Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapter 7

Chapter Seven of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen opens on the second morning of Jole and Cordelia’s weekend at Lake Serena. Even people over fifty can’t stay in bed together forever and the picnic hamper was only stocked for one night. Rather than lounging around having difficult conversations about What This Means and What Comes Next, Cordelia organizes an expedition in the transparent canoe.

Transparent canoes are really cool. So are the many yet-to-be-properly-surveyed lifeforms in Sergyar’s lakes: lots of radially symmetrical organisms in a wild array of colors and patterns. I’m assuming these are mostly insects. That might be unfair, but I’m assuming it. Some of them have CHEVRONS. I’m intrigued by what this might imply about what characteristics are advantageous to Sergyaran aquatic lifeforms. Possibly, bright colors and patterns offer a reproductive advantage that isn’t cancelled out by the reduction in camouflage. Alternately, when they aren’t moving around, these organisms hang out in a brightly colored and wildly patterned environment. Jole spends some of his morning thinking about how Cordelia’s staff might react to the change in circumstances, but much more of it entranced with things in the water.

Cordelia and Jole do have a bit of a chat about the implications of their new arrangement on the way back to Kareenburg. The relationship itself is, I think, somewhat less momentous than the reproductive decisions the two of them have already made. It’s a matter of pressing interest, but it’s one of several vying for Cordelia and Jole’s combined attention. Cordelia favors an open and public approach to the matter. Jole is more reticent. They agree to table the matter for the time being. The week ahead is a busy one, so it’s not like they’re losing opportunities to sneak back out to the lake or snog in Kareenburg’s limited selection of romantic restaurants. Being a grown-up is exhausting.

With the matter of publicity on hold, Cordelia is the first to deal with a presumptuous third party. On her return to work, she finds that one of her ImpSec guards is suggesting that Jole’s training is too outdated to allow him to continue to serve as a substitute for the Viceriene’s perimeter. I *sort of* understand where ImpSec is coming from. Cordelia is an important government official on Sergyar. Her position comes with risks that justify the existence of a security detail. I imagine that security training is meant to be repeated on a regular basis, which makes the question of whether or not Jole’s ImpSec training is out-of-date one that can be answered in an objective fashion—it either is up-to-date or it needs to be renewed. I don’t know what Jole renewing his ImpSec training would entail. Is that a two-day workshop he can include as part of his regular PD, or would he have to return to Barrayar for a special three-month long course? Is it usual for Imperial Military personnel to have to complete this training more than once in their career? And to Cordelia, this is a clear case of Barrayar trying to claw away the private life she’s just started to have.

The suggestion was offensive enough that when Jole had a similar reaction to a bulletin crossing his desk, I initially assumed it was about the same issue. It wasn’t! The Prince Serg—the ship that Miles and every other ImpMil Academy graduate so badly wanted ship duty on back in The Vor Game, the ship that won the War of Hegen’s Hub, the ship where Jole saw his only combat service—is being mothballed. I join Jole in thinking that this is the end of an era. When I first read the book, I saw this as the completion of an arc. In Shards of Honor, Bujold killed Serg. In Barrayar Aral and Cordelia had to take over for him. In the early years of Miles’s career Serg was a fallen hero who had a ship as one of his many memorials. And now, even though we’re on a planet named after Serg, his memorials are finally becoming obsolete. It feels like the end of the story.

But that was reading. This is rereading. If the Vorkosigan Saga is the story of what Ezar did to deal with his sadistic son, then it’s over. Serg is dead. Ezar is dead. Aral is dead. The ship is old. We’re through. But Ezar was never a protagonist in this story. I’m not about to deny his influence—he drove a lot of Barrayaran history. But Cordelia is very much the hero of her own story, and she’s still breathing.

AND PLUS BONUS Lt. Kaya Vorinnis is still dating a Cetagandan.

Somehow.

Despite her best efforts.

Ever the Barrayaran New Woman, Lt. Vorinnis has attempted to apply the sexist advice she’s been given—“my mother always told me not to beat the boys at games and things because then they wouldn’t ask you out”—as a rational scientific principle and test the logical inverse. She doesn’t want to hurt Lord ghem Soren’s feelings but she doesn’t want to date him either, so she invited him out to the firing range and beat him HARD. Along with “a couple other fellows who were hanging around,” who she apparently was also not interested in dating. Very career-minded, our Kaya. No military secrets were revealed or requested in the course of this date, and Soren has retaliated reciprocated by inviting the Lieutenant to go horseback riding. She acknowledges that he’s not bad looking without the face paint. I like Cordelia a lot, and Jole seems like a kind and interesting person. But I think Vorinnis might be the hero of her own story too. And I’m here for that—for this brave new world that has Vorinnis in it.

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.

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