Tor.com content by

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cetaganda

This week, the re-read heads to Cetaganda, in Cetaganda! The exclamation point in this case is my addition, and not part of the title like in Oklahoma! This book was first published in 1996, appearing on the shelves between Mirror Dance and Memory, but it’s the sixth book in current reading order. At the beginning of the story, Miles and his cousin Ivan are dispatched to represent the Barrayaran Empire at the funeral of the Cetagandan Emperor’s mother. In some senses, the boys are on their Grand Tour, putting the final touches on a galactic education and getting some practice in doing the things the High Vor do. It’s also a neat little mystery—sort of “Sherlock Vorkosigan.”

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Fanzines, Cover Art, and the Best Vorkosigan Planet: An Interview with Lois McMaster Bujold

When I first started discussing the Vorkosigan reread with Tor.com editor Bridget McGovern, I suggested that I could interview author Lois McMaster Bujold. I was pretty sure that was not going to fly. I thought it would be fun and interesting, and also terrifying, and that there was no way that real adults would endorse that plan, or that Lois would make time for it. She has books to write about Penric and stuff!

I had really not been paying attention, because, as I would shortly discover, Lois spends a lot of time with fans. She reads the reread! I only spent one afternoon hyperventilating into a paper bag over that (it was the afternoon she commented on “Aftermaths”). She has been incredibly generous with her time and thoughts in the comments. Because she is so generous with her time, Lois has been interviewed a lot, including by Jo Walton here on Tor.com. If you’re looking for a question I didn’t ask, check out her earlier interviews!

[Read more]

Series: 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.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

The Excellent But Forgotten Ponies of The Hobbit

Please enjoy this encore post on The Hobbit from a horse-lover’s perspective, originally published March 2016.

A certain degree of affection for Tolkien and his works is almost a geek shibboleth, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time feeling bad about my almost total indifference towards The Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party, but absolutely could not tolerate the Mines of Moria, or whatever it was they had to trudge through for, like, ever to get to I don’t even know where because I gave up. I never even tried the rest of the trilogy. I thought the movies were OK, but kind of long. I don’t think this makes me a bad geek. I’ve read Diana Wynne Jones’s description of Tolkien as a lecturer at Oxford, and I don’t think I’m missing that much.

Out of respect for the traditions of my people, I have read The Hobbit, and read it to my children. It’s an enjoyable enough piece of light entertainment. I understand that the work has found an audience of devoted fans. But I am a reader with different priorities—and JRR Tolkien is almost unforgivably bad at horses. Tolkien will go on to do a better job with horses in later books: Samwise and Frodo named their ponies, and Frodo tries to rescue his from some trolls; Shadowfax is pretty cool; the Riders of Rohan seem like they would pass muster with the Pony Club. The Hobbit, however, is an equine abattoir.

[Read more]

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Vor Game, Chapter 16

“…You realize Gregor, you did this? Sabotaged the Cetagandan invasion single handedly?”

“Oh,” breathed Gregor, “it took both hands.”

Oh, Gregor. You had me at “Oh.”

Years from now, in Memory, Miles will watch Gregor helping Laisa on to a horse, and notice (among other things) Gregor’s stunning savior faire. Miles should not have been surprised. In this instance, Gregor has walked right up to a vulgar remark and stopped exactly the right distance away from it. I don’t know what emperors are made for any better than Gregor does, but it seems to me that stopping just short of vulgarity is one of the things they should do well.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Vor Game, Chapters 11-15

When we left off last week, Elena Bothari-Jesek was in the process of rescuing her childhood friends, Miles and Gregor, from the Oserans. She’s cut her hair! My attempt to interpret the description of her new ‘do puts it somewhere between Princess Diana and Mr. Spock. Very functional, very military, and a great look for a woman with Elena’s bone structure. I approve. Elena smuggles Miles and Greg onto a shuttle with Tung, and they make a plan to hand Gregor (with Miles) off to a Barrayaran embassy in local space that will handle their repatriation. I forget which embassy it was, and I think I should be forgiven for that (and I have not gone and looked it up) because they never get there.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Going Home: Mercedes Lackey’s Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar

My relationship with books—all books, not just ones about Valdemar—reflects the needs of the moment. Over the last several months, I’ve found that Valdemar stories speak to the part of my soul that really wants to live on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches (with extra butter). Valdemar offers magic and drama in a context of surprising social and political stability. Heroes come and go, they remember each other or they don’t, but Valdemar stays pretty much the same. No matter how far characters travel, or how strange their adventures, they kingdom they come back to is basically the one they left. I love the wild, magical elements of the series, and I love its assertion that, despite the conventional wisdom, you can go home, over and over again.

Most (though not all) of Lackey’s Valdemar stories have focused on one corner of Velgarth. There’s a lot of world outside it, and outside Lackey’s usual focus on Heralds, to explore. The Tales of Valdemar anthologies offer a wider range of perspectives, and a more diverse cast of characters, than the novels usually do.

[Read more]

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Vor Game, Chapters 9 and 10

This week finds us in the Jacksonian Consortium where a mysterious emergency has drawn Ungari away, leaving Miles and Overholt to make their way home by commercial carrier.

