Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapter 1

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

Welcome to Diplomatic Immunity! Can Miles still have his usual adventures now that he’s married and about to become a dad? This is a book suggests that he can, but he may have to accept some new limits.

Exciting news this weekthe Internet Speculative Fiction Database now has links that let you see all the print covers associated with a title on one page. The thanks of this grateful blogger—and I imagine many others—go out to the staff and volunteers at the ISFDB.

Tragically, most of the covers for Diplomatic Immunity are dreadful.

Stephen Hickman’s cover for Baen showcases generic space armor.

Steve Stone’s art for the British edition showcases generic spaceships.

I have only found one cover that even attempts to portray a Quaddie. While I appreciate that someone made the attempt, I’m annoyed that Martina Pilcerova replaced feet with hands rather than replacing legs with arms. ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Winterfair Gifts, Part 1

Roic knows you were staring at him.

Everyone has had the dream where you’re at work, or school if you’ve ever been to a school, or maybe somehow both, and there’s a test or an emergency, or a test that IS an emergency, and everyone is there and you aren’t wearing any pants.

Roic has lived that nightmare, with a side helping of bug butter, if you can use the term “side helping” to describe a quantity of bug butter that is coating a person’s entire body. It escaped most people’s notice in the moment, but his underwear and sidearm were on backwards. Roic regards the incident as an unfortunate and humiliating lapse in the standards due to his liege lord, and one that explains why he is still on what appears to be permanent night duty.

Winterfair Gifts is a novella set after A Civil Campaign. Although it is ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Epilogue

Barrayaran culture is made up of many parts. On the one hand, they have a feudal political system that glorifies the military. On the other hand, they have absolutely gorgeous weddings. (Although these have moderated in recent years, the planet’s rabid anti-mutant biases mean that most Barrayarans refuse to acknowledge the existence of individuals who deviate from the standard “two hands” configuration.)

Anyway, GORGEOUS weddings. Very meaningful. Lots of groats. In the run-up to the wedding, we learn that Miles can effectively deploy his reputation as a murderer against people who believe, well, that he’s a murderer. He didn’t like those people anyway, so this is very convenient. The rest of Gregor’s wedding is also very educational.

Per prior arrangement, Gregor’s wedding does not involve public nudity. Appropriate parties have appropriately witnessed proofs of Gregor and Laisa’s genetic health, supposedly on the morning of the wedding ceremony. Miles is ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapters 18 and 19

Chapter 18 opens on Miles pacing the floor in the Council of Counts, waiting for Dono to arrive. This close to the climax of the A Civil Campaign, Bujold is doling out tiny chunks of action to prolong the suspense. Everything happening all at once is how life works. Everything being known all at once is how fiction works. We, as readers, know that Ivan has taken Dono et al to Vorpatril House, and that the vote on Dono’s countship, and on Rene Vorbretten’s, is taking place in the Council of Counts this morning. Miles only has some of this information. Fun fact: sessions in the Council of Counts start when it’s time, rather than when there is a quorum present. Or possibly, Counts endeavor to arrive on time so that there will be a quorum assembled at the appointed hour, but I can hardly believe that of Barrayar—this ...

A Boys’ Guide to Valdemar: Mercedes Lackey’s The Hills Have Spies

It’s been a year and a half since our last new Valdemar novel, and fans of Valdemar rejoice! The Hills Have Spies continues the series that began in the Collegium Chronicles and continued in the Herald Spy series. The first eight books made Mags Lackey’s longest-running protagonist. Since being dramatically rescued from forced labor in a mine, Mags has been trained as a Herald, been trained as a spy, become an elite athlete in the newly-created Valdemaran sport of Kirball, fallen in love with Amily who became King’s Own when her father the previous King’s Own died for a few minutes (he was saved by CPR, just like Buffy the Vampire Slayer!), discovered his personal roots as the son of a couple fleeing their clan of assassins, met his assassin-prince cousin, and gotten kidnapped, like, a TON of times. It’s been a wild ride.

