Monday, 26 June 2000

Lois McMaster Bujold: Mirror Dance (1994)

Edition: Pan, 1995
Review number: 531

Bujold's Vorkosigan series is very well done, rather old fashioned science fiction, with echoes of many classics of the genre from Poul Anderson's Flandry stories to George Dickson's Dorsai novels. Miles Vorkosigan, hero of the series, has previously been revealed as having a clone, created by an enemy to impersonate him for an assassination attempt on his father. In this novel, the clone (named Mark) impersonates the famous mercenary Admiral Naismith - an alter ego created by the bored Miles - to lead an expedition to free a group of clones being raised to become donors of bodies for brain transplants ordered by the super rich but morally bankrupt. Since Mark does not have the same talents as his original, the rescue fails, and leaves Miles with the task of rescuing his "brother" and his subordinates.

Like much traditional science fiction, Mirror Dance is centred around an issue, exploring aspects of the possible relationships between normally conceived individuals and clones. By extension, this relates to any individual who is seen as a chattel, and so any treatment of the subject resonates with ideas from civil rights campaigns of almost every sort - anti-slavery, anti-child labour, racial equality, feminism. Other interesting questions are raised, such as inheritance rights of clones, their relationship to the parents of the cloned individual, but these are less important to Mirror Dance than the morality of creating clones to be used as organ donors. Living in a world in which mammalian clones are already possible, such issues as these begin to seem more immediate concerns.

Though these issues are important, they are never allowed to dominate the story. Their presence is there as motivation for the characters as well as the author, but the novel is never preachy. It is suspense filled - indeed, it is almost as strongly influenced by the thriller genre as by science fiction. It may not be ground breaking or original, but it is an excellent inheritor of the traditions of the genre.

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