The Warrior’s Apprentice

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 20, 2013

The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold

This meeting at the Milwood library had twelve attendees. Our topic was The Warrior’s Apprentice, a 1986 military space opera by Lois McMaster Bujold. This book is the first to star Bujold’s popular character Miles Vorkosigan. Miles, the son of military parents, has the mind of a warrior but a small, fragile body. In this story, Miles flunks out of his planet’s military academy yet takes advantage of an unlikely opportunity via his intelligence and determination to become a military leader. Everyone at the meeting had read Bujold before. Ten of us started this book, and nine finished it. Four attendees read the book electronically.

Most of us had a lot of fun with the book. Comments included “a fun ride while on it”,  “good candy reading ” and “lots of clever touches.” One reader appreciated the strong female characters and noted that “often a woman has solve the problems.” Several of us commented on the author’s wonderful ear for catchy and memorable dialog.

Those who liked the book particularly enjoyed its main character. Comments included “the story shows what Miles can do when he puts his mind to it” and “Miles finds the advantage in every situation.” One reader said that he “liked seeing the son of powerful parents who can’t be a traditional soldier.” We appreciated the glib way he was able to talk his way in and out of any situation.

One reader noted that this book contained “ideas that were ahead of their time.” She listed a few such ideas, including the notion of doctors “growing limbs” to replace injured ones on patients. She also liked the idealist egalitarian nature of the Beta Colony.

Another person appreciated that the book started as a fun adventure novel but changed in tone later. A big plot revelation at the end “freaked her out.” She felt that the serious ending was important to show that a war was still going on.

Several in the group had read most or all of the other books in the Miles series, and many had reread them multiple times. One attendee noted that “the books blend together.” Another appreciated how most of the books are “just as good standalone as in the context of a series.”  One reader did comment that “this book establishes the formula of Miles novels. He stumbles into a situation, does something outrageous, and then digs himself out.” Another said that he “enjoyed seeing Miles’s growth in this book and the whole series.”

A few at the group did not enjoy the book. Their complaints included “Miles is annoying” and “there are too many coincidences.” One reader said he’d enjoyed reading the book when it first came out, but his tastes had changed. He said that he now “prefers reading books with adult characters.” All of these people mentioned that they like Bujold’s later Chalion fantasy series.

Overall we had a fun discussion. After the meeting, several of us went out for a nice dinner together at P. Terry’s.

–A. T. Campbell, III