Tue
Dec 4 2012 5:00pm
The Ivan Book: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

The Ivan Book: a review of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Captain Vorpatril’s AllianceGosh I love this book.

I’d say this is my favourite new Vorkosigan book since Komarr.

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is the promised “Ivan book”, the book in which Miles’s cousin Ivan finds a girl and... well, things happen. It stands alone as well as could possibly be expected for a book so late in the series. I imagine it would work perfectly well if you hadn’t read any of the other books, and I expect there will be people who will start here and like it, but my experience of reading it is inevitably shaded and enhanced by all the expectation I had of it and by the whole rest of the series.

I got that far writing this post and then I stopped and re-read all the other Vorkosigan books in a weird order. There’s something about these characters and this universe which is deeply appealing. I think it’s the combination of a set of things that I’ve talked before and Bujold’s clear-sighted moral vision. When her characters change and learn, as they do, the lessons they learn are real. All true wealth is biological. The one thing you can’t give for your heart’s desire is your heart. When he’s cut, I bleed.

Ivan Xav Vorpatril was born in an abandoned slum on the day Vordarian died. We learn in Mirror Dance that Lady Alys has been taking him back every year on his birthday to the spot where his poor bumbling father was killed, to burn an offering. In Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance we see the end of that tradition. And we see him find, marry and fall in love with (in that order) a girl who calls him Ivan Xav. Tej is also the underachiever in her family, and she and Ivan are adorable together. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is adorable as a whole, it’s deeply readable and tons of fun and, it’s also a really remarkably good science fiction novel.

The book falls into two halves, which I would describe as “The Ivan and Tej Show” and “Simon Illyan Is Bored.” The model for the romance plot is clearly inspired by Georgette Heyer. Heyer several times does the plot of the couple who are engaged (Cotillion—nothing could improve Cotillion but setting it on another planet) or married (April Lady, Friday’s Child, The Convenient Marriage) and who only later come to appreciate each other.

It’s also a science fiction mystery, and here we have Cetagandan secrets from the Occupation, a Jacksonian House in exile, a bored Simon Illyan, startling events at ImpSec headquarters and everything Ivan hates most.

This book also answers trivia questions I’ve been worrying at for an embarrassingly long time. Some of them go back to the “Worried about the future of Miles” thread on rec.arts.sf.written at the time Mirror Dance came out. Finally it’s revealed why Ivan is a Lord and why Lady Alys is called that. It would be worth the price of the book to me just for that.

But this isn’t just a charming romance with Barrayaran twiddles. This is the book that shows that Aral and Cordelia succeeded in the pledge that Cordelia makes at the end of Barrayar—to make a world safe for Miles and Ivan and Elena and Gregor to grow up in. Barrayarans date events by wars, but they’re not doing that for recent times, they’re saying things happened “Since Gregor took the reins.” Since the end of the Regency, in other words, since Aral fulfilled his pledge to Ezar and passed power on to a sane Gregor. Since The Vor Game, when Gregor found his balance. We’ve seen recent Barrayar so much from Miles’s point of view it’s possible to miss seeing that. They grew up safely. There’s a hydro-electric dam at Silvy Vale. Ivan has been the man who is too lazy to fail all through his career and he’s sliding along just fine, bless him.

Did I mention that I absolutely love this book?


Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently the Hugo and Nebula winning Among Others. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

71 comments
George Brell
1. gbrell
It's excellent.

Coming very late to the series, I was fortunate in being able to read the books in internal chronological order (placing Captain Vorpatril's Alliance before Cryoburn) and the point of inheritance/titles you bring up helps simplify (mostly) offscreen issues of succession in Cryoburn nicely.

I also love how Bujold used this novel to further develop some tertiary characters such as Lord Vorpatril and Byerly.

And I'll defend A Civil Campaign as superior to Komarr, but then again I enjoyed Memory more than any of the books that preceded it.
Janet Hopkins
2. JanDSedai
Squeee! I love Ivan! Loved Cetaganda, because Ivan was in it; although he was mostly used as a foil to contrast Mile's cunning conclusions with Ivan's bumbling cluelessness.

I've read the first six chapters on the Baen Books site, and heard Lois McMaster Bujold read the first two chapters aloud.

So this is a book on which I will definitely spend my Christmas Amazon money!
Rowan Shepard
3. Rowanmdm3
I got one of the ebook ARCs for this months ago and I have read it 4 times already. I loved this; it made me laugh out loud every time I read it, and not always in the same spots. It’s such a lovely story as both a romance and mystery/adventure. I loved seeing Ivan and Tej discover what they really wanted, and seeing more of the family dynamics between Ivan, Alys and Simon was WONDERFUL.

It’s funny, b/c at the end of the book I’m not really curious about what happens next to Ivan and Tej; I want to know what Gregor manages to find to keep Simon from getting bored again. Because well… a bored Simon finds things to do that, well….read the book J
Rowan Shepard
4. Rowanmdm3
Oh, and I think Ivan's sorting system is brilliant and I've sort of been using it for my emails, too.
daisyladen
5. daisyladen
It was a lovely book. I enjoyed Tej's crazy family and her trying to explain/deal wtih them as much as I love Ivan's family whom I already know and love. Good times. And great description of the two parts of the book. :)
Pamela Adams
6. Pam Adams
I got the book and read it- and immediately read it again, with my sister breathing down my neck, and enjoyed every minute of it! Tej is the perfect mate for Ivan- someone who can appreciate what he is, and not expecting him to be Miles, Padma, Gregor, etc., etc.

I also loved the byplay with Byerly- Ivan's real involvement in A Civil Campaign started with By showing up at the door, and now to have a whole book starting there?

I'm torn between my favorite lines' "Maybe I should have started with a pony?" versus " I am not a fate worse than death!"
Emily Cartier
7. Torrilin
I am curious about what happens next to Ivan and Tej. Not because Ivan wants to be interesting, but precisely because he wants so very badly to be boring. Tej is less passionate about it, but also in favor of being boring. And well, after this book I now understand precisely why Ivan wants to be boring.