The Hills Have Spies is ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 17

This week, Miles and Ekaterin meet in the Vorkosigan House attics to discuss the separation that Hugo and Vassily have forced them to. As readers may recall, they haven’t been together yet.

Did you enjoy the Flowers of Vashnoi? Great! Don’t tell us about it here. Causal mentions of who liked the book lead to discussions of why, and those inevitably reveal plot details. Flowers is set after Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, and we will talk about it then. This blog post contains NO discussion of Flowers of Vashnoi and I have asked the moderators to delete all comments that mention it, even briefly or peripherally.

The Vorkosigan House attics are both a literal and emotional archive of Vorkosigans past. Miles, not knowing why Ekaterin has come, starts the conversation by showing her a series of artifacts from his grandfather’s life—a case of obsolete energy weapons, a collection of Cetagandan ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 16

I wrote about three chapters last week so that I could get to this one faster. A Civil Campaign is an infinite series of meetings, and the best one is in the Library where Lady Vorkosigan slays the Koudelkas with a couch.

A really quite terrible one is at the Vorthys’s house where Hugo Vorvayne and Vassily Vorsoisson confront Ekaterin about her relationship with Miles. I don’t know what Vassily does in the military, but here he is a human instrument of torture. He and Hugo are colluding to act as the arbiters of Vor Social Propriety, and they are assholes. This is a great example of how seemingly nice people can turn against you in horrible ways if they decide that control is more important than caring. Vassily, who Ekaterin has met briefly twice and who has never had a conversation with Nikki, has an informant who has sent ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapters 13-15

Heads up, rereaders, it’s been a wild week! The AP European History exam, which as a history teacher is kind of a big deal for me, coincided with the release of The Flowers of Vashnoi. I haven’t even had time to watch the royal wedding yet, and obviously I need to—it’s thematically relevant.

The Flowers of Vashnoi is set after Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. I will blog about it at that point. Out of respect for readers who rely on public libraries or paper formats for their books, I will put a warning in the opening paragraph of any blog post that deals with The Flowers of Vashnoi. Please do not discuss Flowers in the comments of blog posts about other books. This blog post contains NO information about The Flowers of Vashnoi, and those who have read it already should not discuss it in the comments.

In chapter 13, ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapters 11 and 12

Chapter 10 featured hangovers. Chapters 11 and 12 see our characters sufficiently recovered from Miles’s dinner to begin having meetings.

Kareen Koudelka didn’t put in an appearance in chapter 10. Chapter 11 moves quickly to bring us up to speed on her situation. Her parents have stopped short of bricking her up with the cask of amontillado. Instead, they have barred her from visiting Vorkosigan House or speaking to anyone who lives there, and have imposed her sister Martya on her as a chaperone.

The Koudelkas—by which I mean “mostly Kou”—are not behaving rationally. Nothing we know about Barrayaran culture compels parents to behave this way, even if they have four daughters to marry off and careers that rely on their close connections with people in power. Kou’s close connection to high Vor politics comes from his relationship with ARAL, a man who ruined his own reputation with a WILD, ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 10

At the end of Shards of Honor, there’s a story—“Aftermaths”—about a salvage crew cleaning up after the failed invasion of Escobar. It’s a lovely story, and I’m very sentimental about it. In chapter ten of A Civil Campaign, there’s a story about a salvage crew cleaning up after Miles’s dinner party. It’s not half as serious as “Aftermaths” because, despite Miles’s earnest hopes as Ekaterin fled screaming into the night and the Koudelka family decamped, the dinner party had no fatalities. But in other ways it’s basically equivalent. It’s about what people do for each other. If it had its own title, it would have to be “Hangovers.”

