Tag Archives: The Warrior’s Apprentice

How to escape from a rut

Dear Literopathy,

I feel like I have no direction, like I’m running as fast as I can to stay in one place. As if my life is over at the age of 25 and nothing of interest will or can happen or change. I want my life to be exciting and meaningful profound like the books I read, and I feel like I’m perpetually waiting. How do I begin?

– Julia

Dear Julia,

A number of books spring to mind. Particularly, you’ve made me think of Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass, when you say that you’re “running as fast as I can to stay in one place”. There are many titles that seem to echo your particular circumstances, with a positive ending—Douglas Coupland’s jPod and Rob Payne’s Working Class Zero (which, I believe, would also satisfy our CanCon quotas)—but ultimately the champion goes to Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice.

This book introduces Miles Vorkosigan (and her Vorkosigan saga), in truly spectacular fashion: Miles, only son of the only son of the Count Vorkosigan, washes out of his planet’s military academy during a final physical trial by breaking both his already-fragile legs in the first eight pages.

Suddenly, Miles’ future appears to have collapsed along with his shins. His militaristic society will certainly never accept his becoming Count without any military service, particularly in consideration of his pedigree—his father is known as the greatest leader ever to serve in their military. It appears that he’ll inevitably destroy his family’s good name when he becomes Count, primarily because his people won’t respect him.

Miles doesn’t take this defeat sitting down, however. Though it seems he’ll never serve in his world’s space fleet, he takes up smuggling, and promptly bluffs his way into owning an entire mercenary fleet with thousands of devoted, loyal soldiers. Miles has something of a talent for bravado, and it makes his mouth both his greatest asset and his greatest liability. While discussing your case, one of our staff described Miles by saying, “Half the time Bujold has to knock him unconscious to get him to stay still long enough for her to finish the book.” Even Miles knows this:

“I’ve got forward momentum. There’s no virtue in it. It’s just a balancing act. I don’t dare stop.”

Miles builds up a lot of momentum for himself, largely through an over-developed confidence in his ability to improvise. And this is what many of us, in our day-to-day lives, feel like we lack. We find ourselves stuck in a particular role that we’ve probably assigned to ourselves—when I’m not reading, or being a dad, I’m a computer programmer, and for many reasons, that sometimes feels like what I’m destined to be forever.

When Miles is suddenly thrust out of what he perceives to be his trajectory, he creates his own—but that creates a whole new trajectory that even he doesn’t see coming. Miles doesn’t know what’s going to happen, but he makes snap decisions, with only minimal apparent regard for consequences, because he’s confident he’ll be able to get himself out of it.

We recommend The Warrior’s Apprentice because it becomes a vivid demonstration of what a person can do when they’re thrust out of their comfort zone. In Miles’ case, outside forces pushed him at first, but there’s certainly nothing to say that we can’t push ourselves. Try something you’ve never done—audition for a play, volunteer with a group that does something you agree with—and see where it takes you, and what you like. Life rarely gets interesting when you want to, and sometimes we have to make it interesting ourselves.

Fellow readers, have you ever felt stuck in a rut? What helped you out?