I knew Miles was (depending on how one counts) second or third or fourth in line for the throne after Gregor and his dad. But over the whole series, it had never once dawned on me that since Ivan is next in line for the Vorkosigan countship after Miles and Mark, Ivan also has a giant bull's eye on his head for the throne. And unlike Miles and Mark, Ivan is healthy... so appearing boring, vaguely stupid and totally uninterested in power is part of how Ivan managed to live past 30. I have to admire a fictional character who is so devoted to his cover story.

I would actually describe the second half of the book as "Alys and Simon are bored". If only one of them was bored, I don't think things would have gone quite so haywire. And well, the reader forgets Alys's place in the ImpSec hierarchy at their peril.
Pamela Adams
8. Pam Adams
I stopped and re-read all the other Vorkosigan books in a weird order.

My choice was to jump back and re-read Brothers-in-Arms.
E M
9. herewiss13
The moment the...architectural descent was revealed, I started laughing hysterically and I don't think I stopped until the book was over (and then some). The complete set of deadpan (and hysterical) reactions was truly priceless. A joke was that _volumes_ the making and well worth the wait (not to mention how clever the causal agent was...I do wonder about the sequence in which the entire disaster scenario got constructed).
daisyladen
10. bungluna
I got the e-arc of this book and proceeded to read it compulsively, over and over again. I too found all the answers to questions left pending about Ivan and Barrayar worth the price of admission, but the best part for me was seeing how the cousins relate to each other. Gregor truly loves Ivan; Miles likes to tweet him but also appreciates him while being a bit jealous of him.

I think Cordelia was right when she postulated in "Mirror Dance" that Ivan was the ultimate political survivor. Tej is exactly the mate he needs: someone who appreciates him for whom he is and will help him maintain his cover.
daisyladen
11. Apsalar
These characters are like old friends, the kind you don't see very often, but when you do, it's just like old times and you truly wish that whatever it was didn't keep you apart for so long. There were some very funny moments, and some moments that made me remember how deeply weird Cetagandans are, and yes, how much less Barrayar sucks for Ivan and his contemporaries than it did when Cordelia got there. But... I'm not sure I want Bujold to write more books set in this universe. I think I could pick up on a few times when I could see her slogging along, writing the Ivan book as a nod to the fans (and to the character).
Sara H
12. LadyBelaine
Jo,

This book was adorable!

Two main things -

1) don't you think that the whole House Cordonah escapade under ImpSec had a "Great Train Robbery/Ocean's 11" sort of flair? So, let's add Crime Caper to Lois' melange of genres that she weaves together so wonderfully here.

2) "Finally it’s revealed why Ivan is a Lord and why Lady Alys is called that. It would be worth the price of the book to me just for that"

I raced through this book so quicky, I missed this, silly me - what is the reason?

Other things I loved:

I love that Lady Alys has secured herself a very lovely, important post in Gregor's Palace, Chief of Staff to the Empress. Lady Alys is one of my favorite characters after Miles, Elena Bothari and Ivan, of course.
I love that Lady Alys is a real estate baron(ness?) (or should that be 'real estate baronne?') Of course she would own the high rise apartment building in which she lives (in the penthouse, of course). I love the side romance between By and Rish. I love the back story stuff about the Cetagandan Occupation.
I loved the fact that we are given a name for the Vorpatril district capitol. I love the charmingly archaic nature of Barrayaran divorce.
I think I love Count Falco. I love the way that Ivan's idea of rescuing Tej comes from his breakfast cereal! Most of all, I love Ivan Xav.

I do regret that we haven't seen Laisa since she married Gregor, although we do learn she is thriving.

Also... not so thrilled about the cover art - Ivan looks somewhat like I pictured (although very much like Scott Bakula), but Tej and Rish... how oddly positioned they are.
Sara H
13. LadyBelaine
Torrilin@ 7,

"But over the whole series, it had never once dawned on me that since Ivan is next in line for the Vorkosigan countship after Miles and Mark, Ivan also has a giant bull's eye on his head for the throne."

That's the reason why Vordarian's goons went gunning for Padma and Alys during the pretendership. Padma because he was Vorbarra matrilineally, and Alys because she was pregnant with his (vaguely Vorbarra) child.
daisyladen
14. JillRedhand
I don't think I have ever had as much fun reading a book as I did when reading this one; I bounced up and down all over the place with nearly every chapter, laughing at the funny lines and just generally adoring the characters. Even after over a dozen books with these characters, Bujold can still write them with new dimensions while still being endearingly familiar.
Kevin Connolly
15. Cross777
Loved the book - BUT is takes place before Cyroburn which pi$$ed me off to no end. I want the story that takes place during/after "Aftermaths"
daisyladen
16. JillRedhand
Part of my enjoyment might have been a fundemental misunderstanding I had, though; I thought that I remembered Ivan being mentioned as still single in Cryoburn, so once I figured out that this book set before it, I wasn't expecting it to be a romance at all. (I believe I had vague notions that the Alliance of the title was going to involve Ivan being forced to exert himself to collect military or political allies for some derring do in support of some Milesian scheme. Which would have been awesome, and my only dissatisfaction with this book is that I didn't get to see that). So when that spectacular wedding scene occurs, not only was I caught in gleeful surprise, but I was also enough in love with Tej by that time that I was terrified that they were destined to split up some how by the end of it. I was loving every minute of Tej and Ivan together, and trying to resign myself to the (I thought) inevitable conclusion, so I was surprised and overjoyed that they got to stay together in the end.

