Wed
Apr 15 2009 10:33am

She’s getting away! Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign

A Civil Campaign (2000) is a another one that I don’t think stands alone, as it is in many ways a continuation of the emotional and romantic plot of Komarr (1998). The two books are now available in one convenient volume as Miles in Love.

The Vorkosigan series began with books that looked like military adventure, developed unexpected depths, had a few volumes that look like investigative mysteries, and now this volume is an out-and-out comedy of manners romance. It’s dedicated to “Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, and Dorothy” which I take to be Austen, Bronte, Heyer and Dunnett. The title is of course a homage to Heyer’s A Civil Contract, though it bears no relationship to that story. If there’s one Heyer to which it nods, it is The Grand Sophy.

There is a political plot, in the narrowest sense, maneuvering in council chambers for votes, and there’s a scientific and economic plot about the invention of butter bugs, but the important heart of A Civil Campaign is all romantic.

I’ve complained about the covers before, but I think A Civil Campaign has the ugliest cover of any book in the house except the UK Vlad compilation. I took the dust-jacket off the hardcover, and I wince whenever I look at the paperback. If ever there was a case for a brown paper cover this is it. The colours are horrible, it’s made of nasty shiny stuff, and the picture is unspeakable.

To get back to the text as rapidly as possible... The other books either use one point of view or alternate between two. A Civil Campaign has five points of view: Miles, Mark, Ekaterin. Kareen and Ivan.

There are a number of lovely things about A Civil Campaign. There are a lot of laugh-out-loud funny bits. There’s Ivan’s point of view. There’s the couch scene. There are the twin problems of Rene Vorbretton, whose gene scan shows him one-eighth Cetagandan, and Lord Dono, formerly Lady Donna, Vorrutyer. There’s Lord Vormuir and his daughters. There’s Mark, though not enough of him. There’s Kareen, torn between Barrayar and Beta and trying to figure out what she wants. There’s Nikki calling Gregor, and indeed, a lot of Gregor, who seems to have grown up very happily. There’s every Barrayaran character from earlier in the series, entirely making up for Komarr’s lack of familiar characters.

It contains a good deal of embarrassment comedy (the dinner party in particular, which is excruciating) and rather more physical comedy than I care for—the bug butter custard pie fight has not grown on me (if anything the reverse).

Uniquely for this series, it retcons. At the end of Komarr, Ekaterin asks to take a number. That’s the resolution of the emotional arc of the novel. As of the beginning of A Civil Campaign, that resolution hasn’t happened, and Miles is trying to woo Ekaterin in secret—in secret from her. This goes spectacularly wrong, as anyone but Miles would have predicted, and then goes right again. I find the going wrong much more convincing than the going right. This could just be me. I often have this problem with romance novels, where I find the descriptions of women falling in love adhere to emotional conventions that are as stylised as a Noh play and bear no relationship to anything I have ever felt or imagined feeling.

Miles’s feelings for Ekaterin are no more or no less love than what he has felt for all his women since Elena, a genuine fondness, sexual passion, and a strong desire for a Lady Vorkosigan and a family. Miles always proposes—well, not to Taura, but he has proposed to every human woman he’s been involved with, however unsuitable. He pursues her, sometimes literally, he loves her, as he understands love, but he demonstrably can’t give her space to let her be herself. He apologises, and he knows what he did, but he’d never have figured it out on his own and he’ll do it again because that’s who he is. Ekaterin’s feelings for him are, as I said, beyond me. I liked her in Komarr, and I understood her horrible marriage to Tien. I can’t get my head around her in A Civil Campaign. Miles gets the girl, finally. OK.

What I do find effective is that Tien’s death, far from being the easy way out it seemed in Komarr, comes back to almost literally haunt them with the implications that Miles murdered Tien, which can’t even be denied without revealing the whole plot. And speaking of hidden plots, Miles doesn’t know the truth about the Sergyar war and the mountain of corpses Ezar buried Serg under. Aral mentions it was a lucky shot for Barrayar that killed Serg, and Miles just accepts that. The secret Cordelia fled to Barrayar to keep is a very closely held secret, still—when Illyan and Aral and Cordelia die, nobody will know it. Unless they’ve told Gregor? But the strong implication of that scene is that they haven’t. That secret, not her love for Aral, is why Cordelia immured herself in Barrayar all this time. I was pleased to see Enrique mention that she was wasted on that planet. (Incidentally, I find Cordelia’s love for Aral as we see it in her own POV utterly convincing.)

Meanwhile, Kareen loves Mark and wants to be herself, and Mark wants her to be. This pair are charming and I am charmed by them. Sure Mark needs more therapy and Kareen needs more Betan education, but they’re growing up fine, and consistently with where we last saw them in Mirror Dance.

As for Ivan, he’s just a delight, whether it’s by running rings around him, or Miles accepting his refusal to help, or his disgust at being seconded to his mother for pre-wedding chores. Oh, and his romantic panic is also just right.

