Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapter 5


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Welcome back to the Vorkosigan reread! This week’s Cryoburn cover is by Dave Seeley. This painting was used on the Baen first edition, apparently with some darker filters applied. Baen did something similar to the cover of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. Later Baen editions have brighter colors, although the color palette Seeley is using can’t really be called bright. I chose to use the Spanish version from Ediciones B here because the Baen edition has more marketing copy obscuring the art.

The cover shows two figures on a rooftop, looking down at a city. Several key scenes in his book take place on rooftops. My first instinct is that this must be Jin’s roof farm, but it doesn’t seem improvisational enough, and Seeley didn’t paint any chickens. I’ve said before that I trust Seeley to do a pin-up. He also paints a lot of lightflyers. We’ve been in this reread for ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 3 and 4


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For most of this reread, I have introduced each book with an examination of its covers. I didn’t get a chance to do that last week, and I feel like it would be an awkward interjection to do the whole round-up now. But we’re very close to the end of the reread, and I’m not willing to leave it out either. For the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at one cover each week. This week’s is Esad Ribic’s cover for Algoritam’s Croation edition. Esad Ribic is one of the many things I would never have known about if not for this reread. His covers are sometimes mind-twistingly over-wrought—he can be a sensationalist—but his most recent work on the series has been more understated. This cover shows Miles in the cryo-combs. From his equipment, this seems to represent the scene in Chapter Eleven rather than the one that opens the ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 1 and 2


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It’s new book time, Kittens! Today we’re starting Cryoburn! What is Miles doing? Miles is hallucinating. OK. That’s fun. There are falling angels that are also screaming? And there are a lot of them? And also a door and some lizards? Bujold has written this really well, because I feel like I’m hallucinating. Miles has the most interesting allergic reactions. I mean, I have some idiosyncratic allergies, and I just get wheezing and rashes. I suppose it’s possible that the hallucinations are symbolic. These could be the falling angels and lizard people over the fireplace in act one. One of the angels could be Chekov. Miles is going to have some water and a lie down now. On a roof. That’s nice. You know who’s not hallucinating? Roic. He’s chained to a wall.

That’s inconvenient—he can’t go find Miles, as is his sacred responsibility as a sworn armsman—but since he ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Flowers of Vashnoi


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The Flowers of Vashnoi is the most recent Vorkosigan novella. It is set between Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance and Cryoburn. It’s a short adventure focusing on Ekaterin, with Enrique in a major supporting role. While carrying out a research study on bugs that process radioactive waste, Ekaterin and Enrique find a family of mutants hiding in the contaminated area outside the ruins of Vorkosigan Vashnoi. The Flowers of Vashnoi came out last year in the same week as my birthday, which is irrelevant to any and all readers whose birthday isn’t in the same week as mine, roughly 51/52 of literate humanity, but I mention it anyway because I regard the book as a present. To me. I know Bujold didn’t write it for me, but she wrote it and I’m blogging about it, and here we are.

And because of that, it feels a little weird to ...

A Fun Space Adventure: Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl


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Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl is the upcoming title in Disney’s “Rick Riordan Presents” series for middle grade readers. I am, myself, the parent of a middle grade reader. We’ve had to have a number of difficult conversations lately—chores and homework, mostly—and I jumped at the chance to review the book in the hopes that offering her access to a pre-publication work with the word dragon in the title would help me score some cool points. Unfortunately for me, she thinks that reading a book before its release date means waiting longer than everyone else for the sequel. There is compelling evidence that she and I are related, but that is not it.

Typical middle grade space stories feature protagonists who leave familiar worlds (sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not) to have fabulous adventures that sometimes involve aliens, sometimes involve war, and sometimes are hilariously misguided parables about the power of international ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 25 and Epilogue


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We’re finishing up Ivan’s book this week. I’ve been procrastinating on this blog post all weekend, for once not because of time management but because I’m a little sad to let it go. Ivan goes out in such a good place—perhaps not where he planned to be, but in command of his own destiny. I don’t think that Ivan and Tej will be happy for every moment of their lives together from here on out, but I’m confident that they will put things right when they go wrong, and I’m thrilled for them.

Chapter 25 wraps up the loose ends of the Ghem Estif-Arqua Family and the sinking of ImpSec. In previous books, Ivan warned against the dangers of surprising Gregor. And indeed, while Gregor is willing to see what happens in situations that he is informed of in advance, he really hates being surprised. I’m not going to suggest ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapters 16-19


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One week before Winterfair, and Ivan is desperately trying to get his wife’s attention.

Tej is BUSY. Family are making a lot of demands on her time, which is just so typical of this holiday season. There’s a lot of pressure to pitch in and make things work and put family first. There are some domineering parents and grandparents.  Most of us are not using experimental chemicals to excavate bunkers located underneath government buildings while wearing fuzzy slippers for stealth, but otherwise, all of this sounds very familiar.

The Ghem Estif/Arqua family begins their quest to dig up Grandma’s buried treasure with a public dance performance intended to provide cover for their sonic mapping of the park in front of the notoriously ugly ImpSec building. Simon watches, which constitutes running interference. Simon is having a lot of fun here. Too much fun, really. But he doesn’t think the Arquas ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 7


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This blog post opens in Ivan Xav’s apartment on Komarr. In another sense, it opens in the Student Union at UC Storrs where I am writing while my students argue about international affairs. Were I not committed to this for the weekend, I would be knocking on doors to get out the vote. Instead, I’m writing to you. We are just two days away from the midterm elections—and by the time you read this, it will be tomorrow. If there is one thing I have learned about Vorkosigan fans in the last three years, it’s that they’re phenomenally diverse in their views and phenomenally passionate about those views. The most important way to express passionately held views in the US is to vote. If you’re reading this and you’re a registered voter in the US, please make sure you vote! I don’t know or care how you will vote, just ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 6


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Chapter six opens with Tej hanging over the balcony. The balcony is at the center of Tej and Rish’s emergency backup plan, but on this occasion, Tej is using it to spot Ivan. Let the record show that there is no question about whether or not Tej is smitten with Ivan. She is deeply smitten.

Rish is all but glued to the wall, urging Tej to come away from the railing. Rish is a cynical realist, smitten with no one. Yes, she found Byerly attractive last night, but that could happen to anyone.

What is Ivan doing? He’s picking up takeout and hitting the grocery store. He returns home bearing Barrayaran Greekie food and a box of groats.

This chapter is a series of escalating incidents involving groats.

Incident 1 — The Groat-versation

Ivan gets the groat train rolling with a short educational presentation on the culinary and cultural importance ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 4 (part 2) and Chapter 5


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Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger / You may see a stranger across your distant cousin’s crowded temporary flat convenient to the nightlife in Solstice…

That happens shortly after Byerly walks through the door. Not in time to cut off his critique of Ivan’s activities last night—and I, for one, don’t think it’s fair to criticize Ivan for having been tied to a chair, or for talking to Dome Security. I share Ivan’s concerns about the inadequacy of By’s briefing. Byerly is charmingly stunned by Rish’s appearance. He says so! He says “My word” and “Mademoiselle, may I just say, a stunner seems redundant?” If he had brought takeout, as well as saying those things, I would forgive him all his previous transgressions since the parking garage incident. And that one would be on the table for negotiation. He didn’t bring food, but he ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 4 (Part 1)


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Ivan has been many things to many people. He has been an object of jealousy, a military officer, a friend, a cousin, and a lover. He has been a foppish playboy—he has, and will continue to have, some distinctly Bertie Wooster moments—and he has been the Vor lord, with intent, which is pretty impressive considering that he is the Lord of exactly nothing, it’s a courtesy title that acknowledges his close relationship to other people who are actually important. He’s been a hostage, a rescuer, and a native guide. He’s an ADC whose flat is stocked with rat bars and wine. And now, he’s the guy who’s bringing dinner.

What does Ivan bring, when he brings dinner?

Everything. Ivan brings everything.

For the occasion, Ivan has chosen Komarran-style cuisine—a nice choice, as it’s local. I can’t evaluate the carbon miles on the food, and I think it might be irrelevant ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapters 2 and 3


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Chapters two and three of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance introduce the key characters. We’ve known Ivan for ages—he was born in Barrayar and appeared in eight of the Vorkosigan stories before this one. He’s always been a secondary character, and we’ve never seen his point-of-view before. It’s more complicated than I think readers might have suspected after reading The Warrior’s Apprentice . Later books have hinted at a more complex, deeper Ivan—Ivan is a rich tapestry. Rish and Tej are the new kids, and I love them. An attractive shipping clerk who won’t give Ivan the time of day and her sharpshooting blue-skinned companion? They had me at the quiet buzz of the stunner.

In chapter two, Ivan, Rish, and Tej (who is still going by Nanja, apparently with a straight face) escape from Tej and Rish’s apartment and head to Ivan’s apartment. After the last time he was kidnapped and tied ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 1


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Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance opens with Ivan’s door buzzer, at his temporary flat on Komarr. In addition to all the Ivan you could ever want, this book has a generous helping of Byerly Vorrutyer. And as a brief introductory note, I think Byerly suffers from the comparison. He has his charms, our Byerly. He’s creative, snarky, and—I understand from commentary in the later chapters—good in bed. He’s got lovely eyes. Here, Byerly is juxtaposed with Ivan, who has regular employment, a very nice short-term rental, and a box of instant groats, and who does a really stellar job ordering takeout. The number of novels I have read that feature extraordinarily wealthy protagonists is… not small. The number of those protagonists who effectively deploy a carefully-curated selection of takeout food is inexplicably much smaller. No one needs a lover who crawls through their window to watch them sleep, but everyone sometimes needs ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Cover Comparison


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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga Lois McMaster Bujold Falling Free Ellen Cheeseman-Myer

We’re starting Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance this week! This is such a fun book, and it’s full of IVAN who is sometimes a loutish caricature—like when he was seventeen and his mother was trying to get Aral to have a Serious Talk with him about swiving the maids—and sometimes secretly really clever—like when he found the weapon used to attack Simon Illyan. He’s the guy who turned a desk around in Ops HQ so that Miles could read Metzov’s records, and in the aftermath, he only forbade Miles to call him at work. He dropped Miles in a vat of ice, once, and remembering it helped Miles save Bel’s life four years later. I love him.

