Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapters 4 and 5

Welcome back to Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga! Schools in Massachusetts get the week starting with the third Monday in April off, because of the Boston Marathon and the Battle of Lexington and Concord, so I’ve been on vacation this week. It’s been amazing. I took my dog out in my kayak! Chapters four and five of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen get much farther out in the wilderness than I have this week, and also follow up on chapter three’s long series of conversations about life, the universe, and parenting.

Acting on Cordelia’s advice, Jole talks about parenting with Fyodor Haines, the general in command of Sergyar’s military base. Their chat reveals that Jole is an innocent cinnamon roll, unacquainted with the range and variety of reasons for which a mother on Barrayar might send her teenager to live with Dad for a while. On another planet. The distance seems extraordinary, but twenty-first century mothers don’t have access to a multiplanetary empire. Jole thinks young Frederika might be reporting back to her mum on signs of adultery or impending divorce. I certainly hope not. At present, Dad and daughter are locked in a contretemps surrounding the bathroom in their flat, and Dad is finding teenage mood swings bewildering. Teenagers find them bewildering too. Adolescence is not for the faint of heart.

Haines also reveals that planning is in progress for Jole’s fiftieth birthday, and that there’s a lot of speculation about his love life. This is where we find out that Jole is known as “the dog who does nothing in the nighttime.” It’s a literary reference, to a Sherlock Holmes story. Haines is not a Holmes fan. None of the ongoing gossip suggests that Jole and Aral used to be an item, or that Cordelia was ever involved in that, or that Cordelia and Jole might be involved now. In fact, when Jole suggests that he could invite Cordelia to his birthday party, Haines interprets this suggestion as an alternative to Jole bringing a date.

In yet another scene that approaches being a date, Cordelia scatters some Betan sand on Rosemont’s grave. His sister sent it. The sand has been sterilized because Cordelia is very properly concerned about introducing extraplanetary micro-organisms on Sergyar. I think the settler population must have brought a ton of bacteria with them from Barrayar, but I appreciate Cordelia’s caution. The gravesite—which was also the Betan Survey team’s campsite—is in a beautiful spot. It must have been exhilarating to wake up in the morning and take in the view down the mountain of a peaceful planet waiting to be surveyed, with all its trees and the water falling from the sky, in the days before the Barrayarans arrived to arrest the Survey team and things went pear-shaped. Jole brought along some rat bars for dinner. No oatmeal or blue cheese dressing. They have a chat about the vampire balloons. You can blow them up with laser pointers. YOU CAN BLOW THEM UP WITH LASER POINTERS!!!!!  ARAL AND CORDELIA BLEW UP VAMPIRE BALLOONS WITH LASER POINTERS!!!

There’s no reason for readers to know this, but sometimes the editors at take things I wrote in all caps and replace them with italics. Usually, it’s a good move. The tiny changes the editors have occasionally made to these blog posts make me look smarter and funnier, and like a person who uses semicolons. I haven’t noticed any other reread bloggers casually chatting about how and how much they get edited, but I am nearing the end of a three year project (those are my own italics) in which I have developed the terrible habit of submitting most blog posts *really, really late Sunday night* (my asterisks) and I think this is an appropriate time to get started on the acknowledgements; the editors at are amazing, and I love every one of them who has ever so much as breathed on this blog (semicolon included in the original draft).

STET PLEASE! THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING!!!! ALL CAPS! LASER POINTERS! If I were ever to have a piece of fanart just for this reread blog (to complement the one Chris Lough made for me that features a horse playing a saxophone), it would feature me, prowling the Sergyaran wilderness and blowing up a radially symmetrical bloodsucking vampire balloon with a laser pointer. I would be riding a spotted pony. It would also include my dog. Missing information: How long does it take to blow up a vampire balloon with a laser pointer?

Chapter 5 is a special present to people who are nerds about local government. I am that nerd. Apparently, Cordelia and Jole are those nerds too. And if you’re thinking that maybe it’s not so much “nerdiness” as “being personally involved in local government,” think about it for a few more minutes. You know who gets personally involved in local government? Those nerds.

Frederika Haines and her friends chose this evening to show their Cetagandan friend the Sergyaran wilderness, in the hopes that they would be able to impress him by blowing up some vampire balloons. Whether by accident or by intention, they landed an aircar on a sandbar in the middle of a river. They also might have seen some skatagators. Frederika Haines’s dad told her no one should go into the backcountry unarmed because of the hexapeds, so the kids have a plasma arc.

I feel like the people who named the skatagators are the kind of people who named a city Gridgrad on purpose.

When Cordelia (former captain of the Betan survey vessel that discovered this planet, and current Vicereine) and Jole (currently the Admiral in command of the space around this planet) arrive on the scene, the crisis that led the teenagers to fire the plasma arc is past. The fire is still burning, along with Ant’s mom’s aircar. I assume that aircar is to lightflyer as minivan is to sporty convertible. The existence of a teenager nicknamed Ant seems to corroborate my beliefs about Gridgrad.

Jole and Cordelia, who can identify some of the individuals on scene and sort them by jurisdiction from memory, arrange for evacuation of the scene and transportation for the assorted adolescents back to Kareenburg by the appropriate authorities (in this case, the Kayburg PD). Jole confiscates the plasma arc from Frederika and returns it to Haines in the parking lot when he comes to the police station to retrieve his daughter. This saves a lot of trouble with local law enforcement. The Cetagandans take *forever* to retrieve their kid from the pokey. Cordelia, who has nicknamed the kid “Bean Plant Number Three,” is wondering if they’re going to leave him at the police station overnight, as a life lesson, before they finally send a minor flunky—Lord Soren—to fetch him home. The Cetagandan consul is having some kind of party this evening, and Kaya Vorinnis is at it. She reports later that she didn’t have a particularly good time, but she’s willing to reciprocate Soren’s invitation to see if things get better. Even Soren gets a date, so surely Jole must as well. He calls a man about a boat.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.


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