Barrayaran law, all we see of it, gives the perfect illusion of making sense, fitting with everything we have seen of it before, and with the human oddities that real legal systems have. That’s quite an achievement. And how nice to see Lord Midnight mentioned again as a real precedent. And if it contrasts with the many forms the Escobarans have to fill in to extradite Enrique, well, we know about the run around offworlders are given, from Calhoun back in The Warrior’s Apprentice. You can’t trust their word, bury them in forms. I love Nikki giving his word as Vorsoisson for the first time, too.

In the best Heyer style, all the plots and plotting come together in a hectic climax where the obstacles go down like dominoes to reveal a happy ending. I mentioned the bug butter fight already, and I wish it wasn’t there, it isn’t necessary. The scene in the Council of Counts is terrific though. The bit with all the Koudelka girls finding such different partners is cute. And how nice to see Lord Vorhalas alive and well and as honourable as ever.

This is another potential ending for the series. Miles is betrothed, Mark is the next thing to betrothed, Gregor is married. I half-expected the next book to be set a generation ahead, with Aral and Cordelia dead and Miles and Ekaterin’s children (and Mark and Kareen’s) ready to get into trouble.The end of this book, with so many loose ends tied up so happily, would have made a good resting point. But with this kind of open series there’s no reason ever to stop, as long as the characters keep interesting the author and there are new adventures to be had. There’s no end, no climax that completes anything, just history going onwards. I think that’s a strength and a weakness. It’s certainly been a strength—the Vorkosigan saga has never been repetitive, and in doing new and different things it broke new ground—but it can also start to seem that it isn’t headed anywhere. The things I like in this book (apart from the Ivan POV) are all little series background details—the kinds of things I call “sandwiches on spacestations” as shorthand. (A friend and I once exchanged a lot of detailed emails with the title “Cheese sandwiches in Cherryh”). If this had been the end of the series, I’d have been quite satisfied, but I don’t think I’d have been as satisfied with this end as I would have been if Memory had been the end. But they’re neither of them ends, and the series is ongoing.

50 comments
Natalie Luhrs
1. eilatan
Actually, I think the Dorothy in the dedication is supposed to be Sayers, not Dunnett. But my memory is rather fuzzy and I have a tendency to call the next book in the series "Lord Peter in SPAAAAAACE!" so I could totally be projecting.

I'm not a fan of the embarrassment humor, either, and I always skip the dinner party scene because it makes me really uncomfortable. I think the book really hits its stride after that scene, in fact, and when I do rereads I have a terrible tendency just to start halfway through the book.
Jo Walton
2. bluejo
Eilatan: Oh, Sayers! Yes, it could well be. Well, that shows the disadvantage of being on first name terms with these people I suppose.

There are very interesting ways in which this series can be compared with Sayers Lord Peter books, but this isn't the book I'd have picked for it.
Quillain
3. Quillain
I personally feel that Cordelia has two Crowning Moments of Awesome in the series.

The first is in Barrayar, when she "goes shopping."

The second is in ACC, when she makes Drou and Kou sit on The Couch to talk about Kareen and Mark. I nearly fainted with laughter and glee and Cordelia-worship.
Quillain
4. Will "scifantasy" Frank
I'd heard it was Sayers, too.

As to series conclusions, I don't recall where I heard this (again) but ISTR that Bujold said there were only two more things left for Miles as of ACC: have kids and become Count.

One down...
Quillain
5. Melynda
I think the Sayers connection is intended to be Lord Peter's lengthy and delicate wooing of Harriet Vane, after their difficult meeting. Like Harriet, Ekaterin can't imagine getting involved in another relationship, given the complete awfulness of her last one. Like Lord Peter, Miles has to convince her that a relationship with him would be something completely different.
Jo Walton
6. bluejo
Gaudy Night is a very serious book. You can't really mix the emotional depth and tone of Gaudy Night with Heyer-style froth and expect to get... my goodness, is that what's wrong with A Civil Campaign!

Well, I'll forgive it anything for the interior glimpse of Ivan.
Ursula L
7. Ursula
Jo - not brown paper covers. To save the paperback cover, I suggest hardbacker covers. Covers the evil ugly cover, and protects the book much better than brown paper.

I tend to have a couple paperbacks living in my purse most of the time (who doesn't), and they've made a big difference in keeping my copy of, say Ha'penny in good condition.

http://hardbacker.com/products.html
Quillain
8. ajdecon
One of my favorite moments from this is the meeting with Dono, Ivan and Gregor from Ivan's POV. Ivan knows what's going on is important and complex, and he wants no part of it!

Also, I actually find the open-ended structure of the series one of it's best points, because *life* is open-ended. One of the things I've always loved about Bujold's writing is that she makes her characters very real, and we always feel we're seeing real parts of their lives--not a railroad plot towards some predefined end.
Quillain
9. wsean
Gotta love that cover. I mean, God forbid we have a man on the cover of a book be shorter than a woman, regardless of what the text says.

I had no problem with Ekaterin's switch-over; maybe because I didn't think of the end of the previous book as being retconned. As I saw it, Ekaterin was already interested in Miles, she just had a deep relationship aversion that had to be overcome. Her denials of being in love with him in her own POVs were always pretty flimsy.