My emotions were very rocky the whole way through. Still, the mercurial cackling-with-joy and gnawing-fingernails-with-anticipatory-despair made for a terrific reading experience.
Jo Walton
17. bluejo
Pam: The Warrior's Apprentice. The Vor Game. Brothers in Arms. Mirror Dance. Komarr. Diplomatic Immunity. ACC. Shards of Honor. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. (again) Memory. Barrayar. Least defensible sequence choice ever. Some of it was because I have the whole lot except Memory on the Cryoburn CD so I had them on my Kindle, and when a normal person would have read Memory I was in Toronto for World Fantasy with my back spasming and a strong need to lie down and read, and I had my Kindle... (Unguessed advantage of Kindle -- you can read from it when lying on your stomach with ice on your back, because it's flat.)

GBrell -- how fortunate you are. Now you can join the rest of us waiting for more. Check out my old posts about reading them in publication order.

LadyBelaine: Padma's father was made a Lord when he married Prince Xav's daughter, who was a princess. That Lordship is an honorary title. Lady Alys is called Lady Alys to distinguish her from the wife of the present Lord Vorkosigan, the heir to the countship, who is also active in Vorbarr Sultana society.

This is exactly what I had thought for years, but it is nice to know. Ivan explains it to Tej in the immediate pre-divorce hearing bit.

Apsalar: I am not in disagreement with any of that. I've been thinking for some time that she should jump a generation as she did after Shards and give us a book about new people and new problems, even though (or perhaps because) these people feel like old friends and I love them. Writing a series like this is a difficult juggling act.
Alan Brown
18. AlanBrown
Before this, we always saw Ivan bobbing along in Miles' wake, looking a bit slow on the uptake. But, to mix metaphors, we tend to forget that while Miles is a rocketship, Ivan is a jet plane, and compared to most other vehicles, a jet plane is pretty damn fast. I think there was an obligatory "Ivan, you idiot" from By or someone early in the book, but from then on, Ivan got to be Ivan without comparison to anyone. Nice to see him get his place in the sun. And his new wife is quite charming. It was nice to root for their budding relationship, even before the two of them realized what was happening.
And speaking of By, by the by, it was nice to see another 'spear carrier' get a speaking part in this book. Although I sometimes got confused by the way By's name looks so much like a word that gets used by so many so often. Kind of like how a recent headline, "Doctor Who Pioneered New Technique Dies," or something like that, gets read entirely differently by a fan of the BBC show.
And Simon comes back for a pivotal role. While most authors, after a central character becomes wounded, or in this case brain damaged, would cast them aside, or at least push them into a non-speaking spear carrying role, Bujold puts him in the center again in a manner wholly consistent to his disabilities, and shows that him to be even more interesting than he ever was. But this is the same woman who took the main character of a 'military SF series,' turned him into an Inspector General type who solved mysteries, and made it compelling enough that we followed along loyally.
I have loved this series for years. There are flying cars, which appear far too infreqently in fiction these days. There are empires and battles and royalty and adventures, and all the stuff of fantasy. But it all makes rigorous sense.
And the characters are absolutely superb. They live and breath in your head, and while they surprise you, they don't disappoint you like some characters do by acting inconsistently. There are lots of adventures and excitement, and plenty of reason to turn the pages. And there is lots of romance, which always makes the story more fun.
So, thanks to Ms. Bujold for this book, and here's looking for many more in the future.
To sum it all up, I too absolutely love this book!
daisyladen
19. helbel
I bought this book the day Baen released the ebook, and then reread it continually for about two weeks (and I read FAST).

I prefer the first half where the focus is more controlled. The second half I now start skipping sections.

I loved the fact that we finally got Ivan uttering the "Ivan you idiot!" line. There are just so many wonderful moments in the book, and Tej is great, she's just so right for Ivan.
daisyladen
20. a1ay
I knew Miles was (depending on how one counts) second or third or fourth in line for the throne after Gregor and his dad. But over the whole series, it had never once dawned on me that since Ivan is next in line for the Vorkosigan countship after Miles and Mark, Ivan also has a giant bull's eye on his head for the throne. And unlike Miles and Mark, Ivan is healthy... so appearing boring, vaguely stupid and totally uninterested in power is part of how Ivan managed to live past 30.

This has come up a couple of times, actually. It's part of the discussion at the end of Warrior's Apprentice - the plot involving the deaths of Ivan and Miles - and I seem to remember a conversation in which someone suggests to Cordelia that the whole dopey-Ivan persona is a conscious defence against any conspirators wanting to involve him in coup plots. Cordelia replies that he's been like that all his life - "he must have been a very cunning five-year-old, in that case".
daisyladen
21. a1ay
I've been thinking for some time that she should jump a generation as she did after Shards and give us a book about new people and new problems, even though (or perhaps because) these people feel like old friends and I love them. Writing a series like this is a difficult juggling act.

Agree - but I think she should jump back. I want to see Young Ezar and Young Piotr. We've seen Ezar as a dying man in a bed, and we've seen Piotr as an old man struggling to make sense of the way the world's changed - and we've seen their ghosts, once, in Barrayar when Cordelia hides out in a cave that they used as HQ during the War. But we've never seen them in their prime. What were they like during the Occupation? Miles spent all his life in the shadow of his father, who was the unquestioned military and political leader of his generation. But the same's true of Aral. What was it like growing up with the Old Count as your father? Being the last survivor of your family?
Stefan Mitev
22. Bergmaniac
I'd have to disagree with most people. I love the Vorkosigan series, but this instalment was quite disappointing. Most of it felt like Bujold going through the motions and treading the same ground she has already covered much more successfully before. The plot is very predictable, and the stakes low compared to the most other novels in the series. There's no real conflict, and the humour, while mostly good, is not enough to carry the whole book and nowhere near the hilariousness of [b]A Civil Campaign[[/b].

Tej is probably my biggest disappointment. Such a bland main female character from the writer who created Cordelia Vorkosigan, Lady Alys, Ekaterin Vorsoisson, Ista and so many other memorable ones.

