miles and Harr and Lem getting drunk by the lake.

--

And then of course, tragedy ensues as Illyan is struck by prokaryotic enzymic something-or-other, leading to my Top Favorite Scene:

Miles barreling down ImpSec HQ!

The second time, not the first time. The first time just makes me kind of sad and makes me roll my eyes, and then Miles goes all Vor with purpose (how much do I love the determination with which he pins all his medals on), and of course, Gregor's abstracted "What do you want- Good God, you're Vor with intent today!" (or something to that effect).

And then Miles gets made Auditor (<3) and gets to show up Haroche and .... <33333

I often like to claim that I totally knew all along Haroche was the big bad, but this is not actually true. What is true is that I never liked him, though like Miles I attributed it to incompetence rather than malevolence. But maybe it is because I have awesome killer instincts and picked up on the fact that something was off about him!

So every scene where Miles shows up Haroche and rubs it in his face that Ha! He ranks higher AND is smarter! makes me gleeful.

So yes, I absolutely adore the scene where Miles stuns Haroche with his new rank, the bits where he goes through ImpSec HQ with a fine-toothed comb, interrogating everybody, where he investigates, where he and Ivan find the capsule that implicates Miles, where Miles is absolutely brilliant in every way. <3

--

But of course I've skipped over another scene that has replaced the Miles Breakdown as the Saddest Scene in this book.

Specifically, Illyan.

Oh, Illyan. sigh

His 15-minute memories, the listlessness, the absolute pain and heartbreak of staying by his side and the way Miles soldiers on through it all. Those first tries, when Miles tells Illyan his chip is malfunctioning, and then tells him again, and then tells him again, and then hast to look away?

I teared up on my most recent reread of it.

I like how this whole scene is portrayed as so monstrous, how Illyan's chip (already a monstrous thing in that it was something he had virtually no real way to refuse so any consent he gave was dubious at best, and it was something that killed or drove mad just about everybody else) deteriorating has not only ruined his mind, but also completely ruined how people treat him. The chip breaking down is one thing -- the way people strap him down and just leave him there and treat him as an object as opposed to a participant (and saying things like "turning to snot inside his head" in his presence) is ridiculous. We really get the sense that the man who everybody feared has been laid low.

--

Of course the fishing scene with the discussion of elephants is <3 because really, the idea of an elephant as an incentive to sign a treaty (or whatever it was)! And also tipsy!Illyan and tispy!Miles bombing a lake full of fish is just hilarious to me.

--

As mentioned before, Miles investigating made me really happy because I love Miles and he really is my favorite character.

(I'm really impressed with how invested Bujold managed to get me -- sometimes even when I know Miles is in the wrong, as with the above Ivan-promotion scene, I don't care and I'm on Miles's side anyways!)

And so his showdown with Haroche after Duv has been taken by ImpSec, where Haroche convinces him to come back to ImpSec as Naismith and abandon Galeni to the wolves, and Miles realizes the choice before him ...

... and the scene after, where Miles wrestles with temptation and goes for best two falls out of three?

I actually consider Miles wrestling with temptation the climax of the book. I have no idea if that works in a literary sense, whether literary-wise, the climax would be the actual final showdown at ImpSec, but I consider all the action afterwards to be a resolution. It is in this moment, however, when Miles looks at himself and examines himself and learns who he really is -- this is what I consider the climax of the book.

And it's interesting, really, because ever since I've started writing more, I've tried examining how authors write climaxes, whether emotional or action, and they're all very ... anticlimactic of sorts. It's mostly words that go into it, words that work because they evoke so much by way of feeling when you're rushing through to find out what happens next, but words that seem rather empty and lifeless when you coolly analyze them out of context.

So frankly, the whole idea of "Who are you"/"Who are you who asks" is a bit beside the point and doesn't actually address the whole abandon Galeni/adopt Naismith/renege on honor/play game with Haroche/avenge Illyan/what should Miles do? question in the least, but it completely worked for me when I was reading the story, and it still works for me when I read it in the context of the story.

--

The final attack on Cockroach Central, with the carefully-maneuvered troops, catching Haroche in the act, reporting to Gregor (who is so surprised Miles is done so quickly!), is all very satisfying.

Most satisfying is Gregor's interrogation of Haroche (which I always reread), mostly for the bits where Haroche is insanely jealous of Miles. Anywhere from complaining about the "hyperactive little shit" before he got to know him, to when he realizes Miles's isn't only Illyan's pet, to the "It took him three days! Three days! I was sure I could get him to go to Jackson's Whole and back but he found it in three days!" (paraphrase from memory), to the bait being dangled "and now I'm down and he's ... up."