P.S. I also love Ivan. Poor guy, all he wants to do is avoid work!
Quillain
10. OtterB
It strikes me that in some ways, Miles's courtship of Ekaterin is the antithesis of the Lord Peter - Harriet relationship. Somewhere in Gaudy Night, one of the academics tells Harriet that Peter's problem is that he'll never ride roughshod over her desires; she will have to act. Miles, of course, has the opposite problem.

My favorite scenes in this one are the Council of Counts, Gregor with Nikki, the rescue of Lord Dono by Ivan and whichever Koudelka (Olivia?), and Miles's letter of apology to Ekaterin. To me, it's in that letter where he deserved to have her say yes. He's still trying to persuade her - he wouldn't be Miles if he wasn't - but he tones down the forward momentum.

Oh, and the scene about the honor reset button. There Miles and Ekaterin do parallel Peter and Harriet, when Peter writes pages of intelligent sympathy on the question of the Settlements and Harriet reflects that he always understands the problem.
Quillain
11. sylvia_rachel
I've got a couple of books in the house with uglier covers, but definitely not many. After many months and many readings I finally figured out that the couple dancing in the middle are meant to be Gregor and Laisa, not ... any of the other people I was thinking they might be intended to represent, which at least explains why he is tall and she is short and blonde but does not in any way lessen the direness of the cover as a whole.

For me this one did stand alone reasonably effectively, or, at any rate, it was the first one I read yet nevertheless inspired me to (a) read it again immediately on finishing it and (b) go looking for the rest of the series with all possible speed. But of course reading it after reading the earlier books, and particularly of course Komarr is an entirely different experience.

I don't disagree with any of your criticisms of ACC ... but it's nevertheless one of my favourites.
CD Covington
12. ccovington
@ Will #4: Oh, yes. I think LMB has given hints regarding that in the past (ie, the next Miles book is Aral's death.)

Hmm, considering how much I adore Ivan, I really ought to read this book again. And Byerly. OK, I don't *adore* By, but he's a lot more complicated than he appears. And I like how he interacts with Ivan.

Something I sort of noticed: The Vorrutyers are generally portrayed as being a lot more ... deviant than the norm. Are all (or even most) of the canonically bisexual characters from that family? (There's one notably who isn't.)
Ursula L
13. Ursula
I don't think that Ekatrin's response at the end of Komarr has be retconned. Time has passed, her life has gone on, and reality has sunk in.

At the end of Komarr, when she says she wants to "take a number" it's because she's awed by the career achievements of the women in Miles's life. But, she doesn't expect the next number up to be "one." "Take a number" suggests waiting in line - giving her time to pull her life together. "One" gives her no time to wait. This sets up their conflict in A Civil Campaign.

At the end of Komarr, she's high. Nikki is getting treated, she beat the terrorists, and Tien is out of her life. But it has all happened fast, and nothing has had time to sink in.

A Civil Campaign starts several months later. Miles has been out of her life for that time - he's working, she's busy. The adrenaline has worn off. Nikki may have had treatment, but she's still got to feed and clothe and shelter him. Tien is out of her life physically, but economically he's still there, leaving her to survive with no financial resources. She beat the terrorists, but she's gotten no recognition, no gratitude. (Really, Gregor, you can't give her a medal in public ceremony, but a pension or annuity would be nice...) The high is gone, and she's in the post-high depression.

An awful lot of action/romance stories end with the hero and heroine falling into each others arms in the moments after they've resolved the action crisis. That's roughly how Komarr ends. In A Civil Campaign, the question is what happens to them when the adrenaline wears off and they have to deal with the loose ends of the problem they thought they'd tied up so neatly.
Quillain
14. JamesB
I seem to remember that there was certainly an expectation that A Civil Campaign would be the Gaudy Night following Komarr. And then it wasn't, except formally.

Peter has to work, hard, at drawing back, and Sayers provides a passage of years for the two to come together (grouping HHC and GN together). Bujold, I think, wanted to give Miles too quick a way out, so she rushes the rapprochement in an ultimately not-fully-convincing way by bringing in Hugo and Vassily in an ex machina manner. Consider, as another contrast, Trollope's Can You Forgive Her? -- I think Bujold made a mistake by following the model of Heyer and not of the more patient (i.e. long-winded) Victorians.
Joann Zimmerman
15. joann
The Sayers connection is fairly explicit, as some other Dunnett person pointed out when I was wondering "which Dorothy?" when the book came out; think of Ekaterin's maiden name, Vorvayne. Also (and I never thought of it till just now) Diplomatic Immunity is a cognate for Busman's Honeymoon, what with the detective interruptions.
Quillain
16. R. Emrys
I would disagree that Miles' previous relationships somehow lessen the reality of his feelings for Ekaterin. One of my favorite things about this series (there are many) is that people can have more than One True First Love. Miles really does love Elena, and Eli, and Taura. He proposes to the first two because on Barayar, that's what you do with someone you're in love with, and because anyone who says no is eventually going to conflict with his duty. And he doesn't propose to Taura because she would be too unsuitable even for him to forward momentum over, and the ways that they both accept that are bittersweet, or maybe just bitter.

