Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapter 29 (Plus Komarr Book Covers)

In the very last chapter of Memory, Miles finally makes a clean breast of it with Elli Quinn. You may recall Quinn as having appeared in the very early chapters of this story, round about the bit where Vorberg’s legs came off. Since then, she has been in Miles’s thoughts as someone he couldn’t explain himself to. You might also recall that Miles’s most recent dalliance, prior to this chapter, was with Sgt. Taura.

I certainly do.

Admiral Naismith had many uses, both to Miles and to me as a reader, but he also had some significant personal flaws, some of which were in play that time he had sex with Taura while she was freezing and starving and locked in a basement. Some others include thinking that it would be peachy keen for him to repeatedly ask Elli to marry him while keeping the nature, frequency, and duration of his relationship with Taura as a secret from Elli. Taura and Elli both deserved more. In a book where Miles has gotten his captain’s tabs, fallen into a job he seems to have been destined for from birth, AND hired the most amazing cook in Vorbarr Sultana, there has to be something he doesn’t get. He doesn’t get my approval for the way he has conducted himself romantically—although I think it is fair to point out that Miles’s relationship issues have not led him to homicide, so hooray for generational improvements—and he doesn’t get Elli Quinn.

Hail and farewell, Admiral Quinn! Miles warns her about letting competent subordinates go unpromoted for too long, lest they turn out like him or like Haroche. They might see each other again, Miles says, and perhaps have flings from time to time, but they hold themselves free (which, in fact, Miles has always done) so they can fall for other people, mostly so that Miles can find his Lady Vorkosigan. The absence of Elli’s inner monologue is an inconvenience to reread bloggers. This is at least the second time Elli has had a long, late-night conversation over expensive food with someone who wants to reproduce with her. I like to imagine that she considered the tyramine content of the meal, however irrelevant that might be to the parties present, and spared at least a little thought for her donated ovary and the sons it has been producing since the last time.

With Elli dispatched back to the Fleet, Miles takes his armsman and heads home to become a settled domestic creature. He has a cook, a kitchen, and a box of kittens. This is very different from the Dendarii’s personnel and arsenal, so I feel compelled to point out the similarities; they were both unexpected and expensive, and Miles has paid for both of them in blood. In Memory’s final scene, Miles contemplates a bottle of his grandfather’s oldest wine and finds that it has gone off. Miles’s decision to give it up for something less like vinegar seems to me like a commitment to bleed less in the future. Miles will always be Piotr’s grandson, and he no longer needs to suffer to prove it.

Miles will be back on Komarr next week, when we meet Ekaterin, a lady whose problems are both very far removed from mercenaries and space battles, and much closer to them than she has yet realized.

That makes NOW a perfect time for the book covers!

Komarr was first published in 1998. Baen’s original cover, by Gary Ruddell, featured the “Face Off” motif that Ruddell used for several other covers as well. Miles’s face looks drawn and scarred. Ekaterin has amazing skin—residents of Komarr don’t get a lot of direct sun. In the background, the damaged soletta array appears to be on fire. In previous conversations about Komarr on this reread blog, Bujold has referred to it as Space Venice. Ruddell’s painting features a couple of gondolas in the middle distance, which is nice visual support for this idea.

The British cover, by Fred Gambino, features a character I assume is Miles, but who might equally well be Tien Vorsoisson or one of the Komarran conspirators. This individual looks well-prepared for the rigors of the Komarran wilds, with a breath mask and a stunner. I’m making assumptions about the stunner because that’s the only hand weapon that I recall appearing in the book. I had previously been given the impression that a stunner could easily be concealed in most Barrayaran formalwear. This stunner is massive. Gambino has also included a depiction of waste heat being released from the tower in the background.

The Japanese and Croation covers also feature men. The Japanese cover seems to show Tien in a dark business suit, looking worried. Esad Ribic painted Ekaterin for his cover of Winterfair Gifts, but she’s relatively small and in the background. For Komarr, Ribic showed either Tien or Miles in what I presume is formal parade uniform. If this is Miles, he’s gained a lot of weight since Ribic’s cover of Mirror Dance—he is remarkably rectangular, not at all like his usual wiry self.

An alternate Japanese cover shows Ekaterin, and she looks like she’s about to take off her shoes. This represents one of Ekaterin’s early attempts to foil the Komarran plot—not a successful one, but one that demonstrates her commitment to the cause. Komarr is at least half Ekaterin’s story.

The French cover shows her in a more reflective moment—Ekaterin looks at her bonsai skellytum plant while wearing a breath mask. The damaged soletta array is in the background. This image ties together Ekaterin’s Barrayaran roots and her experiences on Komarr, and while I don’t think it was the artist’s intention, I think it emphasizes her similarity to Miles. Memory gave Miles chance after chance to flee Barrayar screaming. Everyone was surprised when he turned them all down. Ekaterin will be facing similar choices.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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