Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Vor Game, Chapter 17

Welcome back to the Vorkosigan reread! The matter before us this week is The Vor Game, chapter 17. It is the final chapter of the book, which surprised me not because I didn’t think it was the end, but because I thought it was two chapters. Chapter 17 is a sequence of scenes in which Miles encounters other characters and their relationships move forward. It’s the portion of the space opera where we all go home, with some pit stops at some of our favorite roadside attractions along the way. We’re saying goodbye.

Some characters we are not sad to say goodbye to. Stannis Metzov has his swan song here, shot in the back of the head while attempting to fulfil his months-long dream of strangling Miles with his bare hands. Metzov, Cavilo, and Oser were locked in the brig on the Triumph, and escaped during the battle in chapter 16. Oser’s shuttle was destroyed. Metzov and Cavilo weren’t on it. They left the brig with one nerve disruptor and the lock code to Oser’s cabin—the one Miles has been sleeping in. Miles isn’t a complete idiot; When he left the tactics room after the battle, he had a security detail with him. He went from there to the infirmary, where he dismissed his guard. He did not recall his detail when he left. Oops. I also think maybe he should have changed the lock code. In fairness to Miles, I think the most that would have done is force Metzov and Cavilo to attack him in a corridor.

Cavilo helps Metzov to his death with a nerve disruptor to the back of the head. Metzov’s attitude towards women managed to find expression even on Kyril Island, an area notable for being devoid of women. Serving as XO to Cavilo did not suit him well—we knew that from his chats with Miles in the Rangers’ brig. Metzov raped Cavilo, and she is seeking revenge. Cavilo is intriguing—she must have had an interesting career before this. We know that she murdered her way to the top, with a side-specialty in strategic choices of sexual partners. I like her ruthlessness and her ambition. If her plans had more focus—or maybe even if they just had fewer Cetagandans—I would congratulate her. I’m touched when she thanks Miles for not underestimating her. We aren’t entirely done with Cavilo yet! She will appear again, at an awards ceremony, guarded by two members of the Barrayaran Women’s Auxiliary and wearing her toxic perfume. As an allergy-sufferer, Cavilo’s perfume is the weapon in this series that I find most frightening. Miles continues to not underestimate her—he’s brought nose plugs. It’s possibly more notable that the BWA has put in an appearance. They will play a much larger role in Gentleman Jole—they are the best at boot polo.

Since the Prince Serg is in town, and the Dendarii played a role in defeating the Cetagandans, Admiral Naismith and Admiral Vorkosigan meet. Miles brings Elena along. The Barrayaran officers are respectful of her father’s service—Bothari is right and proper, after all. Their official escort is more concerned with Miles, who uses the need to maintain his cover as an excuse to be at his loose-cannon finest. He proposes getting Aral drunk and making him tell dirty stories. Jole escorts the ship’s officer away so that Aral, Miles, and Elena can meet in private. It’s Jole! Hi Jole! Miles notes that he can be almost supernaturally polite, which is a fabulous Milesian misinterpretation of Jole’s close relationship with Aral. Miles is preoccupied with his father. If you had to choose a fictional admiral to be your dad, Aral would be a great choice. He really does the unconditional love thing from a place of total acceptance.

Aral explains the entire end of the war and what Gregor did in it—all the stuff we missed by being with Miles. Several Cetagandan officers are expected to make fatal apologies for their “unauthorized adventure.” The issue of Cetagandans who may or may not be interpreting their orders creatively will resurface later. Miles and Aral also handle the Dendarii’s costs; Mercenaries need to be paid. Tragically, Miles (in his Naismith persona) elects to behave himself during lunch. We aren’t saying goodbye to Aral in these scenes, we’re saying goodbye to Naismith.

We aren’t saying goodbye to Gregor either. Because we never hear much about Miles’s childhood, it’s easy to assume that Miles and Gregor weren’t particularly close when they were young. Miles has helped this illusion along by reminiscing about Gregor playing games younger than he would like. But overall, The Vor Game demonstrates that Gregor and Miles have a very close relationship. Whatever may have happened before Miles built a mercenary fleet for his Emperor, the two of them are very close now—close enough for late night drinking and philosophy, and a tour of galactic brigs. I don’t know how I managed to forget that Gregor confided in Miles about Serg—and about the balcony—before anyone else. Re-reading changes how you see; I’m convinced now that Miles and Gregor have always been more like brothers than cousins. I think I missed it before because their relationship has so many layers. In addition to being foster brothers, they’re lord and vassal, and soldier and commander. They’ve spent years discovering how this works, and to an outsider it looks a little reserved. It’s a consequence of their need to play different parts at different times.

Miles will soon be applying this skill professionally, as well as personally; This chapter marks the official beginning of his career in ImpSec. He also gets a promotion and some shiny red collar tabs! When I first read the series, Miles’s collar tabs got only slightly more wear than the medal that Vervain gave Admiral Naismith. The addition of more books between this and Brothers in Arms has changed that.

Next up—I interviewed Lois! And she was so gracious and charming and I squealed more than once.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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