Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 15-18

Last week, Miles questioned Lisa Sato and invited her to sit in on his interrogation of Dr. Leiber.

Last week I also mentioned that I think Dr. Leiber is a creep.

If one absolutely MUST be a creep, one should at least use one’s creepiness to anticipate and outsmart the creeps who want a piece of you. And Leiber didn’t. We’ve had a lot of morally ambiguous characters in this series, including a number for whom I have a great deal of affection. But to win my love, a character has to have something else compelling going on in addition to their moral ambiguity. Like intelligence. To borrow, and then mutilate, a phrase from Rainbow Rowell, my VERY LIMITED sympathy for creeps is reserved for creeps who haven’t been kidnapped by numpties.


  • He stored a cryochamber in his basement. I might be inclined to forgive him for this, because it was almost a good move in re Sato’s personal security. Leiber couldn’t know that a second rescue mission was coming to retrieve her, and had strong reason to suspect that New Egypt was not to be trusted: They had a massive cover up to maintain and Lisa Sato was a threat to it. And I suppose he controlled his basement better than any other possible storage facility. But it was hardly secure, was it? Miles and Roic walked right in while he was out of the house. There wasn’t even a locked door. Nefarious New Egypt agents could have dropped by and damaged the cryochamber at any time. And then they could have blamed Leiber for her death because, after all, New Egypt graciously froze Sato out of the goodness of their collective corporate heart, and they can’t provide the stable power supply and monitoring that their patrons rely on if nefarious third parties remove cryochambers from their premises! So kudos for stealing the cryochamber, Leiber, but poor marks for securing it against further theft or assault.  And also for making yourself look like a serial killer.
  • He took a bribe that he knew to be a crappy bribe and then did nothing to expose the problem that New Egypt wanted to cover up. Dendarii procedures for bribes, as reported by Miles in an earlier chapter of Cryoburn, were to take the bribe and do whatever you were going to anyway. I thought those were flawed—what if you hadn’t decided what to do yet?—but I can see how you need to allow for mercenary behavior in a company of free mercenaries. Leiber SAYS that he has no reason to believe his shares in the company would vest. He just believed that there was less personal risk to his life and safety if he accepted the bribe and did nothing. Thus, Leiber has allowed a bribe to change his behavior despite its likely permanent lack of liquid value. This never would have happened if he’d had good legal advice. In fact, I think Lisa Sato would likely never have been frozen if she’d had good legal advice—not only did she not consent to cryofreezing, she was never even asked. You know what scrappy little protest movements need? Good legal advice.
  • Leiber’s ultimate game plan was to escape to Escobar with Lisa Sato’s cryochamber, thaw her there, and attack Kibou’s cryocorps from a safe distance. Did he obtain Lisa’s consent for this plan? NO. She no more consented to this than she consented to being frozen. But he figured she would be happy to be on Escobar, with him, and the fact that her children would then essentially be hostages of whatever angry cryocorporation got to them first on Kibou concerned him not at all. I grant that they’re difficult children—they have a history of running away, and Jin has a lot of pets—but they aren’t actually more difficult than any other children who have suffered the trauma of two parental losses in a short time frame, and Leiber’s lack of concern for their well-being is heartless. It is, however, in keeping with what seems to be his MO: The only person who matters in the plans of Dr. Leiber is Dr. Leiber.

The numpties who tried to kidnap Leiber are in storage in a closet in the parking garage. And then no one guards that. The next person to be kidnapped by numpties is Angry Yani. Yani is just annoyingly bitter, not a creep at all. He doesn’t deserve it. The numpties were agents of New Egypt who were trying to function undercover, but not doing a very good job, and their escape from the closet is about to propel a lot of story. Chapter 18 is really fast-paced and chaotic. The action makes sense while I’m reading it, but my comprehension falls apart when I start to try to explain it.

LISA SATO IS PRETTY PISSED. And you would be too if you’d missed a year and a half of your children’s lives, including your daughter’s first day at school and your son RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME TO LIVE ON A ROOF as a result of suddenly being frozen without even your prior knowledge, never mind consent. Apparently, the courts on Kibou are totally cool with having defendants frozen without making a court appearance, signing consent forms, or undergoing a medical examination. THAT’S REALLY CONVENIENT. Anyone wealthy enough to bankroll some cryo-contracts can pick and choose who gets tried and who just happens to not be available to stand trial. Except for Jin, Mina, and her sister, everyone involved here seems to have found Frozen Lisa more convenient than the one who was alive and shouting. Including, but not limited to, the guy who planned to smuggle her off the planet like the corpse of Eva Peron. Lisa is thrilled to be reunited with her children, and sad about the time she missed. Jin and Mina have been through a lot, and they’re ecstatic about having their mom back.

And OMG, there’s a sphinx! Jin picked it up from an office somewhere (I already said the thing about the story getting really fast-paced) and it talks. It doesn’t fly particularly well, despite the wings. It was genetically engineered as a promotional giveaway. I feel pretty strongly that live animals are not a good promotional giveaway. So did the office worker who gave the sphinx to Jin.

New Egypt attacks Suze’s building. I can call it Suze’s building if Mark does, and he does, because HEY GUESS WHO’S HERE? He’s come to buy the building because the Duronas need a test site for a pharmaceutical treatment for aging. Kareen came to hold Mark’s leash. HI KAREEN!!!! Raven Durona could have handled the purchase offer himself, with assistance from a non-Mark individual from either the Durona Group or a local lawyer. I suspect that their presence at this moment is a narrative contrivance designed to ensure that Miles and Mark are in the same place in Chapter 20. I will forgive Bujold for this because there is KAREEN!!!! Also I’m glad that Miles isn’t facing chapter 20 alone. He would have had Roic, of course, but it’s nice that he has his brother.

Mark is the kind of keen entrepreneur who does, in fact, know who owns the property he wishes to buy. He also knows how desperate that individual is to sell. Property is cheaper, he will point out, when it’s on fire. In the chaos of the attack, the fire, Jin’s effort to rescue his sphinx, and no one being entirely certain where everyone else is, New Egypt’s agents capture Vorlynkin, Jin, Mina, and Lisa. That makes this a hostage situation. Miles is good at those! But in the moment, Roic unwinds the whole thing with one quick, well-placed shot with his stunner.

Join me next week for the aftermath!

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.


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