Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapters 13 and 14

Chapter 13 of Memory opens with a continuation of Gregor and Laisa’s romance. Miles has a great deal of assigned reading to do and Gregor and Laisa are having a courting picnic to introduce Laisa among the Emperor’s social circle. Their engagement is sort of an open secret at this point; those in attendance at the picnic certainly seem to be aware, those not in attendance are, perhaps, less well-informed.

The event also offers an occasion for Miles’s first conscious encounter with Lieutenant Vorberg. Vorberg is unlikely to ever hear Miles’s side of the story of what happened to his legs, but he gives Miles his. It is not flattering to the Dendarii. Miles tries to defend them. Oh Miles. How did you survive in covert ops? Miles’s assertion that he has heard some good things about those mercenaries who coincidentally happen to be named after some mountains he owns, but of course has no personal connection, is unconvincing.

Note: 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. Non-spoiler comments should also be relevant to the discussion at hand. Like Earth, Barrayar and other places in the galactic nexus live out sets of cultural practices that range from beautiful to genocidal. Regardless of what may be commonplace as a cultural practice in any place at any time, comments that question the value and dignity of individuals, or that deny anyone’s right to exist, are emphatically NOT welcome. Please take note.

The picnic features people who eat food that Bujold does not trouble to describe. They are also wearing clothes, I presume, unless Barrayaran courting picnics are much more avant garde than I have been lead to believe. We don’t get to hear about those either. I’m a little dissatisfied with this courting picnic—no ponies, no kissing, just some polite Vor being politely ornamental while Gregor and Laisa pretend not to be engaged yet. It’s major redeeming feature is the return of Drou. Drou was last seen dancing with the Emperor at her own wedding (and having a discussion about weapons with her father and brothers). It’s been far too long. Cutting out Drou also meant avoiding mention of her daughters until just a few chapters ago—readers who started the series with The Warrior’s Apprentice might be forgiven for assuming that Elena Bothari was the only girl Miles had ever met. The opportunities and resources available to Barrayaran women have expanded considerably since Cordelia offered Drou a blue dot from the duty free shop. I’m glad to see Drou back, and I wish we got to see more.

Miles will spend part of this section sorting out his wardrobe. He wonders if it would be simpler to hire a valet and put him in charge of clothing purchases. Surely, picking out five shirts is simpler than finding the right person for this particular job. In this moment, I think what Miles really needs is to give up on the Kon Mari routine he’s doing on his closet and make an appointment with his tailor. That said, I’m not sure why Miles doesn’t eventually hire a valet. He wears a lot of uniforms and business clothes, and those take dry cleaning. Or whatever the Barrayaran equivalent of dry cleaning is. He seems to have properly laundered and pressed uniforms in several styles ready to wear at a moment’s notice. In a household with limited staff. I suppose this could be one of Martin’s jobs—this is science fiction. Even if Martin is managing the laundering of bespoke garments, a teenager can’t hold down the job forever. The upcoming wedding is a HUGE deal, and it’s going to require some careful wardrobe management. This is the type of work that Armsmen can do, but given the limited number of those a Vor family is permitted to have at one time, and the uses to which the Vorkosigan Armsmen are more usually put, it seems sensible to hire someone who is not sworn.

Miles is not getting a valet today, and he is also not buying shirts. Instead, he is taking a call from Illyan, who seems to be about to pitch the Dagoola rescue. Again. Bujold prepped us for this with a visit from Galeni, who was concerned about a series of incidents in which Illyan seemed disoriented with regards to time. Miles couldn’t act on Galeni’s statements as they seemed to add up to stress or absentmindedness. Instead, he took the opportunity to fill readers in on Illyan’s personal life. Or rather, his lack of one. Illyan commands ImpSec. He also lives at ImpSec. Visiting the Emperor to deliver intelligence reports must have been a welcome reprieve from ImpSec’s oppressive architecture.

The com call raises Galeni’s concerns to a much higher level. Miles passes the issue back to the chain of command by calling Haroche over at ImpSec and asking him to listen to the recording of the call. Miles’s efforts to follow up with Haroche and Gregor run afoul of people not answering their coms. Miles assumes they’re dealing with the crisis. Actually, they’re sitting on their hands until Illyan has a major breakdown during a staff meeting. This is your first clue that Haroche stinks. I respect the difficulty of relieving Illyan of command. However, I think Haroche could have checked in about Miles’s call and suggested that Illyan present himself for medical evaluation in private. I’m sure Haroche would like everyone involved to think that he did. This is a reread, so I’m also sure that Haroche did no such thing. I hope Haroche’s shirts are all too snug in the armscye.

In hindsight, all of Haroche’s moves, while apparently understandable choices for an ImpSec officer taking on the challenges of commanding a massive organization, are intended to make Illyan sicker. Haroche will further his general wretchedness by refusing to allow Miles to see Illyan in ImpSec’s clinic. Miles commits himself to getting reports from Gregor, and prepares to wait and see.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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