Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Cover Comparison

We’re starting Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance this week! This is such a fun book, and it’s full of IVAN who is sometimes a loutish caricature—like when he was seventeen and his mother was trying to get Aral to have a Serious Talk with him about swiving the maids—and sometimes secretly really clever—like when he found the weapon used to attack Simon Illyan. He’s the guy who turned a desk around in Ops HQ so that Miles could read Metzov’s records, and in the aftermath, he only forbade Miles to call him at work. He dropped Miles in a vat of ice, once, and remembering it helped Miles save Bel’s life four years later. I love him.

He’s all grown up here—thirty-four—a handsome and debonair bachelor whose kitchen cupboards have nothing but wine and ration bars because he eats takeout. He’s still serving as ADC to Admiral Desplaines, and while his personal orbit intersects with a lot of important people, he strongly prefers to not be important himself. He’s like a more laid-back James Bond. Much more laid back. I think Bond probably looks for similar qualities in short-term rental properties, but if Ivan wants his martinis shaken it’s because using the cocktail shaker is more convenient than finding something to stir with.

As is the established custom here at the Vorkosigan reread, we begin our examination of the book with the covers.

Croatian edition (Algoritam, 2013)

Esad Ribic—the artist who previously brought us Cetagandan orgy Ivan, bra-and-grenade launcher Elli, and no-pants Mark—is comparatively restrained here. When everything is blue, it’s hard to see that someone is blue.

Czech edition (Talpress, 2015)

Martina Pilcerova has shown Ivan, Tej and Rish in a bubble car. I believe this is the scene where they escape the kidnappers who invade Tej and Rish’s apartment. The orange in the background really tones down the blues in Rish’s skin.

English edition (Baen, 2012); French edition (J’ai Lu, 2014)

The original Baen cover features A LOT OF LETTERS. These go on top of a Dave Seeley painting of a skyline and a vehicle that I presume is a lightflyer. This lightflyer is blue, which I think helps. Red lightflyers look a little like swollen ticks. I would love for manufacturers to consider a sleeker and more aerodynamic design, but I don’t know what kind of limitations they’re facing with the hardware. The French edition has fewer letters and shows more of the painting.

Art by Dave Seeley (Baen, 2013)

The elephant in the room is Dave Seeley’s OTHER cover for Baen. In the interests of acknowledging the qualities of the piece, I have chosen to present the painting as I found it on Seeley’s website, in addition to the version that appeared on Baen’s cover. The published version darkened the background to muddy brown.

I have MET Dave Seeley on multiple occasions, and we have had pleasant conversations about art. He does a great pin-up, and beautiful skin tones. I loved his cover for the NESFA Press edition of Falling Free, a portrait of Leo Graf and Silver featuring really thoughtful differences between her upper and lower arms and facial expressions that would have made Caravaggio weep. It’s my favorite cover of that book. I don’t love everything he’s ever painted, but I trust him to paint well. So what is going on here? Besides, obviously, Rish’s need to do some work on her trailing leg in her grand jetes. What is Rish looking at? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO TEJ’S LEFT LEG? I am dying to know why this is . . . like this. Dave, you are a free man and you aren’t obligated to explain anything. But if you’re up for it, the next time we run into each other at a con, I would love to ask you what the client asked for. I’ll buy you a drink.

Join me next week for an in-depth discussion of Ivan’s apartment, the amenities of his neighborhood, and a comparison of the security features available in Komarran rental properties!

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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