Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Series: Cryoburn, Chapters 6 and 7

This week’s cover is from the Czech edition published by Talpress, and it offers further proof (in case anyone was in doubt) that Martina Pilcerova really pays attention. That’s a cryochamber, with Lisa Sato inside. The guy next to it is the doctor who hid her in his basement, and the pyramids in the background are the New Egypt cryo-facility. I can tell for sure that Miles is not in this picture, because Pilcerova’s portraits of him tend to be more Byronic. I like that because I think that Miles is, in fact, mad, bad, and dangerous to know. This guy looks kind of bland. We will discover later that he’s not so much mad, bad, and dangerous as thoughtless and condescending. Bland can be dangerous.

In this week’s discussion of the interior of the book, we should be starting in Chapter 6. I’m feeling reflective this week, so I need to throw in some thoughts on Chapter 5 first.

It’s so easy to get to the end of Cryoburn and feel like Aral has not been in this book. However, Aral showed up in Chapter 5 last week. He is not, of course, actually there. Miles used him as an instructive example.

The Barrayaran Embassy staff was appalled that Miles had involved a homeless eleven-year-old runaway in his affairs. On the one hand, I can sort of see their concerns about putting a child in harm’s way. On the other hand, when Miles met him, Jin was living on a makeshift farm he set up on a roof. I concur with Miles’s assessment that the journey across his hometown was just as safe as everything else Jin does. And while he is missing from Miles’s perspective, Jin is now in the custody of his legal guardian. The worst that can be said of her is that she’s overwhelmed.

By some measures, Jin could be considered better off after his arrest, even if he isn’t where he wants to be. He didn’t have access to education from his roof-farm.

I’m rambling here. Miles compares Jin at 11 to Aral at 11. Eleven is a pivotal time in a young man’s life. You might find out that you’re the Seeker of the Signs. You might get a Hogwarts letter. It was a pivotal year in Aral’s life because it was when he witnessed the murders of most of his family. At that point, General Piotr put his only surviving son in uniform. Aral served as Piotr’s aide-de-camp and had helped take down Mad Yuri by age thirteen. I don’t know if Miles knows that taking down Mad Yuri meant disemboweling him on a balcony in the rain. Miles doesn’t know everything.

I believe that Miles sometimes overestimates the maturity and capabilities of children, and sometimes underestimates their needs. He’ll do it later in this book. But I think he’s correct here: A kid who can keep himself and a flock of chickens alive on a rooftop can deliver a message.

Jin didn’t just have the flock of chickens, he also had the rats, a cat, and a falcon. When we first met him, I assumed that he had assembled most of the menagerie after arriving on the rooftop, but apparently the animals were a cause of his decision to run away rather than an effect. His aunt had announced that they all had to go. I have some sympathy for her position. I have some sympathy for Jin’s. Where does an eleven-year-old get a hawk?

Back in his aunt’s house, Jin is desperate to get back to his hawk. His aunt and uncle have noticed—he’s been locked in his sister’s bedroom for the night, with little Mina shuffled out to the couch. Mina is an extremely pragmatic six-year-old; she offers to let Jin out if he will take her with him. Her financial resources, in combination with the possibility that she will wake the household, overcome Jin’s better judgment. They leave their aunt’s house heading in a direction Jin thinks is likely to be south.

While they’re walking (and they are walking for a long time, in shoes that don’t fit), Miles gives WhiteChrys, one of the local cryonics companies, a chance to make up for the inconvenience he suffered in the disruption of the conference. WhiteChrys is very interested in improving Miles’s mood—it fits in with their interest in expanding onto Komarr. The cryo-corporations of Kibou-daini do a lot more freezing than reviving, and control the votes of their patrons while they are frozen. Competition for patrons is fierce. Miles will discuss the implications of this for Komarran politics later in the book.

Today, Miles is playing up his rivalry with Mark for the benefit of WhiteChrys’s execs. WhiteChrys isn’t innovating on the technical side. And actually, I don’t think they’ve invested much in the revival side of the process. My only evidence that these corporations ever revive anyone at all is Angry Yani. Patrons seem to be worth much more to the cryocorps frozen than on the hoof. Their current financial innovation is commodifying contracts to create a secondary market on Kibou. I don’t have all the details, but this seems to me like it would allow interested parties to trade contracts for both financial and political ends. This innovation won’t be practical on Komarr where there aren’t competitors to trade with—WhiteChrys plans to have a monopoly on Komarr there. In service of that end, they offer to bribe Miles with shares.

Next week, Ambassador Vorlynkin gets upset about the bribery and Jin and Mina get lost.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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