Vorkosigan Saga #12: Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold

Read: 18 February, 2018

I was very clever and read the “Borders of Infinity” novella before coming back to this book. While the book Borders of Infinity comes next in the chronological order, the novella (which can be found in the book) comes just before Brothers in Arms. While it isn’t absolutely necessary to read them in that order, much of Brothers in Arms is dealing with the aftermath of the story in “Borders of Infinity”, so I do think it’s best to read them in order. What I did was read all the novellas in Borders of Infinity, then come back and read Brothers in Arms, then read the framing device in Borders of Infinity.

It’s probably no surprise that I really loved this one. So far, the Vorkosigan has been a whole lot more hit than miss. I love the dissection of identity and personhood, and I love the exploration of how wartime actions and choices can keep coming back to haunt whole lineages.

We haven’t heard much about Earth so far in the series, so it was interesting to see how Bujold sees the future right here at home.

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I Was The Cat by Paul Tobin (illustrated by Benjamin Dewey)

Read: 15 October, 2016

I picked this up off the library shelf because I had some time to spare and it was a graphic novel (and therefore a fast read), and it had cats. SOLD!

Unfortunately, it left a lot to be desired. The story is about a blogger named Allison Breaking (so named so that she could pun her name – if it even counts as a pun – by calling her website ‘Breaking News’, uuuuugh), who is hired by a wealthy and mysterious person named Burma to ghostwrite his memoirs.Except that her new employer turns out to be a cat! Dun dun DUUUUN!

There are mostly two stories being told. In the first, we have Burma’s story of his previous lives. In the second, we have the present day story of Allison coming to terms with meeting a talking cat, and her discovery of his current plot for world domination.

First, the positives: The artwork is very good. It isn’t particularly stylized, but it’s solid and clear. I also enjoyed all the little easter eggs hidden throughout the images, like the Pulp Fiction assassins, or the random Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The problem is that the narrative felt very disjointed. The conceit of the nine lives could have been interesting, but ended up just being Burma listing off famous people he’s met. It doesn’t make much sense, either, except in a ‘how history tends to get taught in primary school’ sort of way. There’s no reason for Burma’s first life to be in ancient Egypt, but then not again until the Elizabethan era. After that, as we get into history that the readership knows more about, his lives seem to come fairly regularly. Why the gap, except to make some joke about the ancient Egyptians worshipping cats?

The world domination plot was rather disappointing, largely because it wasn’t adequately set up. The insider trying to warn off Allison doesn’t seem to care much whether she’s warned or not, and doesn’t really seem to be trying to accomplish anything in particular by revealing the plot to her in any case. And once he does manage to warn her, what does he say? He tells her not to worry about it. So that was plot time well spent…

And that really sums up the whole book for me: There are lots of ideas, mostly a mish-mash of pop culture references, all thrown in together, but none of them serve of purpose or lead to anything.

And did Burma’s evil plan remind anyone of the Leviathan plot from Supernatural?

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A Three Pipe Problem by Julian Symons

Read: 8 August, 2008

Nothing special. It’s a fairly short read, so I suppose it’s fine for a rainy day – that’s assuming you can get through all the racism, sexism, and anti-modernism without bursting a blood vessel. Someone really needs to inform Mr. Sheridan Haynes (the main character) that the Victorian era was only wholesome and lovely if you were rich and male.

As far as the plot itself goes, there’s not much to it. About 95% of the novel is an introduction to the character of Sheridan Haynes, a jerk who completely ignores his wife (she leaves him, but by the end she’s realized that she loves him and comes back, finally learning to accept all the “quirks” that had made her leave), bullies and ridicules his colleagues, and thinks altogether too highly of himself. He’s a bore to read about, especially since most of his lines consist either of “I hate cars! I wish the combustion engine had never been invented!” or “Sherlock Holmes is god. Anyone who doesn’t worship The Master is a moron!”

There’s no character development. Sher (as he is called) learns absolutely nothing. He loses his job because of the way he acts, but is immediately offered another. He loses his wife, but she comes back with no compromises. Everything is just handed to him and he learns nothing.

The mystery itself is almost in the background. There’s an overview of the murders in the first few pages and then a description of how they had happened at the end. Everything in the middle is just repetitive character exposition. Quite frankly, the resolution wasn’t entirely satisfying either. “I kill people because my dog got run over, then I will help an actor solve my own crimes for no reason whatsoever” just doesn’t do it for me. Cassidy could have at least made an attempt to throw Sher in the wrong direction or, if he really felt all that guilty about what he’d done, he might have tried hinting at it. But no, he plays out like a perfectly ordinary innocent character right up until his confession.

The writing style is really the only redeeming quality of the book. It’s simplistic, but it gets the job done and at no point was it confusing. It makes A Three Pipe Problem a very easy and quick read.

Overall, I’d say the whole novel was just a 192-page excuse to use the term “nig-nog.”

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