I know that this emergency is extremely serious business, crucial to the security of the Empire. It’s much more important than Miles. I’m not convinced it was a good idea to separate Miles from his handler, though. Is Ungari aware that Miles is fairly high up the line of succession right now? Miles is aware! He’s pretty sure that several factions would have to really hate someone else for him to ever realistically be in a position to inherit the Imperial Campstool, but he IS in the line. Also, he’s a wanted man, and Jacksonian police arrest him while he’s waiting for his flight. One of the central messages of the Vorkosigan Series is that Monday morning quarterbacking is unfair. I’m going to do it anyway. Leaving a potential heir to the throne behind in what is, technically, foreign soil, while a foreign power has a warrant out for his arrest, seems like a not-so-great maneuver. If I was Illyan, I would probably have wanted Ungari to handle that a little differently.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Vor Game, Chapters 7-8

In this week’s re-read, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree—Miles applies Cordelia’s strategy for dealing with boredom in captivity. In Shards of Honor, Cordelia read histories of Barrayar in alphabetical order by author and was rescued before she got to the Bs. ImpSec is a more secure fortress than the General Vorkraft; Miles gets all the way to the Ls in the alphabetical catalog of training tapes. How many CEUs is that? I suspect we will never know.

The spoiler embargo is OFF, but no one with any kind of romantic life appears in these chapters anyway, so I hope you got anything you had to say about love triangles out of your system last week. Remember, comments should have at least a tangential relationship to the section of The Vor Game under discussion, in this case chapters seven and eight.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Vor Game, Chapters 5-6

This section starts with a siren in the night: There’s been a spill in the toxic stores bunker. The mutagenic poison leaking from its broken barrels is going to set off a chain of events that drives Miles to an unplanned act of civil disobedience.

These chapters also offer our very first ever official sighting of Oliver Jole. The spoiler embargo has now ended! Comments about future books in the series should bear at least a tangential relationship to the events in this section, please.  

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Vor Game, Chapter 4

I don’t usually blog about the process of blogging—it’s way too meta for me—but I feel I should acknowledge that this post is coming to you from Tuesday night, in a sort of “what the hell, I’m not sleeping anyway” frame of mind. I’m on the iPad, the cat (who still has four legs for now, thank you for asking) is snoring, and I would rather be thinking of the body in the drain than anything else in the world.

We’re very close to the last iteration of this spoiler warning. When Jole walks onto the page, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen becomes fair game. It’s not this week, but it’s either next week or the one after.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Vor Game, Chapters 2 and 3

Last week, Miles flew off to Kyril Island, which is like a magical frosty fairyland that also wants to kill you. And I committed one of the classic reread blogger sins—leaving off half of the chapter. The conversation Miles has with Major Cecil is very enlightening, but so are the conversations he has with Lieutenant Ahn and that incident where he proves he is totally getting better at subordination by regretting that he got snippy with his new CO. Miles is starting to realize that it’s one thing to demand that he be given a chance to be a soldier, but there may possibly be a limit on the number of chances he’s allowed to have. He’s only starting to realize it though; He’s, like, still wicked young. When I was Miles’s age (I’m estimating he’s about 20), I wanted to save the world. I think an objective observer would say that I did better than Miles, but I wouldn’t say it went well.

How ‘bout that spoiler policy? I read ahead last night and Jole makes an appearance right around chapter 5. Don’t want to be spoiled? See if your local public library has Gentlemen Jole and the Red Queen available as an ebook! Or perhaps on the shelf.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Vor Game, Chapter 1

Last week, the reread finished off The Warrior’s Apprentice with Miles’s acquittal on charges of high treason and his subsequent enrollment in the Imperial Military Academy. This week, we follow Miles as he begins his military career. As a meteorologist. On Kyril Island. But before we deal with that, we have some business to attend to.

The first item before us this week is the matter of the spoiler policy. Despite an epic comment thread that spanned such diverse subjects as the ancien regime in France and whether or not I had managed to insult the US Marine Corps, very few posters took up my call for comments on the spoiler embargo in re: Oliver Jole. Those who did were unhappy with the current plan to start talking about Gentleman Jole spoilers sometime in the course of the re-read of The Vor Game. They expressed concern that revealing information from the last book in the series would color our understanding of the relationships between characters in earlier books. IMO, that’s not a bug—it’s a feature. I’m dying to explore the ways that the things we now know about Jole color my understanding of the relationships in the rest of the books. I am currently planning to hold off on Jole discussion until the Gentleman himself makes an appearance, but not one second longer. Please consider yourself warned.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Captain Kirk Has a Man-Cave: Brad Ferguson’s Crisis on Centaurus

Crisis on Centaurus opens in a busy spaceport. This is not the sanitized, utopian Federation we are used to; it is crammed with brand names, and with frustrated travelers. One of them, an angry Tellarite businessman, attacks an ATM that has swallowed his American Express card, and we are suddenly immersed in the ugly underside of our imagined future. Not because someone has taken a sword to a machine that even the local cops admit deserved it, although that’s a grittier underbelly than Star Trek imagines most of the time, but because of Holtzman, the terrorist, sitting just a few feet away. This is not only a highly commercial Federation, it is, Ferguson subtly reminds us, a place where a genocidal dictator once hid for years by traveling the galaxy. And suddenly, it’s a Federation where we see the forces of evil do much worse than performing in a touring production of Hamlet.

Ferguson’s humor is a stealth move that makes the moment of destruction shocking. A simple antimatter bomb transforms the New Athens spaceport into a fourth sun rising over the Centauran horizon. James T. Kirk is going to have to save this brand new day.

[It’s a Man’s Job]

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Warrior’s Apprentice, Chapter 21 and Epilogue

Miles arrives at Vorhartung Castle for his trial, and Ivan helpfully reminds him that he has to get out of the lightflyer now that he’s there. This week, he’s fighting for his life, and also auditioning for Barrayar’s next historical vid drama for children. Just like Vorthalia the Bold!

This is the LAST WEEK in the re-read of The Warrior’s Apprentice. Next week, we embark upon The Vor Game, which raises questions about when we get to talk about Jole. As stated, the reread spoiler embargo expires with the next book. I’m not yet certain whether that means “the very second we start reading it” or “when we actually meet Jole.” The final decision is, of course, mine, but I welcome input on this issue should the comments wander in that direction.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga