Review: Labyrinth by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen
ISBN: 1590623827
ISBN 13: 9781590623824
Published: 1989
Pages: 110
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

I have been sometimes free with choosing the cover for my posts – this is the actual cover for the omnibus in my virtual library that contains The Mountains of Mourning (1989) (already reviewed), Labyrinth (1989), and The Borders of Infinity (1987) (coming later this month.) The majority of the covers for this series are horrible, but this one didn’t even really have any to pick from, being from the middle of an omnibus. Such is life.

In this novella we see what Miles got up to just after the previous book – Ethan of Athos – who gets a mention in this tale just in passing, and the knowledge of helps Miles make a pretty tough but quick decision. His original mission was to provide safe passage for a research scientist, but of course when Miles is involved things are never that simple. The scientist refuses to board until Miles does something for him – destroy a project he regrets – especially if it were to get into the wrong hands. And when Miles finds what exactly the project is he quickly decides there’s no way he’s doing any such thing.

Apparently this gives us the background of a character we’ll see a lot more of later on (damn you, spoilers!) which makes me a little more sympathetic to the plot, but I do have one major problem with it, and possibly because it’s something that comes up quite regularly in my line of work. So it’s time for a spoiler cut:

Okay, so I have a major problem with the idea of Miles and Taura sleeping together immediately. She’s not in fit mental health – she’s been treated inhumanely and is under significant mental distress, and has been for some time. She cries that she’s ugly if he doesn’t want to have sex with her, so his response is to have sex with her, whilst also noting it’s part of his fetish, practically. He’s also there in a position of power – he’s head of the Dendarii and says he’s there to save her, and then soon wants her to join the force he leads. Whether or not there’s an age difference or mental health issues, Miles later confirms himself that there shouldn’t be fraternising between ranks because of their position of power and/or exploitation. It’s also a bit not good that he pretty soon starts ordering her around to break this or fight that.

It all left me rather cold, to be honest. I’d have preferred it if he gentle rebuffed her, whilst still started working on improving her self-worth… and then in some time once she’s recovered and become a bit more of herself again if she’s still willing… then sure, why not. But I don’t feel it added much to the story – Miles is king of using his wits and his words to getting what he wants, I just don’t see why he had to take advantage of a girl seven years his junior who’s had a pretty rough life. Hell, at the end of the novella is much better – at least she’s safe, there. Bah.

I think this is actually the first piece of Bujold’s writing that I don’t want to give five stars to.

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