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Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 4 (Part 1)

Ivan has been many things to many people. He has been an object of jealousy, a military officer, a friend, a cousin, and a lover. He has been a foppish playboy—he has, and will continue to have, some distinctly Bertie Wooster moments—and he has been the Vor lord, with intent, which is pretty impressive considering that he is the Lord of exactly nothing, it’s a courtesy title that acknowledges his close relationship to other people who are actually important. He’s been a hostage, a rescuer, and a native guide. He’s an ADC whose flat is stocked with rat bars and wine. And now, he’s the guy who’s bringing dinner.

What does Ivan bring, when he brings dinner?

Everything. Ivan brings everything.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapters 2 and 3

Chapters two and three of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance introduce the key characters. We’ve known Ivan for ages—he was born in Barrayar and appeared in eight of the Vorkosigan stories before this one. He’s always been a secondary character, and we’ve never seen his point-of-view before. It’s more complicated than I think readers might have suspected after reading The Warrior’s Apprentice . Later books have hinted at a more complex, deeper Ivan—Ivan is a rich tapestry. Rish and Tej are the new kids, and I love them. An attractive shipping clerk who won’t give Ivan the time of day and her sharpshooting blue-skinned companion? They had me at the quiet buzz of the stunner.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 1

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance opens with Ivan’s door buzzer, at his temporary flat on Komarr. In addition to all the Ivan you could ever want, this book has a generous helping of Byerly Vorrutyer. And as a brief introductory note, I think Byerly suffers from the comparison. He has his charms, our Byerly. He’s creative, snarky, and—I understand from commentary in the later chapters—good in bed. He’s got lovely eyes. Here, Byerly is juxtaposed with Ivan, who has regular employment, a very nice short-term rental, and a box of instant groats, and who does a really stellar job ordering takeout. The number of novels I have read that feature extraordinarily wealthy protagonists is… not small. The number of those protagonists who effectively deploy a carefully-curated selection of takeout food is inexplicably much smaller. No one needs a lover who crawls through their window to watch them sleep, but everyone sometimes needs fresh caprese with avocado on a thickly-sliced grilled rosemary focaccia.

(Miles mostly brought Ekaterin over to his house to eat food prepared by his cook, the most amazing cook who ever cooked. He ordered takeout for her once, on Komarr.)

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Cover Comparison

We’re starting Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance this week! This is such a fun book, and it’s full of IVAN who is sometimes a loutish caricature—like when he was seventeen and his mother was trying to get Aral to have a Serious Talk with him about swiving the maids—and sometimes secretly really clever—like when he found the weapon used to attack Simon Illyan. He’s the guy who turned a desk around in Ops HQ so that Miles could read Metzov’s records, and in the aftermath, he only forbade Miles to call him at work. He dropped Miles in a vat of ice, once, and remembering it helped Miles save Bel’s life four years later. I love him.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapters 17 – Epilogue

In chapter 17 of Diplomatic Immunity, Miles is confined to the Idris’s infirmary, strapped down (seizure precautions!) and transported in the general direction of Cetagandan space.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Miles this week—as is my habit, now, two-and-a-half years in to this reread, but more than usual because Miles is on his honeymoon, and I’m working on planning my twentieth anniversary. If there is anything worse than a life in ruins with vomiting, it is surely a life finally gotten into perfect working order but with a high probability of imminent death and/or the termination of all sexual contact due to Weaponized Cetagandan Death Plague. I have twenty years of what Miles is could so easily miss: Eating cheese, folding laundry, and making bad jokes about the domestic architecture of New England. I’ve been very fortunate on the Weaponized Cetagandan Death Plague front.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapter 16

Last week, Miles found himself locked on the Idris along with an assortment of local authorities and Barrayaran medics, and the renegade Ba. The Ba has a bioweapon that I have decided to call the Plague. I realize that it is not actually the plague as we know it in Earth history—y. Pestis does not melt flesh—I just need a name for it, because Miles has it. We have two Plague victims with active infections now—Miles and Bel—and Miles seems gravely concerned about Ensign Corbeau’s safety.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapters 13-15

Last week, Miles set the Quaddie authorities looking for “Dubauer,” the renegade Ba, and Bel, who appears to have been abducted at least twice in a single evening. This week, Miles is reducing his distractions by locking himself and a number of major players in the local government aboard the Idris with all of Dubauer’s uterine replicators.

