Tag Archives: Miles Vorkosigan

My Top Ten Literary Heroes

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In the interests of gender equality, I felt that I should write an article featuring my top ten literary heroes, after publishing the blog ‘My Top Ten Literary Heroines’ here. In no particular order, here they are…

1. Rincewind from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchettthelightfantastic
The timid wizard who finds himself in the middle of adventures despite himself. I love his aversion to any form of risk – a confirmed coward myself, I’ve always found the lantern-jawed sort of hero rather offputting. I also hugely envy Rincewind his Luggage, a chest made of sapient pearwood that will swallow any amount of clothing – along with particularly aggressive characters Rincewood regularly encounters on his travels.

thegobetween2. Leo Colston from The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
I first read this book as a teenager, cried at the end – and it somehow wormed its way under my skin and never really left me. Leo’s bitter-sweet recollection of a particular summer holiday that altered his life when he was thirteen leaps off the page and deserves to be far better known for more than its marvellous opening sentence.

peterpan

3. Peter Pan from the play by J.M. Barrie

I fell hook, line and sinker for the beautiful, cocky little boy when I read the story of the play aged eight. And at intervals in my life, there have been other adorable, cocky little boys full of vinegar and spirit, who light up my existence…

4. Miles Vorkosigan from the series by Lois McMaster Bujoldmemory
Miles is a remarkable creation – chockful of testosterone and driven with a desire to prove himself in a series of wonderful science fiction, space opera adventures. He would be unbearable if he wasn’t also battling the congenital defects that he has to deal with due to an attack on him before he was born. As it is, his foolhardy bravery is awesome and admirable.

5. Lord Peter Wimsey from the series by Dorothy L. Sayersbusman'shoneymoon
Forget about Jane Marple or Hercule Poirot – the detective I’ve always loved is the shell-shocked, younger son of a noble family. He often affects the idiot, while being in possession of a keen intellect and a drive to see justice done. Dorothy Sayers confessed that she was in love with Wimsey – and I can see why.

6. Claudius from I, Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves
IClaudiusAgain, a series I read as a teenager and fell in love with this complicated, damaged man who manages to survive by sheltering behind his physical disabilities most of his life. Derek Jacobi managed to bring a marvellous incarnation of the character to life in the acclaimed TV series.

7. Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfussthenameofthewind
Rothfuss took the Fantasy genre by the scruff of the neck and gave it a very good shake in The Name of the Wind. I love the character in all his driven complexity and secrecy – and am very much looking forward to reading The Doors of Stone when it comes out.

farfromthemaddingcrowd8. Gabriel Oak from Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
He has always been my ideal male – brave, physically strong, with an inbuilt instinct for doing the right thing and loyal right down his marrow… Bathsheba Everdeen is an idiot for refusing to marry him the first time around and I just hope she pulls herself together and is the wife he deserves.

wolfhall9. Thomas Cromwell from Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Henry VIII’s bullying fixer is so much more in this remarkable portrayal. I love the way Mantel’s writing manages to get right inside the character – a man of extreme contradictions, but fascinating, driven, formidably intelligent and physically energetic… Yep. I’m smitten.

themartian10. Mark Watney from The Martian by Andy Weir
Did I mention that I was an inveterate coward? The one exception is that I’ve always longed to go into Space – indeed, as a little girl I was firmly convinced that I’d end up there. I picked up this book, hoping it would be a story of brave derring-do survival and I wasn’t disappointed. And yes… as a girl I read Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson and spent hours playing versions of being castaway on a desert island…

Those are my offerings. The near misses include Hagrid from the Harry Potter series – I’ve always loved Hagrid’s sheer stubborn good-heartedness and his bluff inability to keep secrets. If only perfidious Dumbledore had half of Hagrid’s intrinsic integrity… Shakespeare’s Macbeth – yes, I know he turns into a murdering monster. But at the start of the play he’s a brave warrior in love with his wife who wants to do the right thing. For me, he has always epitomised the doomed anti-hero who could have been someone even more extraordinary, if only events and the people closest to him hadn’t stacked up against him. Hiccup from the How To Train Your Dragon series. No, not the magnolia hero of the animated film series – but the skinny, unsure and permanently anxious version Cressida Cowell brings to life in her outstanding humorous adventure series. Cade Silversun from Melanie Rawn’s intriguing and original Glass Thorns series about a magical theatre troupe. In addition to writing their plays, Cade is afflicted with prescient visions – and is one of the most interesting, layered characters in modern fantasy. Matthew Shardlake from C.J. Sansom’s Tudor crime series. A spinal abnormality has prevented Matthew inheriting the family farm, so he travels to London to seek his fortune practising the law and gets embroiled in a number of murder mysteries.

