Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Brothers in Arms, Chapters 4-6

So, I sat down to pick an end point for this week’s blog post and realized that the problem was not so much the end as the beginning. Yeah, someone forgot where the dividing line was between chapters 3 and 4. Some of the important details in chapter 4 were neglected and we need to take a second look. These issues help frame the competing forces of identities, relationships, revenge and duty in chapters 5 and 6, and those are fairly central to the book.

This reread has an index, which you can consult if you feel like exploring previous books and chapters. 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.

Miles is a pretty Carpe Diem kind of guy (which explains the Marvell poem i mentioned last week), and is even more so in his Naismith persona. It’s a sign of his desperation that, during his second embassy reception, he’s reduced to pondering seizing a goldfish on suspicion of espionage. In his defense, the reception has been undermined by a set of mis-delivered in-ear translation devices. I suspect sabotage, perhaps a plot by the short-staffed Cetagandan embassy. Miles’s companion on this occasion is one of the wives of the Baba of Lairouba. They don’t share a common language, so I can’t evaluate her interests or personality. I imagine that she’s a biologist with a keen interest in genetically modified seeds, and she dabbles in interior design. Her younger brother is a budding actor who has been taking classes in mime, which is why she finds Miles amusing. No word on who Ivan is awkwardly pantomiming to. I concur with Miles’s dismay when the earbugs are delivered just in time for the after-dinner speeches.

Post-speech, Miles is approached by the reporter who watched Naismith’s rescue of the clerk from the liquor store in chapter three. I mentioned this last week, but I think it is worth bringing up again. Not atypically for Miles in his mid-twenties, he thinks he’s a lot smoother than he is. He proposes that Naismith is his clone, blames the Cetagandans, and then says that Naismith’s presence makes “his own security” nervous. Our plucky girl reporter either isn’t at the top of her game, or has bought the romantic balderdash the Lord Mayor of London’s wife was encouraging Miles to dish out at the last reception; She fails to spot that Miles’s “own” security is not provided by the Barrayaran government or, at least in this instance, by his father’s armsmen. Lt. Lord Vorkosigan doesn’t have his own security on Earth. Miles’s own security in this instance is provided by the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet, Admiral Naismith commanding.

Miles is going to encounter this reporter again shortly, in his alter ego. Once again, the Dendarii’s funds have not come through. The Dendarii need a loan, and the Admiral’s duties are piling up. Miles secures permission from Galeni to take a security detail and tend to business. Miles’s head is full of foreshadowing as he suspects Galeni of embezzling the Dendarii’s funds, and wonders what his family might have lost in the Komarran revolt. Galeni hasn’t said anything about his family, which is hardly surprising, as he also doesn’t seem to be interested in socializing with his juniors. But yes, that is an interesting line of thought.

Miles heads for the shuttleport, security in tow, and everything gets hairy when someone tries to drop a maintenance vehicle on him. At this point, it should be evident to the most casual observer that Miles has both Dendarii and Barrayaran security working for him, which should blow his cover. But he sticks to the story while the London police interrogate Elli, who blew away the attackers with a rocket launcher. That she fired from the hip. I fully understand why Miles finds her so irresistible. I can also see why the press shows up and Miles does his best to continue to confuse his enemies. At this moment, he feels certain his enemies are the Cetagandans, with a possible side-order of Duv Galeni. The police let Elli go when they discover that the remains in the maintenance vehicle belonged to some local hit men. Miles assumes that the Cetagandans are trying to subcontract out Naismith’s assassination.

The kerfuffle at the shuttle port results in a delay in Vicky Bones’s plan to commit financial fraud. It’s a short delay, and the plan is successful anyway. The Dendarii start looking for temp jobs to try to prevent the financial situation from deteriorating further. Miles also dispatches Elena Bothari to deliver a message to Commodore Destang at Tau Ceti IV about Miles’s suspicions in re. The missing eighteen million marks. Miles’s theories revolve around Galeni pocketing the cash for an unknown purpose. He hopes that’s not true because he would hate to justify Barrayaran prejudices against Komarrans.

The third line of duty that Miles is going to attend to this week is Lord Vorkosigan’s duty. He proposes to Elli. Remember that Elli is in on Miles’s personal story, but she usually spends time with Admiral Naismith. So Miles isn’t just proposing to her, he’s proposing in his own person as someone Elli doesn’t really know. Miles and Elli have only been out on a date once, and he was Admiral Naismith then. Remember that, on that occasion, Elli bought her own cat blanket, and then sent it back to the embassy with Miles. This is a metaphor for what their marriage would be like if Elli was crazy enough to consent to it; She would have to make enormous sacrifices to take on an entirely new role in life for Miles’s benefit. Elli sees Miles as an Admiral who sometimes pretends to be heir to a Barrayaran countship and a Lieutenant in the Barrayaran military. She not only doesn’t know Lord Vorkosigan (although she thinks his accent is cool), she doesn’t know why Miles wants to continue to be him.

I don’t think Miles deserves to propose at this point. He and Elli have been avoiding romance until very recently. Furthermore, Miles still has a huge crush on Elena Bothari, and he’s hooking up with Taura in his free time. I don’t think he’s been up-front with Elli about any of that. He wants things that he hasn’t earned. The idea of earning the right to propose is pretty far off his twenty-five-year-old radar. I’m glad she said no. Miles will be finding himself encumbered with more relationships, and with the obligations they confer, shortly after he returns to the embassy and finds that Galeni has disappeared.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.


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