With Elena and Eli, Miles has ultimately chosen (with some kicking and screaming) to let them go and let them have their greatest desire rather than him. Ekaterin's the first relationship where he's been able to make the two mesh--the things that Ekaterin wants out of life are compatible with, and in fact supported by, being Lady Vorkosigan.
Quillain
17. Confutus
All through Komarr, from the moment they met, Ekaterin was fascinated by Miles, and falling in love with him, whether she recognized it or not.
He was everything that Tien was not. An obvious mutie who managed to raise himself into a position of power on a world where mutants are feared and despised; not physically threatening; possessed of money, brains, wit, and enough emotional sensitivity to show her, her son, and even her poor broken skellytum some respect and care; eager to annihilate her enemies and obstacles, and either stand guard or stand aside, whichever she needs; an interest in broadening her horizons with an education and career of her own; and a fascinating parade of ex-girlfriends who are all larger than when they met him. She, a trophy for Miles? What about the other way around?

All this stands behind her decision to forgive him for proposing in such a ghastly fashion. He did try, in a rather clumsy fashion, to stand aside and give her some room to heal from Tien, but it seems he couldn't quite pull it off. Maybe he really did feel a lot more for her than he dared show. At least he's not boring and can tell the difference between her and a straw-stuffed, wig-wearing dress. Drat the man, for spoiling her taste. He does have this bad habit of trying to manipulate people, one he had damn well better break when it comes to her. But he really does love the garden she made for him. And, dammit, he needs someone he can't intimidate to keep him from going off half-cocked and make sure he uses his seizure stimulator. And he's surrouded by all these people of wit and distinction-from the Emperor himself, through Simon Ilyan, on down, and he thinks she belongs in that kind of company, oh, so very much more than anything she would have dared to dream. She could do a lot worse. Has done a lot worse. Even the kinds of enemies he makes speak well for him. So, yeah.
Quillain
18. Molly Moloney
Reading the comments to the posts on the previous books has intrigued me. I keep getting startled when someone declares some earlier book as their favorite. I'm not sure it had fully occurred to me that anyone thought that any book other than ACC was the best one. For me it has an unparalleled deliciousness.
Quillain
19. Anne Zanoni
I love that people are speaking up for Ekaterin. Thank you!

_ACC_ is as matchless as _Memory_. Watching Miles screw up here is almost as painful as the report falsifying. Simon admitting that he can't honestly champion Miles to her encapsulates the problem.

I also appreciate the Sayers-related comments. I tried Lord Peter, and he's a wash compared to Campion. :> It does make me realize that Campion is as bad at romance as Miles.

Part of the Vorkosigan books' charm is definitely how the people act like real people. Relatives are this embarrassing. Love is this clueless...

And now Ivan is seen as competent. He can't hide anymore!

So many good characters in this series -- but watching Ivan shine, despite himself, was enormously satisfying. Another book full of excellence. I can be critical of some of the others, but not these two.

*---
Christopher Key
20. Artanian
You know, I probably never would have picked up any of the Vorkosigan Saga books with their original covers - I started reading them when I got Cordelia's Honor and the Young Miles omnibus in a random webscription, and those covers are more or less 'generic Baen' covers.

As for the Ekaterin switch, why should she make any sense? It's not like real women do so, so it's at least accurate in that respect.
Kate Nepveu
21. katenepveu
Jo, the mix of Heyer and _Gaudy Night_ may well be one of the things that's wrong with _ACC_--I personally tend to put it down to a more fundamental mismatch, that this wants to be _Gaudy Night_ without having done _Have His Carcase_ first. That is, it's too sudden, they haven't gone far enough--Miles especially hasn't, as you say, him not being a steamroller, considered now from a distance, seems to be because the one-book plot demanded it not because the character actually changed.

Also, yes, humiliation comedy, cringe.

I sometimes think that "Winterfair Gifts"--which is very peculiar in a number of ways--is best thought of as an attempt to make it up to Roic.
Jo Walton
22. bluejo
REmrys: I didn't mean to imply that Miles's feeling for Ekaterin isn't real, or that the other loves invalidate it. They're all real. But they're also all... you know when Mark thinkss that he's been saying "my brother" as in "my possession"? Well he's like that about "my beloved". He loves them, all of them, in as much as he can love, which is quite a lot, but he's also auditioning them for a role as "my wife".

I want a book about Elena, in Elena's POV.

Artanian: My goodness. If you think women are a different species from men, I guess we will never make any sense to you... and this is your loss entirely. People are people. Sometimes they're less logical than other times, but it isn't actually the shape of their genitals that's the problem. How do you figure out Bel Thorne?
Christopher Key
23. Artanian
How do you figure out Bel Thorne? Simple, if Bel is trying to be confusing or mysterious, the feminine aspect is most prominent.
Quillain
24. legionseagle
Kate: "Wanting to be Gaudy Night without having done Have His Carcase first" is the perfect way to encapsulate the flaws in the romance plot of ACC. But a book could have a million times more flaws and I'd still forgive it for the mental image evoked by

"'Here, buggy, buggy,' he cooed plaintively. 'Come to Papa, that's the good girls...'He paused and peered worriedly under a side- table. 'Buggy, buggy...'

