Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapter 1

Welcome to Diplomatic Immunity! Can Miles still have his usual adventures now that he’s married and about to become a dad? This is a book suggests that he can, but he may have to accept some new limits.

Exciting news this weekthe Internet Speculative Fiction Database now has links that let you see all the print covers associated with a title on one page. The thanks of this grateful blogger—and I imagine many others—go out to the staff and volunteers at the ISFDB.

Tragically, most of the covers for Diplomatic Immunity are dreadful.

Stephen Hickman’s cover for Baen showcases generic space armor.

Steve Stone’s art for the British edition showcases generic spaceships.

I have only found one cover that even attempts to portray a Quaddie. While I appreciate that someone made the attempt, I’m annoyed that Martina Pilcerova replaced feet with hands rather than replacing legs with arms. I know a kneecap when I see one!

Esad Ribic’s piece evokes Quaddie ballet, but presents a culturally inappropriate number of legs.  This could also be Miles and Bel fighting off some kind of attack.

The Kindle version of the cover references babies, which are on everyone’s mind in one way or another.

Seriously, everyone in this book wants to reproduce.

Miles wants to reproduce A LOT. He’s on the galactic version of his honeymoon with Ekaterin, and he keeps replaying the vids of his sperm fertilizing Ekaterin’s egg. While reciting Shakespeare. Miles initially suggested that they have TWELVE children, but not seriously, only as a starting point for negotiation. He planned to fall back to six. Because Miles is INSANE. It’s possible that being an only child really did scar him and the nature of those scars has not been readily apparent until now. None of his children stand to be disinherited so, unlike his parents, he can have as many as he likes. Miles’s concern about the Vorkosigan line coming to a bottleneck with him (which rather discounts Mark’s potential contributions) is easily answered with lots and lots of little Vorkosigans. Someday, an insanely wealthy Vor Lord is going to have sixty children ALL AT ONCE, and be like “I JUST WANT LOTS OF BABIES I LOVE THEM ALL” and then those babies will intermarry with all the other Vor families in adulthood and also have enormous families causing genetic chaos that can only be managed with REPLICATORS FOR EVERYONE and the Vor won’t be able to reproduce any other way, and whoever the Emperor is at the time won’t know whether to blame Miles or Vormuir. This is why the Haut went into genetic engineering. This is why men on Athos have to save up Social Duty credits.

Miles was the eighteenth replicator birth on Barrayar, at a time when uterine replicators were entirely new and reserved not only for emergencies, but for emergencies involving influential and indomitable mothers. Within ten years, people were starting to use replicators as an alternative to in vivo births if they could afford it, and if they wanted to. Eleven years ago when Ekaterin had Nikki, replicators were available, but priced beyond the easy reach of the average young couple. And perhaps they still are, but Miles is not average. He can afford a bank of the things. Miles and Ekaterin are having two children FOR NOW, just to start. And why not? There’s no additional medical risk inherent in having two babies cooking in two separate replicators at the same time. The Vorkosigans can afford to handle the difficulties of managing two infants with thoughtful staffing. They planned their honeymoon around the births—they started the babies cooking on their anniversary, and they’ll be back from their travels in time to pop the seals for their children’s births.

Oh yes, also, Miles has a message.

Gregor needs Miles to divert from his planned itinerary to deal with a situation on Graf Station. There’s been some kind of dust-up with a Komarran trade fleet and its Barrayaran military escort which have docked at the Station and are not being allowed to leave. Gregor would like Miles to solve this problem, as he would like his fleet to be free to respond to some unusual Cetagandan behavior elsewhere.

Graf Station is named after the engineer, Leo Graf, who helped the Quaddies free themselves from GalacTech back in Falling Free. In the time between that book and this one, we have seen exactly one Quaddie, Nicol the musician who hired the Dendarii to help her escape Jackson’s Whole in “Labyrinth.” I am so glad they’re back! The Quaddies had only limited opportunities to develop their own culture in Falling Free—they did it primarily through tiny acts of rebellion. Like Miles’s efforts to teach the imprisoned Marilacans to line up for chow call, tiny acts of Quaddie rebellion formed the basis of their escape from GalacTech’s clutches when the company planned to have them all “disposed of” as “experimental tissue cultures.” That was 200 years ago—they’ve had time to do a lot more than pass around illicit copies of vid discs since then. Miles and Ekaterin share my interest in the Quaddies, but they’re not representative of the views that prevail among the crew of the Prince Xav, currently entangled in the difficulties.

Miles and Ekaterin will have to solve this problem within the time limit imposed by the impending birth of their children. They have about six weeks. They are travelling with Armsman Roic, who is guarding and otherwise assisting Miles, two relief armsmen, and Miss Pym, who is acting as Ekaterin’s Lady’s Maid. Only Roic accompanies them to Graf Staton. I’m a little sorry we don’t get to know Miss Pym better, but the story is about to be flooded with new characters and new institutions.

Next week—how do Quaddie politics work? And why have the Quaddies arrested so much of the Prince Xav’s crew?

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.


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