Last week’s blog post, which purported to end with Chapter 19, actually covered Chapter 20. This week, we start with Chapter 21, in which Miles and Illyan have a meeting, and Miles’s mother comes home. In Chapter 22, Miles decides to turn ImpSec upside down and discovers a false entry in the evidence room logs.
Reminder: 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.
I’m not well-acquainted (or, frankly, remotely acquainted) with the practices employed by others in the reread blog industry, so I don’t know how common it is to reread the work under examination multiple times in the process of trying to define sections in a work where multi-chapter sections were not created with any sort of intention, or to follow themes that also may or may not have been intentional, or to understand why you, the reread blogger, missed that the baboon thing several books down the line wasn’t meant to be taken literally. In any case, I have reread this section approximately a dozen times, and in the process, I have noticed that things are happening that Bujold wrote about. I have also noticed that there are several enormous heaps of laundry on my basement floor, and that my husband—the love of my life, my partner in all things—believes that his commitment to help with folding and putting away those of the heaps that are clean is meant to be activated by my finishing this blog post and getting a start on that project myself.
This is a particularly fraught time of year for working families, so I am envious of how smoothly Miles’s household functions both without him and around him. In Chapter 21, Miles’s mother arrives at what is technically her home, but actually a visit, and MILES DOESN’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. He greets her formally because he doesn’t feel like hugging. Not-hugging, by the way, is a great boon to people who suffer from respiratory allergies. It’s hard for these individuals to know what they’re going to react to—perfume, shampoo, and fabric softener can all be risky, and visitors could be drenched in all three. Guests could have mold spores, pollen, or pet dander clinging to their clothing even if they have excellent personal hygiene. Just because a person encounters those things every day doesn’t mean they’re going to have an easy time dealing with yours. Let’s not expect people to smoosh their faces close to our bodies! Offer a warm two-handed handshake, a bottle of wine, and a non-flowering decorative gourd. Or perhaps a side dish.
The discovery in the Evidence Room means that Miles is going to work late during his mother’s visit. I can tell Cordelia is a science fiction relative, because she’s fine with that. Lady Alys drops by to assign her wedding-related reading, and Cordelia actually does it. I think this was a poor strategic move on Alys’s part because she’s already stated that Cordelia is notoriously recalcitrant when it comes to these things. I assume that Cordelia is completing her assigned reading only so that she can better prepare her troops to undermine those parts of the proceedings to which she takes offense. I imagine that Cordelia, Alys, and Laisa spend most of Miles’s work day discussing the minutiae of the various ceremonies at which Laisa will shortly be taking some very binding vows. I hope they took the time to negotiate a prenuptial agreement. I certainly wouldn’t marry Gregor without one.
Cordelia travels with her own retinue of assistants and servants, and they handle the matter of taking all the dust clothes off the furniture and opening up disused rooms. Miles shows up at odd hours for meals, which are delicious. Vorkosigan House is basically a cruise ship on land, somehow equally amenable to being run by a staff of two plus a weekly visit from a cleaning service, or by a staff of thousands who can smoothly manage the transition between the Viceroy’s Palace on Sergyar and the private residence in Vorbarr Sultana.
In his time away from the house, Miles is not plagued with guilt about domestic chores left undone, or the state of Vorkosigan House’s landscaping. He is free to concentrate on inspecting ImpSec one department at a time. Physical Plant is his favorite. They remind him of the Dendarii. They will be important later. Ivan has to do the evidence room, so he’s the one who finds the virus spores that Ser Galen’s Komarran separatist conspiracy commissioned on Jackson’s Whole. Do the Jacksonians offer a conspiracy bundle? Can you get one clone, one destructive virus, and an assortment of fake IDs and weapons at a discount price? The virus was brought in and catalogued after Ser Galen’s death on Earth. It was deployed sometime much more recently.
While Miles has been crawling through ImpSec, Lucas Haroche has been working on improving their relationship. He’s commented on Miles’s unique and extensive experience with the Jacksonian Houses. He’s offered respectful commentary on the work Miles did for Illyan. He’s a slimy toad. Galeni has spent these last weeks forming a sincere attachment to Delia Koudelka. The Koudelka sisters have been talking about that, and making their disinterest clear to Ivan. Gregor and Laisa have been planning a reception for their particular friends. Miles’s doctor has come up with a treatment for his seizures. We will deal with all of that next week.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.