When we left him, Miles was retreating up the stairs to his suite, and declaring himself not drunk enough yet. He doesn’t have to lie on his bedroom floor staring at an unopened bottle anymore—he has armsmen, and it ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 9

Chapter 9 of A Civil Campaign is one of my favorites in the book—it’s dinnertime! Miles is allegedly throwing this dinner party for the purpose of welcoming Kareen Koudelka home from Beta Colony. Which I guess is what the kids say these days when they mean “wooing his landscape designer despite her stated desire to not be wooed by anyone at least until the end of her mourning year.”

For this occasion, Miles has chosen to wear a dignified gray suit. It wasn’t an easy choice—he put on his Vorkosigan House uniform and pondered some Dendarii greys. The gray suit is Armsman Pym Approved. Ekaterin is attired in “sedate” evening-wear, also in gray, accessorized by the Barrayar necklace Miles gave her for saving the wormhole back in Komarr. She divests herself of gardening gloves as she enters the house; She has just planted the first plant in Miles’s garden. …

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 9

Chapter 9 of A Civil Campaign is one of my favorites in the book—it’s dinnertime! Miles is allegedly throwing this dinner party for the purpose of welcoming Kareen Koudelka home from Beta Colony. Which I guess is what the kids say these days when they mean “wooing his landscape designer despite her stated desire to not be wooed by anyone at least until the end of her mourning year.”

For this occasion, Miles has chosen to wear a dignified gray suit. It wasn’t an easy choice—he put on his Vorkosigan House uniform and pondered some Dendarii greys. The gray suit is Armsman Pym Approved. Ekaterin is attired in “sedate” evening-wear, also in gray, accessorized by the Barrayar necklace Miles gave her for saving the wormhole back in Komarr. She divests herself of gardening gloves as she enters the house; She has just planted the first plant in Miles’s garden. ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 6

Chapter six of A Civil Campaign is one of those moments when the book takes a breath. We’re still meeting new characters—René and Tatya Vorbretten make their first appearance in this chapter—but we’re mostly being reminded of how our characters are changing and where they are.

The chapter opens with Ekaterin wandering Vorkosigan House unescorted. Some part of Miles’s household arrangements have broken down, because this is a direct contradiction to his orders about Madame Vorsoisson’s presence in the house. She is to be made comfortable and offered the finest hospitality the house and its staff have to offer to stall her so that Miles can be alerted and scrambled to her location. She is not supposed to be knocking on the door of Kareen’s Butter Bug Ranch asking if they would like some amelanchier bushes and what they’re using all of this earth-descended biological matter for. Miles would especially ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 5

Chapter five of A Civil Campaign opens with Ekaterin Vorsoisson knocking on the door at Vorkosigan House to ask what she should do with the maple tree she’s removing from Miles’s garden. Armsman Pym parks her in the library while he goes to fetch Miles. This gives Ekaterin the opportunity to encounter Mark. Mark has been getting short shrift in the ACC reread because of his tendency to show up in the second half of the chapter, after whatever all the other characters have done. This is unfair because Mark is very interesting. Ekaterin hasn’t previously had the pleasure of Mark’s acquaintance, but Miles described him to her once and she’s an incredibly perceptive person, so she instantly knows who he is. He’s wearing a lot of black—we found Lord Vorgoth!—and offers to take the maple tree off her hands.

Pym informs us that Miles is delayed because he ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 4

One of the delights of A Civil Campaign is that Bujold uses more than one viewpoint character. We haven’t gotten much of Ivan’s perspective in the series so far, but we do this week as he joins Alexei Vormoncrief and Byerly Vorrutyer for a beer in the pub near the Ops building. I learned a lot from their conversation.