'Now...that cries out for an explanation,' murmured the Count, watching him in arrested fascination."
Quillain
25. mgan
The cover is the worst part of this book. I also skip the bug butter fight when I re-read. I have alway thought Ivan was competent just trying to hide it. I sometimes think that Ivan is trying to differentiate himself from Miles almost as determinedly as Mark.

This is not my favortie book in the series but it does have some of my favorite vignettes some already mentioned like Gregor and Nikki, Ekaterine speaking up in the Council of Counts "go momma go!" the attic scene, Aral asking Miles if Ekaterine is "the one" and the final "putting to rest" of the Little Admiral at Gregor's wedding. But it is also a little too slap stick in places to be my favorite.

I do remember reading on the Bujold Nexus that "Dorothy" is Dorothy Sayers.
Quillain
26. Hex168
The single best thing about Baen's excellent e-book policy is being able to avoid Baen covers.
Jo Walton
27. bluejo
Hex168: Now that's a thought. I wonder if that's why it's been so incredibly successful!
Richard Boye
28. sarcastro
I always though the Dorothy was Dorothy Sayers, too.

In fact, Ekaterin's maiden name is Vorvayne, which I took as a direct homage to Harriet Vane.
Quillain
29. Don Sample
when Illyan and Aral and Cordelia die, nobody will know [about the assassination of Serg].

I don't think Illyan knows about it, either. He didn't know about it at the time. He did know pretty much everything Cordelia knew when she figured it out, but nothing has ever been said about him putting the pieces together for himself. There was one unnamed doctor who also knew about it, but whether or not he has survived the intervening decades isn't known either.
C C
30. Hatgirl
I usually dislike The Perfect Love Interested For Our Hero because they are so one-dimensional. But LMB cleverly made Ekaterin a person in her own right. Her input into the ButterBugs business is seperate from the romance plot. I can like her for herself.

And I like LMB/Ekaterin's thought that Miles' friendships with Ivan, Ilyan, Kareen et. al. are a good insight into the kind of person he is. It's a realistic reason for her to fall for him.

And Ivan... oh Ivan. You rang Gregor. Foolish boy.
Joseph Blaidd
31. SteelBlaidd
I think the absence of the Have His Carcass episode in the Miles/Ekatirine romance is a deliberate choice based on the different situations of the two couples.

Harriet is a proletarian unabashed liberated woman, in pre-feminist England, recently acquitted of murdering the man she was "living-in-sin" with. Her romantic prospects, much less her marriage ones, are severely circumscribed. She is not a hot property and Peter can take his time.

Ekatarin on the other hand is a respectable widow and domestic goddess of proven fertility and the "proper" caste. In a culture in which having children to carry on your name and memory is a major issue, especially among her social class, said class suffers from a sever gender imbalance, making her a very hot property. Even if Miles hadn't, in desperation, started courting her in the book following Kommar someone would have. And, by her own admission her garden was an attempt to impress Miles; so she might very well have started courting him after her relationship twitchiness had worn off.

As an aside, I met my wife as she was just getting out of a long term relationship with a "Tien" type so this looks especially real to me.
Jo Walton
32. bluejo
SteelBlaidd: Harriet Vane wasn't a proletarian, she was a bohemian intellectual. Her background was as a doctor's daughter who had been to Oxford, which for 1935 makes her very definitely upper middle class. She isn't an aristocrat like Lord Peter, but if there were only aristocrats and proletarians the world would be very odd indeed.

Also, I think Ekaterin comes from precisely the equivalent social position on Barrayar that Harriet does, with reference to Miles. The gender ratio in their generation does make a difference, but even so.
Liza .
33. aedifica
SteelBlaidd # 31: I would point out that as far as Peter was concerned, he certainly wasn't taking his time, he was moving as fast as Harriet would let him. He proposed before she was even out of jail, for heaven's sake!
Quillain
34. Lsana
While Peter was certainly moving as fast as Harriet would allow him to move, the other difference strikes me as even more significant. There was no real pressure for Harriet to get married. She could take her time, enjoy life as a single woman, and decide what she wanted. While that wasn't exactly standard for 1935, it wasn't so unheard of either.

Ekaterine, on the other hand, is a young widow in a society so gender-imbalanced that it makes China look to be in good shape (I think the number given was 4-1 males-to-females). The question is not if she will remarry soon, the question is only to whom. No matter what she wants, the social pressures are going to become too much very quickly, as we see in this book. Barrayar is not going to let her and Miles take their time.

Incidentally, on that same point, it seems to me that accepting "Lord Dono" may be counterproductive in the end. That precedent may inspire other girls, further draining Barrayar of its women. It would have been much better to allow Lady Donna to inherit in her own right.
Liza .
35. aedifica
Lsana @ 34: I certainly agree that as far as Barrayaran precedents are concerned, it would have been better for them to allow Lady Donna to inherit. However, I don't think the Council of Counts could ever have been stampeded into it. Maybe some years from "now" the atmosphere will have changed enough to allow a woman to inherit a Countship...