It's still a good read overall, and had some great moments, mostly when Lady Alys appeared, but I was hoping for much more. Well, at least it's better than Cryoburn.
Rob Munnelly
23. RobMRobM
It's a fun book and the first half of it is truly wonderful - Ivan, By, Tej, Rish are all good and the hit parade of encounters with the longstanding Saga personnae delightful and illuminating - hearkening back to Mark's initial forays into Barrayar society in Mirror Dance and Ekaterine's in ACC. The second half was not as good. Some of the wind got sucked from the sails when Tej's family showed up. Ivan was stuck on the outside, Tej was stuck driving people around to no end and so the action and interpersonal relationship development slowed to a crawl. While the father was interesting and Grandmother delightful, the mother was not as well drawn, the sisters were aggravating (as I think they were supposed to be) and there was a significant plausibility concern inherent in having a conveniently located, empty, parking garage that would allow them free to dig for several days unseen out of a room at the back. In sum, the second half and the conclusion worked but not as well as I was hoping. Given the strong first half and ok second half, I rated CVA highly but not at top tier Bujold.

One thing you didn't note was the presumed future path of Ivan - into the Diplomatic corps. I could see him end up on Cetaganda ten years after Cryoburn time when all sorts of stuff break out and Miles' kids get to step to the fore.

Rob
Deana Whitney
24. Braid_Tug
Yeah, been waiting on this review!

It's a really fun read, but yes, when you were hoping to see the aftermath of Cryoburn, it's a disappointment. But since I read the 6 chapter preview, my expectations were set. Is it her best work ever? No, but it’s a fun one.

However I did not see it going down its final path. Don't you just love the final fate of the building? Mark is such an evil business genius.

And yep, Simon being bored is a BAD thing, in such a fun way. “Sire, the meeting we had set up for tomorrow? Should have been today.”

@4, Rowanmdm3: totally agree about Ivan’s sorting system.

@ 12, Lady Belaine: Agree. The cover art! So Bad!! Looks like an odd James Bond movie poster or something. Might be better than CC, but not by much. Then again Baen is not known for “good” cover art. Sorry Baen artists, but really?
Jo Walton
25. bluejo
Braid_Tug, Lady Belaine: Yes, I was going to say, if a Vorkosigan book had a good cover I'd faint with astonishment.
Elizabeth Doolin
26. mochabean
I had the privilege of reading CVA at the near conclusion of a chron-order first-time read of the whole Saga, and I share the love. Things not yet mentioned -- getting an outsider's perspective on Miles and Gregor, and more specifically other Barrayarans' perceptions of Miles and Gregor. "The Coz" and "The Gregor" had me snorting each time I read them. Bujold's use of the tropes of romance really works (e.g. By and Rish), and she can write both witty dialogue and comic set pieces. (I will admit I liked the bug butter fight in ACC, Armsman Roic and all, but the fall of ImpSec HQ takes the prize.) But that's not all there is -- there are those flashes of insight that hit you right in the gut as well. Bring on the Cetagandan showdown please.
S Cooper
27. SPC
Well, the front cover is quite nice. I was pleasantly surprised . . . and then I turned it over. Now I'm actively trying to unsee the back of the book. This isn't my favorite, but I did buy it and I did enjoy it very much and I intend to reread it. I wish it had come with a Cryoburn-like CD, though.
daisyladen
28. sylvia_rachel
I LOVE this book. I was looking forward to it eagerly from the moment you said there was going to be an Ivan book, and I was actually beginning to worry that it couldn't possibly be as good as I expected, and then it was better.

I think I've read it four or five times now (the Baen eARC at least three times, and the audiobook once), and it doesn't get old. Gosh, what a good book.

I've always liked Ivan, even when it was fairly clear that the POV character of the moment did not ;)
daisyladen
29. sylvia_rachel
Also: the ophidian inbox-triage system is brilliant, and has been informally adopted in my workplace.
Rob Munnelly
30. RobMRobM
Jo - you said Lady Vorkosigan when you meant to say Vorpatril.

I'd rank the post Memory bools as ACC, DI, K, CVA, C, WG.

Did I misremember, but didn't vordarian also come from another vorbarra princess? That was part of his plan to get rid of aral, padma and ivan, I thought.

Re other mysteries, cva also made clear alys came from a big family. I recall that issue being bandied about on past posts.
Rowan Shepard
31. Rowanmdm3
Things I'm curious about going forward in this world:
-With Aral gone, will Cordelia remain as Vicerine? She would be perfectly capable, but is that what she would WANT?
-I still really, really want to know what they find for Simon to do to stay busy.
-Next generation: Miles and Gregor's kids. What are they like? How would those two deal with an underachiveing or incompetent child?
-Conversely, will Ivan and Tej's kids be like them or the more ambitious members of their families?
-Mark as a father. I just...don't know whether to be amused or terrified, but it would be interesting.
-Gregor handing power to his kids. How will Gregor handle teaching his children about power and handing the reigns over to the next generation?

Reading all of these comments makes me want to go back and reread the entire series again, and I just did that less than 2 months ago. ~sigh~ The true dilemma of the reader: reread something you know you love, or take a wild risk on something new? Which I decide to do depends largely on whether the library and bookstore are still open when I need a new book to read :)
Pamela Adams
32. Pam Adams
RobM@23,

I could see him end up on Cetaganda ten years after Cryoburn time when all sorts of stuff break out and Miles' kids get to step to the fore.

Sigh- if the book doesn't get written in this universe, I want to move to the one where it does.
Alan Brown
33. AlanBrown
Yeah, the front cover was fine, the back cover not so much. Looked like three different characters in three different settings were photoshopped together, they just didn't look like they were realistically interacting with each other. Some nice detail work in the painting, but nothing can save a poor composition, especially one that falls into some of those old sexist tropes that have ruined many an SF cover.
Miles has had more than his share of so-so covers. I think the best, though, was the one Stephen Hickman did for one of Baen's omnibus editions, Miles Errant.
http://www.amazon.com/Miles-Errant-Vorkosigan-Adventures/dp/0743435583/ref=sr_1_18?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354753290&sr=1-18&keywords=lois+mcmaster+bujold
As usual, Hickman rises above the crowd.
daisyladen
34. jekni
Cross777 @15 and Braid_Tug @24:

Lois has stated quite firmly that she is NEVER going to expand the drabbles or write more about the events at the end of CryoBurn. That's why they were drabbles. She said she knew that bit had to be written and that was as much as she could handle, there wasn't going to be a novel about it. So no, you're not going to get a book about it.