The officers who serve in Ops headquarters at Vorbarr Sultana are not interested in cleanliness in their food-and-beverage service establishments. The calculated dinginess of the Ops Department’s favorite bar establishes it as a male bastion. Ick. This does not stop Ivan and Alexei from drinking there, and By is leaning on the bar when they walk in. The Gift of Rereading is that this looks a smidge suspicious. By is the sort of person who wears nice suits. I can’t think why he would frequent this bar—which is (a) gross and ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 3

Chapter three of A Civil Campaign introduces Miles to some opposing forces. Miles welcomed Ekaterin home, and now the bachelors of Vorbarr Sultana are following in his wake. This section of the book is strongly reminiscent of Georgette Heyer’s romances. Bujold is putting the players on the stage, and making it clear which of them is interesting as scenery and which of them is a genuine potential partner for our heroine. There’s no reason that Ekaterin needs to be paired off, but a strong Barrayaran societal expectation that she will be at some point.

The Imperial Military Operations Department is heavily represented in the Vorthys family’s living room. The gentlemen present when Miles drops by are Major Zamori, Byerly Vorrutyer and Alexei Vormoncrief. Vormoncrief is an exciting name. This appears to be a red herring; Oscar Wilde’s Algernon Moncrieff, from The Importance of Being Earnest, spells his name with ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 2

On Barrayar, you come home, you get flowers, and you make plans. This week, it’s Kareen Koudelka’s turn. Kareen is returning from a school year on Beta Colony. This situation is somewhat more complicated than she had anticipated when she left. Beta Colony is very open about sexual matters. Barrayar, by contrast, is a place where it is very difficult to say things like, “I spent a large part of the year knocking boots with your old friends’ recently discovered clone son.”

I would love for Kareen’s family not to care who she knocked boots with, as long as everyone involved was having a good time, but they DO care. It’s not initially clear whether they care because of Barrayaran cultural mores, or if they just want the hot gossip.

Kareen’s sisters just want the hot gossip. Kou and Drou seem like, you know, parents. They just want to ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Cover Comparison and Chapter 1

A Civil Campaign was first published in 1999. In the great epic that is the Vorkosigan Saga, this is a “coming home” section. It has a number of science fictional elements—more than one planet, space travel, butter bugs—but the central narrative is the love story between Ekaterin and Miles. This is the most romantic of the books since Shards of Honor, which was comparatively very grim. This puts book publishers in a bit of a bind. A cover needs to sell the book—do they play up the SF and make sure the SF fans pick it up, or do they emphasize the romance and grab some new readers? What if readers think the book has girl cooties?

Some of the translated editions chose to err on the side of SF. Some of these errors were smidge egregious for my taste.

The Italian edition features a group of people carrying ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapters 20 and 21

Miles Vorkosigan is a military genius. This reread turns two this week, so I know that this statement is controversial, but I’m sticking to it because when we talk about Miles as a genius, we’re talking about tactics and strategy, wormhole blockades and gravitic imploder lances, and his ability to stare defeat in the face and laugh maniacally—although sometimes he has to contend with an arrest or a major depressive episode first. From a romantic standpoint, though, Miles Vorkosigan is a complete putz.

Observe, for example, his pursuit of his first love, his childhood companion Elena Bothari. Even if Miles hadn’t chosen her primarily for being around a lot (and I think that had a lot to do with it), Miss Bothari had a great deal to recommend her—she was kind, beautiful, incredibly intelligent, and had a very nice nose. In his effort to show her the galaxy and a ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapters 15 and 16

Chapters 15 and 16 of Komarr are action packed! And a lot of that action is centered on that other guy in Ekaterin’s life, Nikolai Vorsoisson. For years, Nikki has been the target of Ekaterin’s ambition to one day be the proud mother of a kid who’s been cured of Vorzohn’s Dystrophy. She just wants this one thing.

Ekaterin is one of my favorite parents in the Vorkosigan Saga. She’s diplomatic, sensitive, encouraging, and always on the lookout for an experience that might spark a child’s interest. Nikki isn’t thrilled to learn that he has a mutation that his parents didn’t tell him about, but Ekaterin provides well-timed, age-appropriate information and emotional support so he’s OK, even though hearing about it this week probably compounded the trauma of his dad’s death. You know what? Nikki went to school all but one of the days this week anyway. It would have ...