Basically, the interrogation is a vindication of Why Miles Is Brilliant. (And also a reiteration of Why Haroche Misses The Point on everything from Miles to the Laisa/Galeni "future embarrassment to the Empress" angle. Everything that makes Gregor go quietly angry!)

And of course, I love the awe that Gregor/Ivan/Illyan bestow on Miles when they realize what he has turned down for the sake of integrity. They all three know him so well, and know his buttons better than anybody, so all three recognized that this is an instance where Haroche pushed all the right buttons and still Miles made the right choice. More people need to know how awesome Miles is!

--

And I think that's all my favorite scenes. I do like the bit where Miles catches on that Illyan and Alys are sleeping together (he's rather slow about it, but whatever), and the bit where Ivan confronts him about it. The scene where Miles gets the official Auditorship is not that exciting, though Miles wheedling a captainship out of is cute.

The last fling with Quinn bores me (because frankly, Quinn bores me in this book in that she is clearly over Miles and beyond him, in that she has moved on and is in the next stage of her life, much like Elena was at the beginning; they're going on to better things), Miles writing his report is kind of funny, Zap having kittens and Ma Kosti as a permanent fixture ... these are all cute but not quite as astounding as my favorite scenes listed above.

I do however like the last scene in the book, where Miles proudly explains to his father all the research he's done, announces that he is unprecedented, and is gently told, "This is not news."

<3



Please recognize that I just summarized like 2/3 of all the scenes from this book from memory. I have the book within arms' reach, but as simply too lazy to factcheck my statements, so if I've gotten something wrong, please let me know!

Date: 2011-06-06 02:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] philomytha.livejournal.com
Oh, Memory! Basically, my thoughts on this post can be summed up as YES. And I have been known to reread the scene of Miles going to ImpSec, getting chucked out, putting all the medals on and going back to Gregor with intent - it's a wonderful, wonderful sequence.

And Illyan. That bit can still make me cry, when Miles goes in and finds him like that. Ow ow ow. That is just pure horror and tragedy. It also makes me deeply furious with everyone who's been complicit in treating him that way, but then, I'm a little partial when it comes to Illyan ;-).

To me the essential arc of the story is sin -> acknowlegement of sin -> confession -> penance -> redemption, which I freely admit is a very Catholic reading of it, but that's how it works in my head. And so in that reading, the wrestling with temptation is very much the climax, when he passes the test he failed the first time around. And it's also the moment the mystery is solved.

The only bit that stands out a lot for me that you don't mention here is the lakeside conversation with Harra - 'you just go on'. That, to me, rings incredibly true and is something that I repeat to myself from time to time.

So yes. Memory ♥.

Date: 2011-06-10 11:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eldarwannabe.livejournal.com
I don't know how I missed this, but I'm here now.

MEMORY. *hugs forever*

Wow, we have the same scenes stuck in our heads. I have to say that it's not just the callbacks that make me think this book is such a game-changer, but also the sheer character development. Miles has developed in every book, yeah, and we can see that changes from book to book pretty clearly. But here he doesn't just develop, he changes. Total metamorphasis to a new person, with a new view on life and a new job and everything. He's stripped down to his core (Vorkosigan vs. Naismith!!) and he comes out and builds himself up. Love.

I have to say that I'm actually a pretty big Ivan fan. It's heavily implied that he's far smarter than he comes off, but he very much does not want to be at all considered for the throne. EVER. He grew up on stories of his father's death, of Aral's childhood, watching Gregor and Aral and Miles and his mother, and he wants to get as far as possible from it. In the first few books he's a bit of a douche, but by this one...the scene when Miles leaves the room, and Ivan is the one left to tend to Ilyan? He clearly does Not Want to do it, but he does it anyway. (Also the ice bath. Which is a favorite re-read scene.)

Oh, and Miles with Intent! How brilliant is that scene? I love they dynamics of it between him and Gregor, because he didn't use nepotism, he used the reputation and awards he actually earned, and he gets a Auditorship out of it!

I agree with you about the climax of the book. Or, rather, one of them? The book has two different stories (or more) going on. The main one, the one the readers are clearly emotionally invested in, is the story of Miles' transformation. But there is also the whodunnit mystery, which is more of a plot device in Miles' arch, but still important. Not that I didn't want to know that answer, but clearly everyone was mostly invested in Miles for this one.

Ah, I could ramble with you on this one forever, it's so fantastic!! ♥ :D

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