The novella she's working on is a story set in and around Vorkosigan Vashnoi and features Miles and Ekaterin plus Enrique Borgos and some terraforming butterbugs!
Rob Munnelly
35. RobMRobM
@32 Pam - I've posted before on the book I want to see. Miles' kids (with or without Gregor's kids) traveling somewhere in galaxy, Ceta acts up with plan to make a final run at Barrayar, the kids get protected by the Dendari, lots of fun interactions with Miles' rambunctious eldest daughter and Elli, and, in the kicker, Gregor gets Miles to take over the military operation. High stakes, high fun. (Edited for typo)
Alan Brown
36. AlanBrown
Whatever Ms. Bujold wants to write about, I want to read about.
Kristen Templet
37. SF_Fangirl
I enjoyed it alot and am giving serious consideration to purchasing the harcover since I read it as a library book. I am also looking forward to obtaining the audio book to relisten again.

Cryoburn was fun but forgetable except for the ending unrelated to the main plot. Lately it seems that every other Vorkosigan book is episodic adventure with little impact to the overall plot. I was tempted to say a fun romp, but this was a fun romp while also moving Ivan's story along a lot and revisited Simon 4 - 5 years after his chip's meltdown.

Actually I have never been a fan of that idiot Ivan because he seems incompetent. I like him a lot now and am very happy that he found himself the perfect girl - one who understands all the intrigue inherent with being near the movers and shakers but someone who has no desire to be one. They both want to be invisible. OTOH I do have to say I wondered about believability of his personality at the end of the novel. He's lazy that's fine, but I trouble thinking someone so happy to work only a few hours a week at the end of the novel could do such a good job and be so happy being an aide-de-camp. Doesn't fit.

I did miss Lasissa though. I kept waiting for her to appear. She was obviously missing almost like an character who fails to appear in a reunion episode because they couldn't get the actress to come back.

I caper plot in the last third did drag a bit. We were rooting against Tej's family and knew that were not going to suceed and trick and defeat the good guys so it seemed drawn out.
daisyladen
38. bungluna
It was a conversation between Cordelia and Aral in "Mirror Dance" in which they discussed Ivan's reasons for acting the way he does. Cordelia postulated that it was his best defense against plotting politicos and Aral thought that would make him the most Macciavelian 8 year old.

I don't know if Ms. Bujold will ever find the inspiration to write a full-lenth novel in this universe again; I do wish she would write one to give us an update on our old friends as well as a window into the passing of the batton to a new generation.
daisyladen
39. a1ay
It was a conversation between Cordelia and Aral in "Mirror Dance" in which they discussed Ivan's reasons for acting the way he does.
Cordelia postulated that it was his best defense against plotting
politicos and Aral thought that would make him the most Macciavelian 8 year old.

Aha. That sounds like the one - thanks.
Pamela Adams
40. Pam Adams
Hey, Miles was a powerful 8-year old. And younger- remember him twisting Piotr around at the end of Barrayar? Being that Ivan was raised around Miles with his constant medical problems and Gregor, with his responsibilites as child-who-would-be-Emporer, he would have learned pretty early to avoid the spotlight.
daisyladen
41. aimai
Can anyone jump in here? I'm a huge fan of Bujold, Heyer, Sayers (who I often see a bit of in her work) and of course of Jo Walton (!) so posting here is like a dream come true. I liked this book more than I liked cryoburn, although cryoburn was more true to the major themes that bujold usually tackles. I think that Bujold is at her best when she sets in motion a major emotional crisis of maturation in her characters and that in diplomatic immunity and cryoburn she missed her mark. Its as though she settled Miles emotionally in A Civil Campaign and then he and Ekaterin no longer interested her that much. She couldn't find any way to make their twins, or their post married life, all that interesting.

This book was fun but lightweight, almost like a young adult romance. I enjoyed it but it didn't overwhelm me the way the earlier books (and especially Memory and Komarr) did.

aimai
Pamela Adams
42. Pam Adams
aimai,

Of course anyone can jump in! (This is how we all got here, after all)
I think that Bujold is at her best when she sets in motion a major emotional crisis of maturation I love that thought.
daisyladen
43. Mike Schilling
Why, by the way, is Ivan's middle name Xav? Price Xav was his great-grandfather on his father's side, not his grandfather on his mother's side.
daisyladen
44. Jerri
I am reading CVA for the third time and listening for the first, and enjoying it more each time.

The story I would like to read is a story of young Miles, Gregor, Ivan, Elena, Delia, etc. in the summer by the lake. Probably including the episode of the weapons cashe.

I think one of Bujold's strengths is that her books are so very different. The ones in this series are so different from each other, while still (to me) being so very readable and re-readable.
Alan Brown
45. AlanBrown
I like the fact that her world is so well rounded. There are not just soldiers and battles and politicians, as it seemed when the series started. There are logistics and genetic manipulation and mad scientists and housewives and parents and children and life and death and romance and mystery and even accounting. And all her characters, male, female, etc, feel so real to everyone I know who has read her work. She is a gem.
Jo Walton
46. bluejo
Mike Schilling: Having had the same thought, I decided that Lady Alys's father must also have been called Xav, either coincidentally or because he was a third or subsequent son and his parents had admired Prince Xav and named him after him. We did also learn that Lady Alys has siblings and Ivan has first cousins who he doesn't see much.