So that’s a roundup of my top literary heroes to date. Who are yours? I’d love to hear who are your favourites and why…

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Review of Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

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It’s always a bit tricky when an author revisits a really successful and popular world years after establishing it… Do you, as an avid fan, rush out to get the new book and run the risk of being significantly disappointed? Indeed, if the latest offering is dire enough, it can even smirch your previous enjoyment of this wonderful world.

Well, if Miles Vorkosigan novels used to tick all your boxes, then don’t worry. Cryoburn still has plenty of the old magic. I’ve always enjoyed Bujold’s writing, so have read both her Chalion and The Sharing Knife series with huge enjoyment, appreciating her deft characterisation, intriguing worlds and the Bujold ability to evolve realistic human difficulties and tensions out of the surrounding cryoburncircumstances. Nobody does it better…

However, something magical happens to her writing when Miles leaps into the fray. Bujold’s prose sizzles with extra three-dimensional depth and agility as she plunges her hero into yet another adventure – and I use the word plunge advisedly. The start is full-on, with Miles staggering around in absolute darkness, hallucinating and helpless.

Kibou-daini is a planet obsessed with cheating death. Barrayran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan can hardly disapprove – he’s been cheating death his whole life, on the theory that turnabout is fair play. But when a Kibou-daini crycorp – an immortal company whose job it is to shepherd its all-too-mortal frozen patrons into an unknown future – attempts to expand its franchise into the Barrayaran empire, Emperor Gregor dispatches his top troubleshooter Miles to check it out.

On Kibou-daini, Miles discovers generational conflict over money and resources is heating up, even as refugees displaced in time skew the meaning of generation past repair. Here he finds a young boy with a passion for pets and a dangerous secret, a Snow White trapped in an icy coffin who burns to re-write her own tale, and a mysterious crone who is the very embodiment of the warning Don’t mess with the secretary. Bribery, corruption, conspiracy, kidnapping – something is rotten on Kibou-daini, and it isn’t due to power outages in the Cryocombs. And Miles is in the middle – of trouble!

As you may have already gathered from the synopsis, Bujold is still using her space opera adventures to lift the lid on some gnarly problems about to smack modern humankind in the face. She thoroughly explores the issue of freezing people, who are waiting for rejuvenation and/or cures for terminal illnesses to be invented – and the even more relevant problem of powerful mega-corporations who seem to believe that national rules and regulations apply to the other sucker… However, what you don’t get, are earnest, hold- up-the-action discussions as Bujold pushes her beliefs at her readers – the lady has the lightest touch.

Another potentially book-blighting trap that Bujold apparently effortlessly negotiates, is the issue of how to fit this latest Miles episode into the former canon. Which means that any unwitting reader who innocently plucks Cryoburn off the shelves doesn’t need to be aware that it is Volume 19 in order to enjoy the mayhem. It simply isn’t an issue. Could a string of other multi-volume authors please read and take note? This is how it’s done…

There is also a significant bonus for all Miles’ fans. At the back of the book is a CD with downloadable versions of the complete Vorkosigan canon, including short stories and some essays she’s written on the nature of science fiction. This is an extremely generous extra – and one I shall certainly be adding to my computer.

I’m aware I’ve come across all gushing and fan-like over the book. Are there any niggles about it? Er… nope. It was a blast of pure enjoyment that started on page one and continued for the next three and a half hours until I’d finished the book. I have rules about reading during the day… I generally don’t, or I’d never get anything done. But I broke them all for Cryoburn – and I don’t care. I LOVE space opera – it’s my favourite genre by a long light year – and only rarely do I get to enjoy a book so well written and so entertaining.
10/10