(And I also agree with the point about Ekaterin's and Harriet's different social pressures regarding marriage. I didn't mean to imply otherwise in my comment above.)
Quillain
36. cbyler
Maybe some years from "now" the atmosphere will have changed enough to allow a woman to inherit a Countship...

I wonder how Count Dono would vote on the issue. There is, after all, a certain tendency for people who have been through a particular hardship to insist that others go through it too...

The Progressives might reduce some of the resistance by suggesting a measure that only applies to girls born after the measure is passed. That way it doesn't disinherit any man or boy whose inheritance rights are already established (and Miles doesn't have to worry about someone suggesting he inherit through his grandmother).
Quillain
37. Yrf
I suspect there will be few if any eldest daughters to inherit by the time any reform comes around. Sex-choosing does that. Any crusty Vor Counts suspicious of egalitarian trends would get the heir and the spare out of the way before bothering with daughters - or not have daughters! You'll note even Miles had his son-and-heir popped out of the replicator first.

Even besides all that, it's Count's choice. And while that opens possibilities for women, it also means that just changing the law without changing attitudes wouldn't allow them to inherit on their own because Counts would just pick a male relative regardless.

Another complication is that by the time most daughters would inherit they'd be long-married and part of another family. Divorced/widowed daughters wouldn't have male heirs of their own because of Barrayaran guardianship law. Donna's unusual because she's a forty-year-old single woman with no children and as such unambiguously a Vorrutyer rather than a Vor-whatever.

Female inheritance tends to show up as a compromise when there's a shortage of male heirs viewed as eligible. With modern medicine, genetic screening, perfect infertility treatment, sex selection, normative marriage, and an ideal of four kids a couple, that won't be the case on Barrayar for the foreseeable future. I'd see the whole ridiculous system collapsing before the male inheritance part does.

Me, I'm wondering about Barrayaran FTM transsexuals in the military...
Quillain
38. Anton P. Nym
I don't see Ekaterin's reluctance in the romance to be a retcon, but rather a natural consequence of one of Bujold's themes: forward momentum.

At the end of Komarr, the momentum was in Miles' favour; Ekaterin was (as noted above) coming down from a combat-high, flush with the greatest triumph of her life to-date, and at that moment she felt able to venture anywhere and conquer any obstacle. At that point it made perfect sense for her to be drawn to Miles, because she was on Miles' emotional turf and she could relate to that in that moment.

Then came the cramped jump trip home with Tien's coffin, and the funeral that must have been slow agony given what had happened between her and her late husband, and the strait confines of the Voirsoisson family (and Barrayaran tradition) enfolding her and tripping her up. Freedom eluding her, that adrenal/endorphic combat rush gone... she did what she had done before she met Miles, and retreated.

I could very much see her feeling betrayed by that moment in the docking bay and its apparently false promises; a feeling greatly enhanced when Miles really does betray her in his attempts to "win" her.

-- Steve
Nathaniel Smith
39. njs
Oh dear -- my brain is now quite distracted from all the interesting Bujoldiana in favor of whirring about trying to recall all the different bits of cheese sandwiches in Cherryh. Please do that post! Preferably before my brain stalls out somewhere odd, without a convenient mass-point in range.
Jo Walton
40. bluejo
Yrf: Donna is a widow, not a single woman.

NJS: Sorry! According to Cyteen keis is a salted yeast and not cheese at all, but generally it's called cheese in the other books, as when Bet gets it out of vending machines on Thule... I did a series of posts on the Alliance/Union books in December, which probably don't have proper tags because I suck at tags, but if you look at the December list you'll recognise by the titles.
Bruce Cohen
41. SpeakerToManagers
Jo: maybe I'm being crochety and misreading what you wrote, in which case I apologize, but I was upset by your implication that Taura isn't human. ISTM that Taura is presented as in every important way a human being who just happens to be larger and stronger than most (and therefore a serious refutation of the Barayaran gender prejudices). As for Miles not proposing to her, I always took that as coming from his realization that he doesn't have the right to ask her to sacrifice what lifespan she may have left to stay close to him and close to the advanced medical facilities she would constantly need to monitor a pregnancy which probably has no precedent.

As for Ivan, I think his relationship with his mother and his distance from the throne have kept him from developing a deep sense of responsibility to Barayaran society or the discipline and sense of duty required for a future emperor. But now that he's out of Miles' shadow, with Mark taking much of Miles' competitiveness and Ekaterin much of his attention, Ivan has a chance to finally open up a little and ask himself what he wants, other than to not be Miles' toy soldier. So he's starting, finally, to grow up and find his own way.

And I also agree with all your comments about A Civil Compaign, but still find it my favorite book of the series, partly because Miles is finally forced to change his behavior wrt Ekaterin, as opposed to working around her as he has done for everyone else.
Ursula L
42. Ursula
SpeakerToManagers:

Regarding Taura, the risks of pregnancy are a non-issue, as there are replicators, and they would use one.