I further concluded that Aral's dead older brother was called Something Xav, just as Padma was, and that Prince Xav must have been Prince Xav Aral Vorbarra.

Viewed in that way it's a bit like the Chinese generational naming pattern, except only for first and second sons.
daisyladen
47. Gary E
"Simon Illyan is bored" may well be one of the most dangerous phrases on Barryar.

Also, is it my imagination, or have *none* of the significant couples in the Vorkosigan universe been the result of a *normal* courtship? Not that the books aren't far more entertaining for it. Just sayin'.
Ursula L
48. Ursula
Sorry I'm so late on this thread, I've been really looking forward to discussing this book, but have been entirely too busy.

I think I finally put a finger on something that's been bugging me about the story.

One thing LMB has commented on, in the past, is the intensely political focus of SF/F, where the goal is to save or change the world, versus the personal focus of romance, with the focus on the developing relationship.

The SF/F focus of this story seems off. Yes, there is a world to be changed. But it is Jackson's Whole. Which frankly, I don't have much investment in. Who controls a particular jump point is quite important to Tej's family, because they think that they should control it. But it isn't that important to Barrayar.

And I didn't see much to reccomend Tej's family over any other Great House on Jackson's Whole, aside from the interest in seeing Tej personally happy for Ivan's sake. There is no promise of a better future for the ordinary people of Jackson's Whole if Tej's family wins, versus if their rivals. They want to win the game, not reform it.

***

Now, to be clear, I loved the book. It was a visit with old friends, seeing everyone well-off and happy, their problems reduced to a managable size. It tied up loose ends, answered long-held questions, and filled in all sorts of detail I hadn't even known I'd wanted, such as a haut's-eye view of the Cetagandan occupation of Barrayar.

***

Perhaps, for someone new to the series, the SF componant, the world-changing struggle of Tej's family to gain power on Jackson's Whole, would be more compelling. A new reader would not have the decades-long knowledge of Jackson's Whole that makes the interests of a Great House there rather distasteful to a long-time reader.

Which would probably help balance the loss of all the detail that makes this fodder for folks who are old friends of the Vorkosigan clan.
Rob Munnelly
49. RobMRobM
Ursula - now that I think of it, having a Vorkosigan family connection to the Cetaganda jump point on Jackson's Hole would be very interesting if/when the Cetas decide to go of the offensive again, say in about ten years or so. Yet another building block in place for the big finish story or series of stories.
- Ivan as an Ambassador who could be based on Ceta, JH or elsewhere on the Hegan Hub;
- adventurous eldest Miles daughter needs to find a place in the world given that her brother will be Lord and then Count, and could be visiting Beta, JH or elswhere in the Hub, alone or with one of her little sisters, when hostilities break out;
- Dendarii still in play and called upon to intervene to protect the Vorkosigan kids (Helen and Taura, meet Admiral Elli);
- Gregor finally outing Miles as a tactical genius and putting him in charge of Barryar's military response to the Ceta threat; etc....
Maiane Bakroeva
50. Isilel
I am with Bergmaniac @22, I was disappointed by this book. It is a by-the-numbers romance with a completely predictable HEA.
Yes, there are some funny/touching moments (groats/Lady Alice/Byerly, mostly), but that wasn't enough.
Blandest central female character in the series so far, suddenly fluffy Jacksonians, largely pro-forma appearances by established characters... And I say it as somebody who had been wishing for an Ivan book for years and year...

I am a rabid Vorkosiverse fan (and love the 5-gods books too, for the most part), but IMHO everything after The Civil Campaign (which I adore - this is how a space opera romance _should_ be done, IMHO) was on a steady downhill slope.
The universe is begging for a huge, dramatic shake-up in the vein and with the scope of Cordelia's duology that started it all, but it seems to me that Bujold is just too much in love with the characters to subject them to it and/or ran out of ideas for the setting. IMHO, YMMV.

Oh, and I didn't like the series starting with "The Sharing Knife" at all. It falls into the same pitfall most fantasy romances do - i.e. that romance totally supersedes adventure and world-building, to the detriment of all 3.
Pamela Adams
52. Pam Adams
I loved the 'Great Houses' game. It makes sense that there's a Jacksonian version of Monopoly. Now I want to know about other games. Can't you imagine Miles playing Candyland with the family?
Rob Munnelly
53. RobMRobM
Miles played card games with Simon in Memory. Nicki had plastic models of space ships in Komarr. Can't think of anything else....
Ursula L
54. Ursula
RobM-

I don't see Ivan winding up an ambasador to Ceta, or Jackson's Whole, or any other place of key importance. In the closing scene, he and Tej seem to be looking towards assignments in quiet backwaters, both so that they can avoid a new "apprenticeship" and to avoid the political intregue they both dislike so much, and they both have been so badly hurt by.

And sending Ivan and Tej to represent Barrayar in any place where Tej's family has an interest will create a conflict of interest for the pair, as Tej loves her family. While she chooses not to live with them, as she rejects their lifestyle, values and morals, she doesn't want to hurt them directly. Gregor would be foolish to put her in a position where she'd have to choose between her family and Barrayar.

I'm much more curious about the future family dynamics. Will Tej and Ivan send their kids to visit their maternal grandparents, the way that Cordelia and Aral sent Miles to visit Cordelia's mother? Tej's family is loving, and would want to know her children. But they're also brutally pragmatic, and would draw the children into their schemes and Deals.

Even worse, they'd be the most horrible sort of bad influences. The casual way in which they considered murder as a tool of convenience (such as the offer to Tej to kill Ivan if she'd like) makes Barrayar's Time of Isolation look almost civilized.

To make it worse, Ivan didn't see them at their worst, as that came out during the scenes where Tej was talking to them alone, and they weren't on their best behavior for outsiders. Tej saw them at their worst, but sees this as natural and normal, albeit something she'd rather not be involved in directly. I doubt that she'd tell Ivan that her family casually offered to murder him for her. And I doubt that Ivan would want to voice all his concerns about her family to her, unless he knew the full nature of the threat to their children, because he cares for her, and knows she loves them, and would be hurt if she knew how much he distrusted them.

