by: Lois McMaster Bujold
Young Miles is this month’s book club pick and to be honest, I’m just not that into it. I’m nearly 250 pages in and I have no inclination to finish, really. I keep on trying to, because book club, but as soon as I pick it up, my mind starts wandering and either I start considering a nap or I think of something else that I desperately need to do, like dishes. I need your opinion – should I finish reading it or do you think that we have incompatible differences? Read on, readers, and let me know what you think in the comments!
The volume I have is apparently 2 novellas and a short story, so there’s approximately 800 pages total. (Also, I’m nearly 250 pages into the first novella and it doesn’t seem to be anywhere near a conclusion, so I’m saying it’s at least 1 novel and 2 additional stories of undetermined type.)
As for why I’m not interested…well, firstly, there’s one female character so far and she’s young, spirited, over-protected, and out on her first adventure. (She’s basically Jasmine from “Aladdin” but without being bad ass enough to strike out on her own.) Her only redeeming value is she can fight – except the two most prominent male characters spend all their time worrying about her even though it’s made clear she’s a very good fighter. While I don’t need every story I read to feature a female lead, I have a hard time staying involved if all the important characters are male. (And I don’t mean strong like bad ass mofo here to save the day, just that they need to have a personality and be there for a reason besides love interest! or token female! or damsel in distress!)
Secondly, the characters doesn’t feel that well-developed. They’re not badly developed, it’s just that they’re blandly predictable. Miles is the unfortunately physically disadvantaged guy who’s wicked smart and cunning and will end up saving the day using only his brains and force of character! Even though everything was stacked against him! (Except for the fact that he was born in a position of power and money and given the best of education… does she go into that?)
His bodyguard is an ice-cold soldier with a deep dark secret (that probably drives his sense of honor and obligation)! Also, he’s a sadistic sociopath? Or maybe just a sadist… A nice twist but it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere character wise, as he’s unlikely to use his sadistic torturing abilities against anybody but the bad guy. I can see tension building between him and Miles – they’ve already had one stand-off on torturing enemies – but I feel like that’s the only tension his soullessness will bring to the book.
I could go on, but the rest of the characters are much less well-developed and really aren’t worth the time. I did find Tung, an arrogant but brilliant military historian fairly interesting; Lois threw some unexpected twists in with his personality that I really liked.
And I’m just not very into her world-building. It’s okay but several things I’m just not getting quick enough, so scenes only make sense after the fact, like when I was confused about how they were having a spaceship battle at the refinery. It was only after the battle that I realized the refinery was in space. (This could be because I’ve been intermittently spacing out while reading, rather than a fault in the writing.)
Her writing is good, but, at least in this book, not great and she’s definitely had more than a few choppy scene shifts that were just awkward to read.
I can see where she’s using her world building for political metaphors or to make a point about American politics/society … but it’s just not gripping me or even making me think terribly hard what she’s saying.
Space books aren’t my favorite, anyway, and I think the problem with this book is that to me, nothing is exceptional enough to really grasp my attention. Everything is okay across the board but there’s nothing about it that’s a major draw to me.
Am I missing something, readers? Should I go ahead and strive to finish, as it will drastically improve, or do you think that this book and I are, alas, never going to be friends?