Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold
Published: 1989, Baen
Series: Book 8 (chronologically) of the Vorkosigan Saga
“Miles Vorkosigan lives a double life, splitting his time between being a Barrayaran noble and leading a mercenary army under the alias of ‘Admiral Naismith’. He’s just finished a dangerous mission with his mercenaries, one which was generously--and secretly--backed by the Barrayaran government. When he arrives on Earth in order to see to his ships’ repairs, though, the promised money is nowhere to be found.
While their resources dwindle amidst communication delays, Miles ends up assigned with his cousin Ivan in the Barrayaran embassy. The longer Miles and ‘Admiral Naismith’ are stuck in close proximity, the more likely someone is going to figure out his secret. Miles comes up with a clever tale to explain the mercenary leader’s resemblance to him, about a foreign power growing a clone in an attempt to supplant him. When an actual double appears, his story begins to look more true than he ever anticipated!” ~Allie
Surprise, I have not stopped reading the Vorkosigan Saga! I just had a lot of books on my reading list, and this series dropped off my radar for a while. I am certainly planning to finish the series at some point (including the latest one, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen).
Like Ethan of Athos, this novel feels like a lighter side story. Brothers in Arms does not cover momentous events for the Barrayaran Empire, but is instead a minor caper Miles falls into after the Borders of Infinity novella. The story stands on its own, but I would strongly recommend reading it once you’re already versed in the characters and setting of the overall saga. Though the characters here are as vibrant as ever, I think it helped that they were already established in my mind from other novels. Brothers in Arms introduces a few important minor characters, but it doesn't really break any new narrative ground for the series. It's still very entertaining, though, and I enjoyed having such a fun and undemanding book to read in the evening.
The most interesting aspect of the story for me was the introduction of the clone of Miles. The idea of a double is popular in fiction, and I think that using it as a narrative technique can illustrate interesting aspects of a character’s personality. The way a person and their double react to one another is heavily influenced by how they believe they themselves would behave in the opposing situation. In action-oriented stories, it seems like the two often try to destroy one another, which might speak highly of their self-knowledge but not of their decency. Miles chooses a more unusual path, and his choices led me to appreciate him even more as a rational and compassionate hero. I’ll be looking forward to seeing where his life next leads him.
My Rating: 3.5/5
Brothers in Arms is another lighter entry in the Vorkosigan Saga. The story is completely stand-alone, but I think it would help to already have an understanding of and attachment to the characters involved. The story involves a stopover on Earth, where Miles learns that his made-up story about a foreign power growing a clone of him is not as fictional as he might have hoped. It is both amusing and exciting, with some action-packed conflict and suspenseful moments. As usual for the Vorkosigan saga, this novel was a pleasure to read, and it left me eager to carry on with the rest of the series.