And besides, he won't bring it up unless absolutely necessary, because that's inviting a problem that could harmlessly be avoided. And I'm not sure if he knows just how necessary it is, and how severe the problem is. Because he doesn't know about the offer to murder him.

Now there's a problem for a future book. An adolescent child of Ivan and Tej, who has picked up Uncle Miles's taste for adrenaline, is sent to visit the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Just as the clan has developed an interest in something touching on Barrayar.
Rob Munnelly
55. RobMRobM
Ursula - interesting thoughts. I don't envision Ivan as lead ambassador in a key place but perhaps on one of the smaller Ceta planets or somewhere else nearby in the Hegan Hub. (You're right that there's too much of a conflict with JH itself.) Somewhere nearby where he can be at least some kind of player when the poop hits the fan.

I like the thought of what's going to happen with Ivan and Tej kids. Perhaps Ivan will ask Miles to have Helen and one of the younger girls go with their kid or kids on a trip to JH to see Tej's family and maybe stop by Beta or Sergayar en route there or back. The next generation stuff could play out in all sorts of ways - I still think Miles' eldest daughter will be the fulcrum, and bring the story to the next generation of Vorkosigans.
Alan Brown
56. AlanBrown
Count me as one who doesn't need a 'big finish story' to end this series. The older I get, the less I like the 'fate of the country/world/universe hangs in the balance' cliche. It is as unrealistic as the 'lone mad scientist makes huge breakthroughs' plot. Or stories where you have 'villians' instead of antagonists that have rational motives for their actions.
So books like this latest one suit me just fine.
Ursula L
57. Ursula
RobM -
Perhaps Ivan will ask Miles to have Helen and one of the younger girls go with their kid or kids on a trip to JH to see Tej's family and maybe stop by Beta or Sergayar en route there or back. The next generation stuff could play out in all sorts of ways - I still think Miles' eldest daughter will be the fulcrum, and bring the story to the next generation of Vorkosigans.
I expect that Ivan and Miles (and their respective families) are going to grow apart over time, rather than closer.

One thing that this book made clear to me, somewhat unexpectedly, is the strength of the different Vor clans, and that Ivan self-identifies as as Vorpatril, not a Vorkosigan.

Ivan and Miles, as children, were strongly focused on each other, as the nearest age-mate relatives on their father's side.

But now, the change has focused. Miles has Ekatrin's family as part of his life now, and Ivan has Tej's family.

In addition, Miles's closest galactic connection remains Beta, while Ivan now has some very strong and unexpected ties to Jackson's Whole. Given a choice between Beta and Jackson's Whole, Ivan would choose Beta, but given a choice between Tej and Miles, he'll choose Tej.

And I suspect the Tej/Miles choice trumps the Beta/Jackson's-Whole choice. Because for Ivan, the personal is valued more than the political. The political is to be avoided at all costs.

There are class and status issues as well. Miles will-be/is a Count, and Miles and his heirs are still ahead of Ivan in line to the Imperium. Ivan is several generations removed from both the Countship and the Imperium, and his children will be even farther removed. Ivan is an aristocrat, but a middling-one. His children will be minor aristocrats. And his grandchildren will likely be upper-middle-class, unless his descendants seek out power rather than continuing his habit of avoiding it as deadly poison.
Jo Walton
58. bluejo
Games: There's also strati-go and tacti-go, mentioned in The Vor Game where Gregor visits Miles in ImpSec and in The Warrior's Apprentice where Miles says he's been sick of it since he was 12. One mention is strati and the other is tacti, and I have always wondered if they're a) different games b) different levels of the same game or c) the exact kind of mistake writers so often make when they know they made something up and can't quite remember what.
Alan Brown
59. AlanBrown
I can see leaders of a warrior culture like the Vor wanting their children to hone their ability in both strategy and tactics, so to me, two related games makes sense.
Soon Lee
60. SoonLee
AlanBrown @56:

I agree with your point. Also, that Barrayar is now in a more secure & stable state than it has been for a long time is a reflection of the sacrifices of all the Barrayans (Piotr, Cordelia & Aral, Simon, Alys, the list is long). They have won.

If after all that has gone on before, and Barrayar still lies on a knife-edge of catastrophe, that to me, would be a failure.
Drew Holton
61. Dholton
re book I want written:

Personally, I've always been intrigued by the line "The peculiar ending to the Third Cetagandan War" which I believe occurred around the Komarr Rebellion.
daisyladen
62. Kevin Wallis
Lois has already written about what happens (in general) after Cryoburn. Added here. Also she's said that Miles dies young (about 56, I seem to remember, from ill health, no surprise there).

