“It’s important that someone celebrate our existence,” she [Cordelia] objected amiably. “People are the only mirror we have to see ourselves in. The domain of all meaning. All virtue, all evil, are contained only in people.”The first time we meet Mark, in Brothers in Arms, Miles thinks that he is seeing himself in a mirror. In Mirror Dance—the ninth book in the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold and winner of the 1995 Hugo and Locus Science Fiction awards—we see Mark as more than just a clone created to replace Miles.
In the beginning of the story Mark, masquerading as Admiral Naismith, attempts to use the Dendarii Mercenaries to rescue a group of clones who are slated to become body transplants for aging, wealthy patrons. Miles finds out about the deception, much too late, and tries to intervene. The rescue goes terribly, terribly wrong. The rest of the book deals with the aftermath.
Mirror Dance is a story about identity. Bujold expertly weaves a story in which multiple characters attempt to answer the question Who am I? Mark is the focus of the story, exploring his identities as a clone to the charismatic Miles, the son of Cordelia and Aral, the victim of Galen, and much more. Elena Bothari-Jesek finally faces the part of her identity which is the daughter of a man who raped her mother. Clones slated to be used as body transplants attempt to look at themselves as independent individuals. Individuals from a family of cloned medical professions try to see themselves separate from the group. Finally, we see Miles as Admiral Naismith, Lord Vorkosigan, and nobody at all.
I found Mirror Dance both disturbing and heartwarming. At times I felt that I couldn’t read anymore because the scenes were so troubling, but Bujold expertly switched the scene to something else just in time. I enjoyed seeing Cordelia again in her full power. While Brothers in Arms seemed somewhat shallow, Mirror Dance plunges deep below the surface. The writing was masterful. For me the book is the culmination of the series so far.
While the Vorkosigan series continues on, I need to quit reading it so I can focus on reading other Hugo award winning novels and some of their series-mates. I admired Bujold’s courage to deal with difficult topics. I enjoyed Miles as a man with a disability, especially because for many years I was friends with a woman whose son has brittle bone syndrome. After reading ten books in the series, I feel like I am leaving a city where I have had an enjoyable stay. I will miss it. Hopefully I will be back again.