Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 8 – 11

Welcome back to the Vorkosigan reread! This week’s cover is Francois Lamidon’s art for the French edition published by J’ai Lu. This is the cryocombs, and the image captures the chaos and confusion Miles felt there. It also looks a bit like the Borg Cube.

This week, we’re starting with Chapter 8. Following the combination educational field trip and influence peddling in Chapter 7, Miles has the inside scoop on Kibou’s cryogenics corporations. Ambassador Vorlynkin has grave concerns about bribery. Miles assures Vorlynkin that he can be bribed, but WhiteChrys didnt manage to pull his strings. That’s helpful, Miles. Everyone feels better now. Including Vorlynkin, who was so appalled he filed a report with ImpSec. Miles can be hard to work with if you aren’t in his inner circle.

Last week, Jin and Mina ran away from their legal guardian. This week, they acquire a new pet—it’s a spider. She’s going to have babies! They also found a tap, so they aren’t dying of dehydration while they bushwhack across the city of New Hope with a bunch of lunch bars. (I’m guessing these are kid-friendly ration bars, and also this is 2019, where is my lunch bar? Why am I still making lunch?) Mina has a ton of blisters because Aunt Lorena buys the shoes with room to grow. Ow. My heart hurts for everyone in this situation: Mina, Aunt Lorena who has too many kids in a tiny house and never expected to be in this position, and Lisa Sato, who at least is frozen and doesn’t know what’s going on. Mina is the unfortunate soul on whose feet the blisters have been inflicted. It’s a miracle this kid is still walking. All she would have to do to end this torture would be to limp into a public transit station and wave at the cameras. She’s SIX. I’m in awe of her commitment to running away.

If Mina impresses you, or if her plight makes your feet hurt, please know that her struggles are real and there are ways you can help. In the US, I know that a number of organizations collect shoes and other supplies for kids in foster care. The only one I can find through google is Mattress Firm, which does it mainly to get people into their stores. But if kids get shoes I’m OK with that. If you’re thinking about picking up a mattress (or thinking about wandering into a mattress store to window shop), stop by Target first and pick up a pair of shoes to donate. If you know of any organizations that collect shoes for foster children and don’t sell mattresses, please tell us about it in the comments.

Miles’s reflection on Jin and Mina is that they have been deprived of something with their mother’s involuntary freezing. For all practical purposes, frozen Liza Sato is gone, but everyone denies that she’s gone. When Aral lost his family, no one denied that they were lost or that Aral had a great deal to grieve. But Jin and Mina have not, technically, lost their mother. She’s alive and not aging but inaccessible: as good as dead to them, but not able to speak for herself or for her children. The best case for her children would be to have their mother alive. The second best, though, is not this. As a side note, freezing people involuntarily before they can testify in court seems not to be the usual way of doing business, even on Kibou. When Mina and Jin finally arrive at the consulate, Mina demands first aid for her feet. There’s also octopus pizza. Miles looks out for his people, and in this case, their demands are very few.

Mina’s demands are very few, anyway. Jin is worried about his animals. In Chapter 10, Miles brings the consulate’s lift van to retrieve Jin’s menagerie to be relocated to the consulate’s back garden. I know I said Miles is hard to work with. The exception is if you are an 11-year-old orphan with a roof farm. At least for now. Miles multitasks on the trip to negotiate with Suze for a cryorevival on her premises. He offers Raven’s services for six more cryorevivals for individuals of her choosing while they’re at it. He also needs a cryocorpse to leave in Lisa’s place.

Once he’s assured of his ability to revive a cryocorpse, Miles sets out to retrieve the cryocorpse. Cryoburn is about loss, and almost everyone here is aching for something—the past, the future, trust, hope, love, caring, a parent, a child, a pony—even if we haven’t heard about it yet. Miles is clearly thrilled to be reliving his mercenary admiral days, which is a quick reminder that there is a part of Miles that is on ice, a loss within him that few others acknowledge but that he feels very keenly. He can’t have Admiral Naismith back, but he can lead a hand-picked team into New Egypt to pull Lisa Sato out of a drawer, and for a time, he thinks he’s been successful.

Back at Suze’s Discount Underground House of Cryogenics, Raven starts the process of reviving Ms. Sato. He’s not successful. Thawed out and perfused with oxygenated blood, Lisa does not revive. Miles has had doubts about the quality of the procedures she might have been subjected to, which was always a risk. Jin and Mina have talked Vorlynkin into bringing them to Suze’s to see their mother—he’s hard on bribery but a softie with the kids. Jin and Mina are sad and shocked to hear that their mother is dead, and even more shocked to see that she’s not there. This corpse is not their mother.

Join me next week, when we find out where Lisa Sato is.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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