on re-reading Mirror Dance

March 14, 2012

I’m pretty vocal that Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga is just about my favorite series of books of all time.  It’s the series that’s taught me the most about how to write a series.  Over the last couple of months, I’ve found myself re-reading the later books in the series (re-reading again, I should say.  I’ve read some of these a lot).  I’ve been finding it useful, looking at how Bujold handles things like tone and backstory, when dealing with these characters who’ve been around for a dozen books, who are very familiar but moving into new territory.  Now that I’m working on the twelfth Kitty novel and facing these issues myself.

There’s one Vorkosigan book I haven’t re-read at all since the first time I read it, maybe 15 years ago now, and that’s Mirror DanceMirror Dance was the first book in the series I read (I picked it up because it had just won the Hugo), which was probably not the best plan since it’s not just the middle of the series, it’s the second book in a three-book story arc.  I really was right in the middle of things with no clue who these people were or what the background was.  Didn’t matter, because it’s a fantastic read.  Gripping, heart-stopping, with an amazing cast of characters.  I immediately rushed out and read all the other books, and have been reading them as they’ve come out since.

But I’ve never gone back to re-read Mirror Dance.  Part of this was because I gave away my copy.  The other part — I’m terrified of it.  I’m actually glad I read it before I knew who these people were, because how much  more devastating would it have been if I’d already fallen in love with them, then had to watch them go through what they go through?  Because Mirror Dance is brutal.  Miles dies.  (He gets better…)  Mark is…oh my gosh.  Nobody escapes the brutal, spiky ringer in this one.  Not even Ivan.

I’ve re-read all the books around Mirror Dance two or three times.  I avoided this one.  I knew terrible things happened to characters I loved, and I didn’t want to go there.  Then, last month, I decided I needed to read it.  I just had to do it, to get it out of my system.  I started with Brothers in Arms, the book immediately preceding, which is a typical Vorkosigan romp with Ivan and Quinn and everybody along for the ride.  I finished it.  Got to Mirror Dance.  Had a really hard time opening that first page on my e-reader.  Seriously hard time.  My reaction intrigued me — how amazing, that a fictional book, a made-up story, has almost physically paralyzed me?  That’s a neat trick that I’d like to learn.

Eventually, I turned that page and read.  It’s one of those books that once you start you can’t stop, especially because I knew what was going to happen and just kind of wanted to get it over with.  It’s nice to have the story more firmly in mind, now.  As always, I’ve learned lots about how to deal with familiar characters, pushing them further along their arcs so that they don’t stagnate, and how to elegantly handle all that backstory.  But. . .I’ll re-read all the other Vorkosigan books before tackling this one again.  It’s a brilliant book, don’t get me wrong.  But it exhausts me.

7 Responses to “on re-reading Mirror Dance”

  1. Iain Says:

    Mirror Dance has some excelent bits in, and once past the middle bit I really enjoy it…. but I also find this the most difficult of the series to re-read. I enjoy rereading Memory, which also has horrible things happening to favorite characters, but it just isnt so… emotionaly draining.

  2. Todd Says:

    I haven’t read this series yet, though with your recommendation I’m going to start. But your post reminds me of why I haven’t gone back and re-read the Deryni series by Katherine Kurtz in many, many years. While all the books were wonderful, terrible things happened to so many of the main characters that I just couldn’t bring myself to go back and relive the pain. In many cases, I KNEW that there was going to be a bad end, but when it happened it still jarred me and made me sad.

  3. Walt Boyes Says:

    Carrie, I had exactly the same reaction. Mirror Dance is the one book Lois has written that I’ve only read once. And like you, I have read Lois over and over…I learned a lot about writing that way.

  4. Gary Roulston Says:

    Glad to know that Mirror Dance affects others as strongly as it does me.

  5. kendrame Says:

    I went out and bought all fourteen books after reading A Civil Campaign. I’m making my way through them now and am about to start Brothers in Arms. This series is amazing.

  6. bungluna Says:

    Mirror Dance contains my favorite quote from this series: “All true wealth is biological,” by Aral Vorkosigan. It is a hard book to read, but once a year I find myself just having to re-visit this wonderful world from beginning to end.


  7. I’m glad it’s not just me! I love the series to death, and recently I’ve been rereading it for the first time and I can’t seem to bring myself to touch Mirror Dance with a ten-foot pole.


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