As far as Taura's medical care to extend her life is concerned, Barrayar is no longer the medical backwater it was when Miles was born, and they could certainly provide medical care on par with what she had been receiving from the Dendarii fleet doctor. Particularly since she'd have access to the very best Barrayar can offer, thanks to her relationship with Miles. Perhaps not as good as Taura might find in a top-notch medical clinic on Beta Colony, but at least as good as in a ship's sick bay designed to treat battle injuries rather than complex genetic disorders.

The bigger problem, regarding children, is that while Taura is spiritually and morally human, she isn't genetically all human. Her Jacksonian creators mixed in animal DNA, such as wolf. Hence the fangs and claws. It isn't clear if her type was designed to be fertile with ordinary humans, or if any children would themselves be healthy, rather than some sort of sterile mule.

As far a marriage goes, Miles isn't just looking for someone to love, he's looking for a future Countess Vorkosigan, who would provide half the genetic material for his children. Taura's genes are too flawed. To have children, Miles and Taura would need the help of a top-notch geneticist, to sort out the human from non-human in Taura's genome, and also to ensure that any missing human bits are replaced. (Actually, since the doctor who created Taura is now on Barrayar, it might be possible, as he ought to be able to undo his own work.)

Also, Taura, by Barrayan standards, is unquestionably a "mutie." If the oppression of woman on Barrayar is more than Elli could handle, what Taura would face, as a woman and a mutie, would be horrible.

Miles only knows th oppression of women on Barrayar second-hand. But he knows the oppression of "muties" personally. The oppression of women, for him, is something abstract at once removed, and since his mother could deal with it, he figures Elli can, too. But the problems muties face he knows firsthand, and he ran off and create the Dendarii in part to escape that oppression. Asking Taura to endure something he had to flee is a much bigger deal.

I suspect, though, that the biggest reason why Miles didn't propose to Taura is that he was also with Elli, and making the relationship with Taura public would mean ending the relationship with Elli. So as long as he had hope for a marriage with Elli, or an ongoing relationship as Naismith with Elli, Taura would remain the secret "other woman."

The dynamic is the classic one of the secret mistress who will never get her man, because he'll never leave his wife. Although Taura, at least, does not seem to be wanting a public relationship with Miles, or to displace Elli. Which was quite convenient for him.
Jo Walton
43. bluejo
SpeakerToManagers: I think Ursula put it perfectly. While Taura is spiritually and morally human, she's genetically only partly human. I didn't mean it as an insult.
Quillain
44. Yrf
On Donna: Well, she had three husbands and divorced at least two of them (is there text-ev the second one died?), so divorcee would be more accurate. Nevertheless, she's unambiguously single at the time of ACC and using her maiden name.

The major issue with Taura and being Lady Vorkosigan is Taura's lifespan. The reason Miles doesn't see a future with Taura in Memory is not because she's a mutant, but because she's -dying-. She's not somebody who can help raise his children, or share his full life with.
Ursula L
45. Ursula
Also, as far as marrying Taura is concered, Miles is, himself, Barrayan. And he's internalized and accepted much of his cultures prejudice against mutants. He's spent his life struggling to prove to the world that he isn't a mutant. And his dreams for his future very much include being the father of tall, healthy, strong-boned children, to prove his fitness and non-mutant status.

Bringing Taura home, having children with her, would mean giving up on his dream of having his children prove his non-mutant status. She's just too different, and even if the children were carefully created gene-by-gene to be healthy, they'd have the same stigma he has, because both their parents are so different.

However much Miles cares for her, Taura's genetic condition disqualifies her for the role of Lady Vorkosigan or Countess Vorkosigan. It's the flip side of Miles's inability to walk away from Barrayar - he cares too much about proving himself to Barrayar to completely let go of this prejudice.
David Dyer-Bennet
46. dd-b
I think my favorite bit is when Ilyan visits Ekaterin in her garden after the dinner party. While it's not really the best bit from there, the crunchiest quotable is (from memory) "You know those stories about the Count who assigns three impossible tasks to his daughter's unsuitable suitor? Don't try that with Miles. Just...don't."

This is definitely my favorite book from the series to date. I do tend to skip the dinner party and the pie fight on rereads.
Quillain
47. The Amazee Az
I'm going to say it. Clearly no one agrees with me. Maybe it's because I've never been in a real relationship. Or some sadistic desire to watch characters squirm.

I LOVE the the dinner party scene and I LOVE to reread it. I think it's a brilliant crown for the book and a crescendo of action and tension. In fact, it's my favorite part of the entire series. It works so perfectly, because the I know most of these guests really well as characters. You see how the characters' personalities define their actions.

I love how LMB avoids spoilers by never saying *why* Mark doesn't want to sit next to Duv, or why Ekaterin's question about his family was bad. But we know. I love how wrong everything Enrique tries to say is. I love how Ekaterin is scared of Simon. I love how Aral still has that shirt from Shards. I love how all of the awkwardness is a construction of Barrayaran society and the world and that the conflict had been built around that.

