Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Ethan of Athos, Chapters 12-15

Last week in Ethan of Athos, everyone except Quinn and Terrence got arrested. Quinn slipped out the door at a strategic moment, and Terrence was outside Millisor’s quarters with a stunner for the entire fight. Now that I think about it, this was an excellent reason to have Ethan carry the med-kit. The health department raid was a pretty exciting climax to the story so far. What’s next?

This reread has an index, which you can consult if you feel like exploring previous books and chapters. We’re covering books in reading order, so Ethan is the seventh book, rather than the third. Spoilers are welcome in the comments if they are relevant to the discussion at hand. Comments that question the value and dignity of individuals, or that deny anyone’s right to exist, are emphatically NOT welcome. Please take note.

SUMMARY

Chapter 12: Having discovered Helda’s sabotage, and ensured that Millisor is aware of it as well, Ethan heads back to his quarters. Then he gets bored and arranges travel to Escobar and Beta Colony to buy some ovarian cultures.

Chapter 13: In one of the most transparently coerced comm link calls in the history of Kline Station, Terrence lures Ethan to a fight in one of Kline Station’s shuttle bays.

Chapter 14: Quinn gives Ethan an ovary, and Terrance gives Quinn a tissue sample. Flesh, it seems, is the only currency that matters.

Chapter 15: Ethan returns to Athos, with Terrence and a substantial number of ovarian cultures.

COMMENTARY

The things that caught my attention this week aren’t thematically related, so I’m approaching them in list form.

  1. KLINE STATION’S GRAVITY IS ON A DIMMER SWITCH—We knew this before! Helda used this feature to contain a flock of birds that escaped from a float pallet in a public corridor. This may be the only thing Helda has ever done that I approve of. Well. One of two, anyway (the other was her handling of a bereaved family back when Elli was disposing of a corpse)—Influenza is serious business. Elli will manipulate gravity for a tactical advantage while fighting the Cetagandans in the shuttle bay. No one has ever yet taken my advice on how to build a space station, but in case someone is interested—I think you should AT LEAST have to enter a password before you can alter the artificial gravity.
  1. QUINN MAKES STRANGE BEDFELLOWS—At the end of the fight in the shuttlebay, the agents of House Bharaputra extract “payment” for a “debt” by dislocating Quinn’s left elbow—I’m making liberal use of quotation marks because I’m not super-certain what she owes, or how a dislocated elbow makes House Bharaputra whole. It’s not that it wasn’t explained—Bujold explained the situation very clearly. It’s just that the explanation leaves me with a nagging sense of having forgotten to carry the one. I have always believed that Jackson’s Whole is in some way related to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but I have never figured out how or why. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a charming area near Yellowstone with a lot of red trucks. My father bought me a cowboy hat there when I was fifteen. Jackson’s Whole is basically Human Traffickers R’Us. I have looked into the history of Jackson Hole and not found anything that would justify its being assigned such a horrible homophone. I may have missed something? Bujold is not going to make the Whole kinder or friendlier as the series progresses. As part of her intelligence operation, Quinn has contracted with House Bharaputra to kill four Cetagandans. She took half of her agreed-upon compensation in advance, with the remainder to be paid upon completion of the job. Two of the Cetagandans are now dead. Bharaputra’s agents feel that the terms of the contract have been violated. Quinn argues that she received half the money and the job is half-done, so nothing more is owed. The Bharaputrans point out that the second agent’s death was a result of their intervention. I feel like Bharaputra may still feel that Elli owes them something. I feel like this could be an issue at some point in the uncertain future.
  1. I CAN’T KEEP TRACK OF ALL THE SAMPLES AND CULTURES—Having assured Millisor before his death that the ovarian cultures with Janine’s telepathy genes had all been destroyed, Elli, Terrance, and Quinn find the cultures in Kline Station’s cold storage before Ethan heads to Beta Colony. They can’t just pack up those samples and return to Athos, because if they did the Cetagandans would figure out that they had. Ethan still travels to Beta Colony, and purchases more ovarian cultures there. So now he has Terrence’s genetically engineered complex with the recessive psychic gene complex, a bunch of cultures from Beta Colony, and Elli’s ovary. Somehow this adds up to half the population of Athos being psychic in two generations. I’m not following the math. I’m also not certain why Ethan would do it. But I’m not overly troubled by my failure to understand math or strategy or Jacksonian economics because I’m quite confident I’ve got the important part.
  1. ETHAN/TERRENCE—Ethan is home, Janos has run off with Nick, and Terrence is very interested in having children. Lots of children. That’s why he’s been through this entire ordeal with the Cetagandans and House Bharaputra. Terrence and Ethan are well-suited. I think their partnership will be long and fruitful even if it’s not traditionally romantic. I think it will be romantic eventually, though—I’ve been reading for a long time, I know what balcony scenes are for.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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