Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 1 and 2

It’s new book time, Kittens! Today we’re starting Cryoburn! What is Miles doing? Miles is hallucinating. OK. That’s fun. There are falling angels that are also screaming? And there are a lot of them? And also a door and some lizards? Bujold has written this really well, because I feel like I’m hallucinating. Miles has the most interesting allergic reactions. I mean, I have some idiosyncratic allergies, and I just get wheezing and rashes. I suppose it’s possible that the hallucinations are symbolic. These could be the falling angels and lizard people over the fireplace in act one. One of the angels could be Chekov. Miles is going to have some water and a lie down now. On a roof. That’s nice. You know who’s not hallucinating? Roic. He’s chained to a wall.

That’s inconvenient—he can’t go find Miles, as is his sacred responsibility as a sworn armsman—but since he has nothing but time on his hands and no way to go anywhere, he can explain what’s going on. Roic and Miles are on Kibou-daini because Miles was attending a conference on cryogenics. That’s not generally one of his interests (although readers will recall that he has been frozen himself) but Laisa seems to have had some suspicions about something odd going on. Roic wasn’t privy to those details—just to Miles muttering about who dropped the tip that has led to the present situation. At the conference, someone took Miles into a private conference that Roic could not see or hear, and offered him a bribe. He regarded this as a clue. Shortly thereafter, the conference was disrupted by some abductions.

I’m excited that Laisa is playing an active and interesting role in Barrayar’s efforts to keep up with galactic technology, and, I suspect, with galactic organized crime. I would like a Laisa book. I would like so many books. We are so close to the end of this reread and I am simultaneously looking forward to other things and wishing there was more of this. The Galactic Nexus is full of such interesting women. I would love to see Laisa and Elena Visconti have a long chat about money laundering.

We have already seen that cryogenic freezing can be deployed for both good and evil. Theoretically, it’s a way to cheat death. It worked for Miles. But the results can be uncertain, and the process of recovery is long. It is also the easiest way to manage individuals who are being transported involuntarily. Frozen people can’t fight back.

But, on Kibou-daini at least, frozen people can vote. Their votes are cast for them by the corporations that steward their bodies. This is literal polling of the graveyards, with the suggestion that these people will one day live again and will be pleased with the decisions of their corporate custodians when they do. The huge numbers of voiceless frozen overwhelm the votes of constituents with higher temperatures; so many of the planet’s people are frozen that Roic thinks of cryogenic preservation as a strange local burial custom.

A skinny kid with a black eye has come to bring Roic a Reddi-Meal. We’re talking about business here, so I’m intrigued that Reddi-Meal is not strictly local to Barrayar. How does a frozen meal manufacturer negotiate the cultural and economic differences between planets? What kind of regulatory climate are they working with? How far flung is their supply chain? Do they manufacture on each of the planets where they distribute or do they maintain a central manufacturing facility in an optimal location and ship from there? Or, are they just branding? Do they license the Reddi-Meal mark to chosen manufacturers in a variety of markets and then collect fees? What would be the best way to run an intergalactic frozen food business?

The skinny kid with the Reddi-Meal represents the New Hope Legacy Liberators (NHLL). He gives Roic a speech about it. I’m not privy to the entire content, but it seems like they want their votes to count. When I think about things from Earth now that a lot of people might like to leave behind when humanity moves on, I think that death might be part of the luggage that far future space colonies would want to leave behind. But I think it would be short-sighted to actually do it. The knowledge that life is finite has had a very powerful influence on humanity. Death serves important social, political, and economic functions; it facilitates the circulation of power and property. But if everyone is frozen, and therefore not actually dead, and their power and property are held in trust for them by large corporations, each frozen person puts more power in corporate hands and the only hope for change is violent revolution—some of the NHLL’s leaders may have read Marx. Skinny Kid ends his speech with the rote slogan “Burn the dead!”

Roic finds this unconvincing. I think he’s too grumpy about being chained to a wall and not knowing where Miles is to really see the justice of the NHLL’s position. He also assesses Skinny Kid as “not reliable enough to be put in charge of anything more complicated than a dishwasher.” Roic is being very stubborn about being unimpressed. I note, however, that Roic has not been able to get his chain out of the wall. Someone in the NHLL knows at least a little bit about what they’re doing.

Miles wakes from his rooftop nap to find the large-ish lizard who helped him earlier is actually a young-ish child. Jin appears to be about ten. He has chickens, a cat, and a bird-of-prey. His little makeshift roof-farm also features a tent. The farm is part of a make-shift community that Jin reports as having about 200 people. Jin’s father is dead. His mother is frozen. His sister is with relatives. Jin seems to have hard feelings about the relatives. He declines to elaborate. Jin thinks that he might know someone who might have a comconsole Miles could use. We’ll check that out next week!

Cryoburn is going to continue the theme of how societies deal with the people they don’t want. We’ll dive into that next week.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.


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