At the same time, if you read the story carefully, you see little reminder remarks, like Alys and Miles pepper in for Simon, of who everyone is so that the story is completely trackable.
Quillain
48. Anne Zanoni
The Amazee Az @47: No, I think you're appreciating the brilliance. :>

I just realized that I'm re-reading only the Auditor sequence. _Memory_ last night, _Komarr_ today. I need ACC. I want to watch all those bits coming together.

This is the first time I've ever read _Memory_ without weeping.

I found myself muttering a lot at Haroche though. Too aware. From Simon in Tey's _Brat Farrar_ to Haroche; this is the horror. Someone who sees other people as obstacles. Tey posits that criminals are all consumed with vanity ("I must have this") to which no rules or limits apply, ever. A terrifying blindness.

That is Haroche: "Simon wasn't even hurt!"

So me, I *really* need the butter bugs now...

*---
Quillain
49. 3Jane
It was momentarily bothering me that Ekaterin is (or likely to be) under huge pressure to get married suitably while Donna is not. But there are several differences: Donna is 40 odd, and has already been married several times (as Lois said of another character "seriously shop worn by now"). But she also has had a clear role in Vor society, as up to the time of her (unmarried) brother's death she had essentially been doing the job of Countess Vorrutyer (except the producing the next heir bit, obviously). Pierre's death leaves her without a place (given her relationship with Richars) which is extra incentive for the rather extreme decision she makes to go straight for the countship.
Quillain
50. AllisonS
I know it has been a ridiculously long time since this was posted, but I felt driven. :)

I see Ekaterin as an established introvert, based on her behavior and worldview (and especially visibly so in Komarr where we see so much of her point of view).

Introverts aren't always as good at conveying ideas out loud without a prior chance to think through them. When I first read the 'take a number' scene (and in every reading thereafter), I took it as read that Ekaterin spoke without fully thinking through what she said until it was already out of her mouth. In her mind, I think she was reacting solely to the concept of "naturally ended up greater than they used to be" and her own bone deep longing for that in her own life. High on adrenaline, she blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

That it also carried an even more obvious meaning of "I want to be your girlfriend" probably didn't even occur to her until after the words were out of her mouth and it was too late for them to be taken back. Whoops! Foot in mouth.

It is actually very easy for introverts to say something like this (and miss even as obvious an implication as this one) because they are in the middle of a train of thought and they forget that others aren't "in their mind too" and so aren't sharing the same train of thought that they are.

Of course, Miles naturally latches onto the context that complements the one thing that's on HIS mind.

I also think that Ekaterin was reserved in personality enough to feel a pull toward Miles but not be ruled by it or make decisions based on it (even though she knew she was feeling it and acknowledged it as a force tugging at her).

I wouldn't be surprised if she never gave the first thought, much less a second one, to a relationship with Miles as something viable to pursue or expect — or even desire! – in the entirety of Komarr. Remember, she has spent her entire marriage (and life) suppressing, ruthlessly discarding, and forcefully shaping her emotions and physical urges to support her conscious intentions and goals (the exact opposite of "follow your heart" rhetoric).

So that's my best read on the situation, based on my understanding of the characters: A relationship with Miles would literally be so far from her mind and emotions (despite whatever attraction she clearly already felt for him) that it didn't even occur to her that he could or would take it that way until it was already out of her mouth.

Basically — introversion plus a big blind spot in her thinking. (She also probably assumes that Miles wouldn't want her in that sense, since her self esteem is so beaten down and self deprecation is so beaten into her by every major relationship in her life up to this point.)

As for the following events, I see the happenings of A Civil Campaign as her process of eventually justifying to herself the "illogical and unsafe" choice to break through her reserve, follow her gut (and hormones), and take the leap of faith into the "unknown" of Miles versus the "safe" choice of not taking any more risks emotionally (or physically, even, considering how awful her last marriage was). She was certainly crowded into it by events, but that just means she had to jump one way or the other a little sooner than she would have if she hadn't been under pressure.

She had been very divorced from her intuitive self up until that point, choosing the safety of tradition over uncharted waters where she could possibly fail on her own merits (instead of the less emotionally risky route of failing by following the path her culture and family had prescribed). At least if she follows the "forms," she isn't open to criticism based on her decisions, or so the mental justification goes. In that sense, her choice to strike out and at least make her own mistakes (by marrying Miles, among other things) is a healthy form of growth, and a gamble that we as readers know will pay off.

In other words, she marries Miles because, deep down, she wants to. It's just that it's almost the first time she actually allows herself to have something she wants just because she wants it, not because it's "ok" to want it.

Half her problems in the past were created (or contributed to) by her feeling that she needed to ask permission – from culture, from family – to get what she wanted rather than being "self-authorizing." She has been a compulsive "permission-getter" all her life.

That's why Miles actually is an oddball but (potentially) good choice for her. It's not that he doles out power to people (making him just another authority figure), but that he serves as a living model of self empowerment, as well as a cheerleader and path-clearer for others who are trying to achieve the same. He's like an anti-authority-figure good luck charm, giving her the permission (and courage) to not need permission.

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