The epilogue has us rejoining Cordelia and Jole approximately two years later. Jole is getting ready to retire from the military and pursue his PhD in biology. Little Everard Xav has gone into the incubator. Cordelia is still the Vicereine, but clearly transitioning out of her role as well. Aurelia, aged 18 months, is expecting a younger sister. The story ends where it started—Sergyar—but also someplace new—Gridgrad and the site of Cordelia’s future home nearby. It’s still Sergyar, but it’s the world Cordelia has created, not the one Serg made that everyone else has spent the last 45 years clawing their way out of.
The question here is whether this is the end.
It could be. As I wrote when I reviewed the book three years ago, it would be fine if it is. All the people we care most about are happy. Most of them are alive. If we go further, there would almost certainly be more casualties. If we stop here, it would be easier to follow Cordelia’s orders from the end of the last chapter and take delight in each other while we can. I’m not entirely certain, but I think Cordelia was thinking of the Song of Solomon. I’m thinking of Candide, because it has one of my favorite endings. We can, as Voltaire suggested, reflect on everything that has come before and sit here eating preserved citrons and pistachio nuts.
This is a delightful moment. I’ve been so inspired by everyone’s intergalactic-yet-domestic bliss. Literally. For the first time since we moved in to this house, I have weeded my yard. It turns out we’re growing a lot of raspberries. I’ve been compulsively baking the entire time I’ve been rereading this book. Domestic bliss is wonderful. But it might also be a good thing to go on. It would be hard for me to read a book where Miles dies. There’s really no one I would be willing to lose. Bel’s death would be devastating. So would Nicol’s, or Elli’s. Gregor’s death would be terrifying. Alex or Helen’s might destroy me. But loss is a part of life. I would bear those sorrows in order to read more, because I think there are more stories in the Nexus that I would like to know.
This reread owes enormous debts to many people. Foremost among them is Lois McMaster Bujold. Sometime over twenty years ago, I read a story about a short guy with brittle bones who started a mercenary company because he failed his military school entrance exams and wanted to impress a girl. That story turned out to be much bigger than one teenager with an oversized travel allowance. It is a master class in plotting and characterization and it’s been incredibly rewarding to reread. In addition to writing this magnum opus, Bujold has taken the time to read a fair amount of this reread, and then to comment on it. That’s been thrilling, and daunting, and an incredible privilege. Thank you for everything—for the books, for the stories you shared about writing them, for that time you said I could have an imaginary future bed force-shielded against allergens, and most significantly, for never saying that my theory about Aral speaking in code back in Shards of Honor was wrong. It might be! But I’m clinging to it anyway.
I have already thanked the editors at Tor.com for dealing with my writing. I could not end this reread without specifically thanking Bridget McGovern, who suggested this project to me back in early 2016. I assume that this suggestion was made first to some other people who turned it down, but there isn’t a formal line of blogging succession—no one had to offer me anything at all, and I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity, and for the experience that this has been.
This reread would not have made it out of 2017 without the support of the moderation staff, especially Stefan Raets. Thank you for being up in the middle of the night, Eastern Standard Time. And thanks for all the things you nuked from orbit, both on your own accord and at my specific request. I absolutely could not have done this without you.
There are also a few people who I think probably have no idea they were involved in this reread in any way. It would be easy to leave it that way, but their work kept mine alive, and they deserve to know. So much has happened during this reread, a lot of it good, and some of it extremely difficult on a personal level. Somewhere in the middle, I realized that it had been several months since I had read anything that didn’t have a Vorkosigan in it, and I really had no idea what to do with myself. Gin Jenny and Whiskey Jenny at Reading the End set me back on the path to sanity. Thank you for the short fiction round-ups, and also for being a stalwart and reliable resource for holiday gift ideas for the past two years. No one in my house would have gotten any presents without you. Natalie Luhrs has also been an amazing resource, both for her blog, pretty-terrible, and for that panel at Readercon where she pointed me to the Clan of the Cave Bear fanfic where Alya invented sliced bread. That thing is HILARIOUS. Thank you for curating things for people like me in times that were hard for you too.
My husband says he doesn’t need to be in the acknowledgments, and that I acknowledge him in more important ways every day. He’s getting me more coffee right now, for approximately the 332nd time in this reread.
And for those of you who have read this far, thanks for being here.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.