The Warrior’s Apprentice – Lois McMaster Bujold (1986)
Here we meet Miles, the stunted hero of what seems to be the bulk of Bujold’s Barrayar novels. Miles is the son of Aral Vorkosigan and Cordelia Naismith. Miles’ mother was the victim of a failed assassination plot when she was pregnant, and the poison gas involved affected Miles’ development, leaving him with various physical problems, not least of which is curvature of the spine, shortened legs and brittle bones.
Nonetheless, young Miles seems to have been compensated by having a sharp mind and a talent for strategy.
While on a trip to Beta Colony with his old bodyguard and the bodyguard’s daughter, Miles embarks on saving a pilot from losing his ship by buying it, and then seeks to make a profit by transporting arms to a war-zone. Complications naturally ensue.
This is a far ‘lighter’ novel than ‘Shards of Honour’ although it does have its tragic moments.
Miles is a marvellous character, and Bujold has a real talent not only for dialogue, but that particular form of dialogue that politicos and diplomats employ, where one can say one thing while meaning something completely different.
It is an impressive novel in terms of characterisation, but one does have to look at the series as a set of historical novels transferred to the Far Future. Romanticism in Space Opera is perennially popular and often features an Empire, accompanied by an aristocracy, along with the numerous class levels that lie beneath. Whether or not that is a likely scenario for the human race if it ever does expand into the galaxy (one would sincerely hope not) is perhaps immaterial. It is a subgenre that will be with us, I suspect, for the foreseeable, although it is good to know that it does have at least some quality writers keeping it on the right track.