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 ...

Read Cute Stuff: A Love Letter to Murderbots, Fanfiction, and Cake

Sometimes, when you blog about fiction, people say things to you that are inexplicable—things like, “I hated the winged horse,” or “I wanted to set this book on fire.” That’s fine, really. Cool story. Is there more to it? Did Satan give you something when you handed over your soul?

I have strong literary preferences of my own. For example, I prefer that people’s psychic companion animals not comment on their sex lives. And it really bothers me when time travel stories try to explain the underlying science involved by treating time like matter, and yet don’t tear the universe apart—either your time travel is hand-wavy and doesn’t really need an explanation or you have to deal with the laws of physics. Some of my opinions are controversial. There are lots of people who don’t like psychic cats, or happily-ever-after endings. And again, that’s fine! Many things are a ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapters 12-14

Years ago when Miles was a newly minted ensign, he found a corpse in a drain. At the time, and for a short time after, the corpse was almost glamorous. Miles risked his own life to find out why he died. And he hadn’t really died for anything. He was a homesick soldier with some hidden cookies.

Last week, Tien Vorsoisson died. His death, Miles will point out, wasn’t at all mysterious. Miles was right there. He saw the whole thing. Tien forgot to check his breath mask and drowned in Komarr’s unbreathable atmosphere. He was a sad, sick man desperate to control a situation that he was also desperate to ignore. No one got any cookies.

Ekaterin didn’t make Tien what he was. She didn’t control him. She could not cure him. And now that he’s gone, her life is a kind of dramatic inverse of “Aftermaths.” In ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapter 11

Up to this point in Komarr, Tien Vorsoisson has served in the role of melodramatic villain. He’s embezzled, he’s abused his wife, he’s been careless about matters of life and death. He made every situation he was involved in at least marginally—and often significantly—worse. If he had a mustache, he would have twirled it. Now he is dead.

I’m perfectly willing to speak ill of the dead, especially when the deceased is a fictional character. For argument’s sake, I’m also willing to take a moment to catalog his redeeming qualities. I know of one: His son didn’t hate him. Nikki is nine, and he doesn’t hate his father. I don’t find this surprising. I know it is very difficult for a parent to make a nine-year-old stop loving them, but it is possible. Tien is not so far lost to the bonds of human affection that he has alienated his ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapters 7-10

Last week’s blog post focused on ship knits and Nikki, leaving off at the awkward Vorsoisson family dinner. Several commenters noticed that this was not the end of chapter six. I cut away before Captain Tuomonen arrived from Imp Sec—Serifosa to announce that our body has been identified. It was Barto Radovas, the man who ran away with Marie Trogir.

Other than the fact that Miles and Vorthys are in Serifosa at all, this is the first sign that the soletta accident has a local connection. Up to this point, I’ve been able to assume that the big event that has massive implications for Komarr as a planet probably originated in Solstice, or somewhere in space. Komarr may be the Venice of the Galactic Nexus, but it’s a big planet, and Serifosa strikes me as the local version of Ohio; Close enough to important parts of the world to have ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapter 6

Chapter five ended with the announcement that an unexpected corpse had been discovered associated with the wreckage of the cargo ship/soletta array collision. Our mysterious male space corpse was in a position and on a trajectory that suggests that he was on one of those things at the time of collision. His origin and identity are unknown, and his clothes—the remains of his entirely unexceptional ship knits—have been mostly destroyed by exposure to hard vacuum.

I know I’m supposed to be intrigued by the mystery of the corpse, and I am! I am dutifully intrigued, or I was, the first time I read Komarr, when I didn’t already know who he was. For first-timers, the corpse is a frozen enigma. Is he someone we’ve heard of? Is he someone entirely new? Will he blow Miles’s case wide open? All intriguing questions! After the first time you read a mystery, ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapters 3-5

In chapters three through five of Komarr, Bujold presents an ever-growing list of reasons why Tien Vorsoisson is a terrible person. Ekaterin’s day out with her Uncle Vorthys showcases the Vorthys family’s concern for Ekaterin’s health and happiness. It strikes them as odd that Ekaterin and Tien have had only Nikki—Barrarayan families tend to reproduce in sets of four to six. The Professora wonders why they didn’t send Nikki to a Komarran school, for the cultural experience, and worries that Ekaterin is unhappy. Auditor Vorthys probably could secure medical treatment for Nikki and safe harbor for him and his mother in short order. He doesn’t know what she needs, and Ekaterin doesn’t tell him. Why not?

Abusers aren’t unique or creative. The patterns and impacts of abuse follow predictable patterns. Abusers work to gain control over their partners. Tien has argued, threatened suicide, made accusations of infidelity, isolated, blamed ...