Attempting to live a normal life after a pre-natal accident leaves him in a delicate state after he is born, Miles Vorkosigan learns that he has a jealous clone brother who is plotting to kill and replace him. Reprint. PW.
"Mirror Dance" is a great book. It's intensely psychological, a fast moving space opera drama that gets everything right -- everything.
The story is as follows. Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, galactic mercenery and reluctant Vor lord, had tried in "Brothers in Arms" to give his clone brother Mark a start in life. But Mark couldn't get free of Miles, no matter how he tried; this was because of psychological damage and because of intense psychosocial programming by renegade terrorists (who had ordered Mark cloned to make him substitute for Miles). Before Miles showed up, Mark had no identity -- his whole purpose was to take over Miles' life. But Miles changed that. Somewhat.
The start of "Mirror Dance" has Mark back; he has found out about some clones about to be killed in clone brain transplants. He's extremely sensitive to this, and wants to stop it. However, because of his damage, he doesn't believe that anyone will help him -- not Miles, not his family (who he doesn't realize would care), not anyone.
So, he steals one of Miles' mercenary ships, and goes hunting. He frees most of the clones, but ends up killing Miles (who goes down to rescue Mark -- again).
The first time I read this (all in the first hundred pages, so this isn't a spoiler), I threw the book across the room. I didn't care for Mark, and I wanted Miles to live.
However, in the next three hundred pages, I came to care desperately for Mark. He meets Cordelia, his mother -- a formidable ex-ship's captain. And he meets Aral, his father -- a formidable Prime Minister, ex-ship's captain, and Admiral of Barrayar.
His father has a health crisis, while everyone tries to find Miles. Death is not irrevocable in the far future; Miles might be able to be brought back. And Mark feels extremely responsible for Miles' death; if Miles hadn't gone after him, he'd be alive (even if Mark himself would be dead).
I don't want to go into the rest, but trust me, you'll want to read it. Because Mark's journey of identity is compelling, believable, honest, heart-wrenching, and sad. Tremendously sad.
After all is said and done, Mark not only became likable -- he became my favorite Bujold character. That's because he's so complex, and he wants to do the right thing -- even though he doesn't always know what it is, nor how to achieve it.
There's a bit of Mark in all of us.
In addition, Mark's struggles with his weight and with depression hit close to home as well. Despite crushing despair and a nearly overwhelming amount of self-hatred, Mark perseveres.
And eventually, Mark wins. He even gets the girl.
This is my favorite Bujold book for many reasons; the language is crisp, the characterizations are right on the money, the science is believable, the logic and the plot make sense, and the psychology of it all is understandable.
This book should give hope to anyone who's gifted but in a bad situation; in my opinion, it also should be required reading for people struggling with depression, multiple personalities, and schizophrenia, because Bujold did her homework and got the issues _right_.
This is one of my all time favorite books, and I believe it is destined to go down as a classic of the s/f genre.
Five stars plus, highly recommended.