Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapter 24-ish

Hey reread readers! This blog post is coming to you from Thanksgiving morning, where your intrepid reread blogger is Not hosting, Not guesting, and Not triggering her respiratory allergies. I have also opted out of our annual national seminar on Current Issues in Gender Politics; we are not trying to make the house look like a new Mediterranean Fusion restaurant, and we are not cooking a turkey. What even makes it Thanksgiving? We wore out the dog on an extra-long walk this morning—he got to play with several of the neighbor-dogs, we are all very thankful—and now we’re making pie.

To further the theme of not allowing anyone to be judged for their adherence to meaningless cultural standards, let’s talk about my recent difficulties keeping track of which chapter we’re in! Last week’s blog post delved fairly far into chapter 23, but didn’t admit it. This week we’re going to Gregor’s reception. Can I remember what chapter that is in? No. I could look it up, but the book is on the other side of the dog. I would have to put down the laptop, move my feet (which are under the dog), and rummage around in a pile of books. I’m not doing that. Gregor’s reception is somewhere in the vicinity of chapter 24. If that’s not good enough for you, you can look it up yourself.

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.

It is unusually difficult to keep track of the chapters in Memory because the story is so fast-paced. There are several natural stopping points, but they’re all kind of cliff-like for my taste. I would rather speed through to the next dramatic moment, and you know how that goes. Anyway, here we are, at Gregor’s reception. Ivan brought Martya, the Koudelka sister who decided she can put up with him for an evening. Illyan is wearing a nice coat—not a departure from his usual conservative style, but much better tailored than usual—and dancing with Alys. Duv is sharing a plate of hors d’oeuvres with Delia. Miles couldn’t find a date, you know, because his job has been so demanding lately. He’s dancing with Laisa when ImpSec shows up to arrest Galeni for treason.

Just imagine the difficulties this must have caused for Lucas Haroche! To have found out that one of his analysts may have committed treason, and he’s a Komarran, and the future Empress’s best old friend! And he’s kibbitzing at the Palace right this moment! Well, obviously, there was nothing for it but to… send some officers off to arrest Galeni from the middle of the Emperor’s party. Yeah. It was such an urgent rush that Haroche had to finish whatever he was doing before he joined them. I can just imagine—“You go ahead and arrest the traitor, guys, I’ll just lock up here and turn out the lights and I’ll be right behind you.” How horrible that it turns out to be Galeni, right? I mean, he was really headed for great things, and just getting his love life together, but, darn, Komarrans. He must be secretly resentful about that time Miles’s clone brother killed his surprisingly-not-dead dad. No one likes to think that anyone is disloyal, no matter where they come from, but isn’t he just the most convenient scapegoat, though? I mean, that’s not the kind of accusation you can deny without looking into it really carefully first. Galeni had, probably, four or five conversations with his dad after good old Ser Galen faked his death when Duv was fourteen. At least one of them was NOT under the influence of fast penta. It should be obvious to absolutely everyone that Galeni had ample time to develop a sympathetic view of his father’s cause. What about the way Galeni abandoned a promising career in academia to be one of the first Komarrans admitted to the Imperial Military Academy so he could build a brighter future for Komarr from within the Barrayaran Empire? If you accept Haroche’s view, those were trivial sacrifices. Meaningless really. The only thing that counts is knowing that a previously unknown relative of a recent acquaintance offed someone Galeni had thought was dead until very recently, when he had come to understand that his father was dangerously unbalanced and willing to kill his sole surviving son.

And, I still think that Ser Galen also killed his older son. I know Lois said that was an accident. I like my fictional villains really, really ruthless, and a series of murders fits well into Ser Galen’s characterization for me.

Haroche is very understanding of everyone’s desire to believe the absolute best of the people of Komarr, since, after all, they include Gregor’s fiance. Later on, in his office, Haroche will acknowledge to Miles that Laisa is a lovely young woman. It’s so open-minded of him to say that after setting off the social equivalent of a tactical nuke during her reception. But hey, she might as well begin learning about the dangers of Barrayaran politics now, right? Her friends could get arrested. Right in front of her. Even the Emperor, her fiance, might be powerless to stop it. This has some uncomfortable parallels to the world you live in, US readers! Someone in your community is probably spending today under the threat of deportation, and they’re probably a decent person who wishes no harm to anyone—last month ICE arrested a ten-year-old out of surgical recovery at a hospital in Texas. That’s the Haroche we all live with. We’re all aware it could be worse. We know about some other earlier moments that were much more serious. It’s easy to disassociate what’s happening now from the times that shit got real in the past. The dangers have not yet been fully understood.

What is Miles going to do about Galeni right now? Nothing. He had planned to follow Galeni to ImpSec and start getting the mess sorted out, but a seizure gets in the way. Miles is pretty hard on himself about it. I don’t think he should be—uncontrolled seizures have a major impact on a person’s life. Martin’s terrified reaction is understandable—Miles sees his seizures as inconvenient because he’s in denial about the risks (at least when he’s not wearing combat armor). Next week, we’ll look at how Miles made use of the delay.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.


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