He’s all grown up here—thirty-four—a handsome and debonair bachelor whose kitchen cupboards have nothing but wine and ration bars because he eats takeout. He’s still serving as ADC to Admiral Desplaines, and while his personal ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapters 17 – Epilogue


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In chapter 17 of Diplomatic Immunity, Miles is confined to the Idris’s infirmary, strapped down (seizure precautions!) and transported in the general direction of Cetagandan space.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Miles this week—as is my habit, now, two-and-a-half years in to this reread, but more than usual because Miles is on his honeymoon, and I’m working on planning my twentieth anniversary. If there is anything worse than a life in ruins with vomiting, it is surely a life finally gotten into perfect working order but with a high probability of imminent death and/or the termination of all sexual contact due to Weaponized Cetagandan Death Plague. I have twenty years of what Miles is could so easily miss: Eating cheese, folding laundry, and making bad jokes about the domestic architecture of New England. I’ve been very fortunate on the Weaponized Cetagandan Death Plague front.

Miles is ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapter 16


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Last week, Miles found himself locked on the Idris along with an assortment of local authorities and Barrayaran medics, and the renegade Ba. The Ba has a bioweapon that I have decided to call the Plague. I realize that it is not actually the plague as we know it in Earth history—y. Pestis does not melt flesh—I just need a name for it, because Miles has it. We have two Plague victims with active infections now—Miles and Bel—and Miles seems gravely concerned about Ensign Corbeau’s safety.

How did Corbeau get in here? The Ba demanded a pilot. Corbeau is a pilot. The Quaddies sent Corbeau. Per the Ba’s request, Corbeau was sent naked. This is just as undignified as it sounds—Corbeau essentially performs his own cavity search at the Ba’s instructions. I’m not quite sure how Corbeau got roped into this job, but it was sufficiently voluntary or rewarding ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapters 13-15


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Last week, Miles set the Quaddie authorities looking for “Dubauer,” the renegade Ba, and Bel, who appears to have been abducted at least twice in a single evening. This week, Miles is reducing his distractions by locking himself and a number of major players in the local government aboard the Idris with all of Dubauer’s uterine replicators.

Dubauer and Bel were, it turns out, seen returning to the Idris late the previous night, explaining to the duty guard that Dubauer wanted to carry out some kind of important maintenance on the cargo hold full of “exotic animal fetuses.” They suggested that the guard should keep this quiet, lest the other passengers get jealous. And then the guard went home and went to bed and didn’t see the many, many announcements that Bel was missing until afternoon.

Miles is, understandably, gravely worried about Bel’s safety in the presence of a ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapter 11


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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga Lois McMaster Bujold

At the end of chapter 10, Bel Thorne went missing. This is an alarming turn of events. We know that Bel is highly trained, and has saved Miles’s life several times. Bel wouldn’t hesitate to step into the line of fire for Miles again, and in fact laid on Miles’s head when they were shot at by an unknown party with a riveter. Diplomatic Immunity has several characters whose abduction I think would not present much of a struggle for a trained operative. Bel is not one of them.

In short, this is very bad news.

You know what else is short? Time. Miles has four days to wrap this up if he’s going to be present at the birth of his first two children. And he would like to be. Ekaterin takes his concerns with wifely stoicism—she says they will discuss this in four days.

Miles sets aside his ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapters 7-10


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In chapter 6, we went to the ballet and soaked up Graf Station’s local color. Chapter 7 opens with a dramatic discovery—the blood in the docking bay was synthesized. This launches us out of the tourist section of the story and back into the mystery.

The important thing about this section is the clues:

  • Someone synthesized Solian’s blood, then dumped a large quantity of it on the floor in the docking bay.
  • Someone shoots and Miles and Bel as they leave a meeting with the convoy’s passengers. At the time, they are accompanied by one of the convoy’s passengers, another Betan herm named Ker Dubauer.
  • The weapon used in the shooting was a modified rivet gun.
  • The attacker is not immediately apprehended.
  • Ker Dubauer is a dealer in exotic animals, and is travelling with uterine replicators full of his merchandise. Ker needs to service the replicators, and may need to ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapter 6


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Welcome back to the reread, where we are dealing with chapter 6 of Diplomatic Immunity. We get to go to the ballet! Nicol will be performing with the orchestra and has arranged a box so that Miles and Ekaterin can watch a performance with Bel and Garnet Five. I love this chapter because I love ballet. It’s one of the legacies of my time in Arizona—Ib Anderson’s production of Don Quixote was life-changing. I also love Quaddies, and this trip to the ballet is a crash course in Quaddie culture. What we saw back in Falling Free was the roots of this culture, born in a struggle in which the only options were freedom and annihilation. This, two centuries later, has clear links to that early history while celebrating contemporary Quaddie autonomy.

So first, I have to point out that Quaddie fashion is AMAZING. Bel is wearing an ensemble that ...