Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

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

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

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

This week offers an interesting catalog of Miles Vorkosigan’s personal strategies for dealing with captivity. These include (but are not limited to):

  1. Pretending to be on a spaceship. I would do this. In all honesty, I think ship duty in the Barrayaran space navy is probably pretty boring. The Dendarii and other mercenary companies seek out conflict as their way of life. That tends to keep things exciting. The Barrayaran Space Forces aren’t permitted to autonomously seek excitement. I would guess that, most of the time, ship duty is a lot like sitting in Ops, with a much higher chance of a life-threatening decompression accident. And no after-work dating, since Barrayarans are not particularly open about sexual relationships between men.
  2. Wandering the building. I would also do this. Miles’s captors are trying to pretend not to be captors until he tries pushing his limits. Then they return him to quarters and issue him one hundred cafeteria chits. Miles is dismayed. At a rate of three meals a day, 100 cafeteria chits implies a planned captivity of only slightly over a month. Of course, they could be reissued. Guys, I think this was a really dangerous thing to do to Miles Vorkosigan. ImpSec is lucky he didn’t go crawling through their duct work for another 10 years (Memory).
  3. Getting drunk. Emperor Gregor comes to visit, bringing a gift from the Vorkosigan Estates. Miles suspects his mother’s hand in this. He’s too lonely to fail to appreciate his mother. Miles and Gregor chat about their mutual misery without Miles picking up on what Gregor is about to do. Nonetheless, it is apparent that Gregor is overwhelmed by the burdens of his role and feels trapped. He does not bring up Prince Serg. Miles thinks about Prince Serg a shocking amount given the lack of explicit reference to Serg in the ongoing conversation. Gregor does bring up Miles’s thwarted ambitions, and his belief that Miles should be an officer. That’s nice. A touching expression of faith in his childhood friend and all that. For his part, Miles encourages Gregor to marry and have a lot of children very quickly. Miles is concerned about the succession. Gregor and Miles also play one of the several Barrayaran strategy games that is somewhat like chess and somewhat like Stratego. I would not do that. Not even while drunk. I’m terrible at chess and I hate it. I think these things might be related. I love talking about royalty and their romantic relationships, so I’m a little bummed that Gregor hasn’t had a mildly scandalous fling with an opera singer or something. I get the sense that Gregor is a little bummed about that too.
  4. Getting a job. Illyan makes Miles do some accounting. I’m going to interpret this as foreshadowing for Miles’s second career, which has historical roots in accounting.

Miles’s fabulous catalog of boring things to do when you’re bored comes to an end in chapter eight. I’m a little disappointed, because a single chapter is not long enough for Illyan to come to a truly complete understanding of why keeping Miles Vorkosigan in a box is a bad idea. ImpSec could have sunk into the swamp (Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance) many years sooner if Miles had been confined to it for just a few more months. But Illyan thinks he may have use for the Dendarii, who have changed their name back to the Oserans, and he’s sending Miles to see what can be done.

Miles will be traveling with Lt. Ungari, who is the real intelligence agent on this mission. Since Miles is posing as a mercenary admiral who is posing as a weapons dealer, they will also be accompanied by Sgt. Overholt who will be posing as Miles’s bodyguard. My last blog post focused on civil disobedience, and Overholt didn’t figure into it, but he was there—he’s the guy who brought Miles back to Vorbarr Sultana in handcuffs. Miles mentally dubbed him “Sgt. Overkill.”

It’s great to be free of ImpSec. I think I appreciate this trip—which, at this point, is a trip to a space station—more for having just seen Miles spend a month locked in what is essentially Illyan’s closet. Miles gets to go to Pol! He negotiates a fake weapons deal with a shady weapons dealer! He encounters one of his former combat commandos who identifies him! There’s a private meeting with an attractive but dangerous woman who is almost precisely Miles’s height! We get a glimpse of the corrupt Jacksonian houses! It’s all fun and games until station authorities find the body on the floor, and it’s the body of one of Miles’s shady business connections. Ungari asks if Miles killed him, and Miles retorts that he would have reported any murders to Ungari right away. Oh, Miles. A month in ImpSec custody has not made you a good subordinate. Miles didn’t murder the guy; He’s pretty sure the murderer was acting on the orders of the seductive blonde who’s conducting business in an evening jumpsuit and stilettos. Apparently, you don’t see a lot of high fashion on space stations in the Pol system.

Ungari makes for neutral space to spare Miles from being arrested twice in one book. I feel like it might be prudent to catalog what we know about the current state of the mercs formerly known as the Dendarii: They are patrolling a wormhole on a government contract. Commodore Jesek has been demoted to chief engineer. Tung is no longer Chief of Staff, but head of Personnel. They have changed their name back to the Oserans. Admiral Oser claims that Naismith was a con. Miles is making what he probably thinks is a credible effort to let Ungari decide when to activate Admiral Naismith. He’s not doing very well. That’s cool with me, because I think Naismith is the more interesting story. Ungari is in for a hell of a ride.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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