This is a repost of some comments that came up in a conversation at the dendarii.com chat list, discussing the ending of CryoBurn. Which, as usual, some readers found satisfactory and others not.
"But I don't need a novel to tell that ; I could sum it up in a page.
Everyone who was truly close to Aral -- Miles, Cordelia, to a lesser extent Gregor, some others -- gets to walk around for about a year with their brains scrambled. They keep thinking they're getting over it, but (since their brains are in fact still scrambled) they keep finding out that they're wrong. However, all of them have on-going work to keep them occupied, which gets them through. Miles has made all the major decisions and commitments for the next phase of his life already -- marriage, his children -- now he only has to go the distance. His kids do a lot to keep him on-track. They are all too young to have been much affected by Aral's death, in part because they only saw him a few times a year, in part because, well, grandparents aren't the same thing as parents in these issues. (There will be two more kids eventually, a boy and a girl. Don't ask me to name them.)
Ditto the Countship; Miles is committed to it, and now he just has to walk the walk. (I'd say it's about time the District got some attention, except that Ekaterin has been doing that half of the job ably for several years and continues to do so, so Miles likely takes the Vorbarr Sultana half. I've long thought that Counts are overworked, as they have to be simultaneously the equivalents of state governors and US senators.) I've not quite decided about Miles's post as an Imperial Auditor. Properly, he should resign, due to too many tasks on his plate to do them all properly. Especially if it involves long galactic trips, his former specialty, not to mention potential conflicts of interest at home. Miles is also his father's executor; Cordelia, to her enormous relief, gets to skip out of most of the heavy lifting on that score. Cordelia, taking the good Betan advice to make no major decisions or changes in one's life for at least a year after such profound bereavement, returns to Sergyar as its sole Vicereine, ably assisted by her old friend Admiral Jole to ride shotgun on the military/wormhole defense issues. Since she's been doing this job for over a decade, she can pretty much do it in her sleep, which is fortunate. At the end of, she finds, about two years, she finally gets her brain back and begins to find her own center and balance, at which point she is able to figure out what *she* really wants to do, and does it. (And it's not more Barrayaran politics, although there would be a period of transition, to hand things over in optimum order to her successor.) I do find it interesting that after the recovery period Miles's life choices narrow, but Cordelia's widen out. But then, she has a lot more years ahead of her than he does. As another character deeply experienced in bereavement said in another context: "You go on. You just go on. There's nothing more to it, and there's no trick to make it easier. You just go on." I don't think I need to spend a whole novel repeating what was said well enough the first time. (Well, and Aral Alexander, at age 18, deeply influenced by his Great-uncle Vorthys, with whom he is close, decides he wants to go to engineering school. Miles... gets over it. But that's another story.)
With respect to the theme of mortality, at least, it's "been there done that, done now", in other words. I have nothing further to add on that subject at this time, which makes all the cries for some lengthy view of Aral's funeral, etc., fall very strangely on my ear. There is nothing emotionally significant I could add in 50,000 words that I did not already say in 500. Also, in the aftermath of that event, there is no commercial plot to be had. Not one single exploding spaceship of any kind. Which is Aral's ultimate political triumph: that his death should be a political non-event for Barrayar. This forcing of his planet to go into withdrawal (or detox, depending on one's point of view) from his leadership is something he's been consciously working on since Gregor's majority, and fully engaged with since his move to Sergyar. I am certainly not going to take that quiet victory away from him.
Ta, L.
Alan Brown
63. AlanBrown
Thanks for posting that, Kevin. Very interesting peek into Ms. Bujold's thoughts.
daisyladen
64. bungluna
I would like to see a whole novel from Gregor's pov. I don't think there will be one, but I would find it satisfying to see him in action with Laissa and his kids, managing the empire and keeping Barrayar safe and whole.
daisyladen
65. clew
I enjoyed each scene and sentence of "Ivan's book", but the whole made me more and more unhappy in a way that's leaking back to my enjoyment of the other books. Somewhere Cordelia comments that it's easy for an egalitarian to move to an aristocracy if she gets to be one of the aristocrats, and that always faintly nauseated me, but she does do a lot of work to pay for it. Tej and Ivan suffer less from their systems than the people on the underside, and it's all gravy and costume drama for me. For some reason this book pointed that up for me a lot, the reverse-catharsis part.
daisyladen
66. Mark R
"the man who is too lazy to fail"

I'm assuming that phrase wasn't accidental. I too thought that particularly in the epilogue, Ivan acts as a future heir of David Lamb, Heinlein's protagonist in "The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail" from Time Enough for Love.

This isn't among her best but it was damn entertaining.
daisyladen
67. ungratefuljb
I like Miles and the rest of the characters too much to want a book that takes place after Cryoburn, because that means that something bad would happen to them. It's not just that Bujold's plot development usually involves "What's the worst thing that can happen to this character?" Happy people, living happy lives and watching their children grow up healthy and happy -- these make for incredibly boring books. But it's exactly what I wish will happen to Miles et al after Cryoburn. I don't wish any more interesting plots on them.

That said, I definitely wouldn't mind books set earlier than Cryoburn (Miles has a 10-year career of possible Dendarii stories, and another 9 years of Auditor-life) or (perhaps more interestingly) books set elsewhere in the timeline or that universe.
daisyladen
69. rabbitrabbit
After reading this book a few days ago, the one story that I really want to hear told in detail is that of the Cetagandan captain who runs away to warn his secret Barrayaran male lover of the imminent bombing of Vorksigan district at the end of the Cetagandan invasion. (With the caveat that they both end up hopefully getting away though they're presumed dead).

Upthread there was a lot of mention of this book not having high stakes, and few prospects for high stakes conflicts in future novels. I think one way to solve this is to go back to the incredibly high-stake contest of the Cetagandan invasion/end of the time of isolation, which although readers know the outlines and some of the events still has many stories to tell. You have intense culture/technological level clash, poverty vs. wealth, the possibilities of forbidden romance (see also the Rene Vorbretten ancestry), and guerilla warfare with all it's creativity and opportunities for unlikely combatents.
daisyladen
70. William H. Stoddard
I certainly agree with the romance novel interpretation of half of CVA, but I think "mystery" isn't quite what's going on in the other half. What it seems to me to be as a caper story, in the vein of The Hot Rock (one of the funniest movies ever made) or Inception. It's a story where there's a huge score to be made by carrying off an intricate plan, and a master planner who sets out to make it, and a whole series of things going wrong. We don't really see it from the viewpoint of the investigator trying to solve a mystery, but from the viewpoint of the artists trying to pull it off. That may be part of what made it fun.
daisyladen
71. postscript
I found this thread by googling to see if anyone hated the back cover art as much as I did! Why did they choose to hang such a poorly executed piece of sexist illustration on this poor book? Very disappointing.
Alan Brown
72. AlanBrown
Yeah, the cover was pretty hideous. But you can't judge a book by its cover though, as it was just nominated for a Hugo!

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