Dubauer and Bel were, it turns out, seen returning to the Idris late the previous night, explaining to the duty guard that Dubauer wanted to carry out some kind of important maintenance on the cargo hold full of “exotic animal fetuses.” They suggested that the guard should keep this quiet, lest the other passengers get jealous. And then the guard went home and went to bed and didn’t see the many, many announcements that Bel was missing until afternoon.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapters 11 and 12

At the end of chapter 10, Bel Thorne went missing. This is an alarming turn of events. We know that Bel is highly trained, and has saved Miles’s life several times. Bel wouldn’t hesitate to step into the line of fire for Miles again, and in fact laid on Miles’s head when they were shot at by an unknown party with a riveter. Diplomatic Immunity has several characters whose abduction I think would not present much of a struggle for a trained operative. Bel is not one of them.

In short, this is very bad news.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapters 7-10

In chapter 6, we went to the ballet and soaked up Graf Station’s local color. Chapter 7 opens with a dramatic discovery—the blood in the docking bay was synthesized. This launches us out of the tourist section of the story and back into the mystery.

The important thing about this section is the clues:

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapter 6

Welcome back to the reread, where we are dealing with chapter 6 of Diplomatic Immunity. We get to go to the ballet! Nicol will be performing with the orchestra and has arranged a box so that Miles and Ekaterin can watch a performance with Bel and Garnet Five. I love this chapter because I love ballet. It’s one of the legacies of my time in Arizona—Ib Anderson’s production of Don Quixote was life-changing. I also love Quaddies, and this trip to the ballet is a crash course in Quaddie culture. What we saw back in Falling Free was the roots of this culture, born in a struggle in which the only options were freedom and annihilation. This, two centuries later, has clear links to that early history while celebrating contemporary Quaddie autonomy.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapter 5

It’s been a little while since we’ve been reminded of just how brutal Barrayar can be. It’s working on its anti-mutant prejudices! People don’t make signs against the evil eye when they see Miles in the street anymore! But those prejudices are still very much in place, particularly, it seems, among the enlisted men serving as security forces aboard the Prince Xav. You have to be well-regarded by your commanders to get ship duty. There are a lot of different ways to earn someone’s regard. They aren’t all great.

Two important things happen in chapter five of Diplomatic Immunity—Miles interviews the Barrayarans in Quaddie custody and Ekaterin goes shopping.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapter 4

When we left our heroes last week, Miles was trying to figure out how to have a private moment with Bel. In chapter 4, Miles creates that moment by taking his fast courier from one side of Graf Station to the other and asking his pilot to pretend to be clumsy.

Bujold has written a number of dramatic conversations—I particularly like Miles’s with Oser in The Vor Game and Cordelia’s with Aral about Vordarian’s head in Barrayar—but few pack as much information into as short a space as this one. In a conversation that actually looks like it would plausibly take about 20 minutes, Miles and Bel catch up on everything that has happened since they saw each other last and address some important aspects of cultural context.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapters 2 and 3

In chapter 1 of Diplomatic Immunity, Miles and Ekaterin were diverted from their galactic honeymoon by an urgent message from Gregor. In chapters 2 and 3, Bujold lays out the mystery and introduces the major players.

These chapters are laced with subtle allusions to earlier books in the series. Miles thinks his Vorkosigan House uniform boots are pointless this far from a horse, just like Cordelia did when she got her new uniform in Shards of Honor. References to Roic’s Armsman’s uniform feed into a brief discussion of hard-as-nails General Piotr. We also get reminders of Miles’s mostly-repaired hunchback, his status as the scion of the eleventh generation of Vorkosigans, and the chip he used to have on his vagus nerve that prevented nausea. If I had a nausea-preventing chip on my vagus nerve and I died, I would want the chip reinstalled as part of my cryo-revival. The Duronas went to a lot of trouble over Miles, I think they could have given him a chip.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Diplomatic Immunity, Chapter 1

Welcome to Diplomatic Immunity! Can Miles still have his usual adventures now that he’s married and about to become a dad? This is a book suggests that he can, but he may have to accept some new limits.

Exciting news this weekthe Internet Speculative Fiction Database now has links that let you see all the print covers associated with a title on one page. The thanks of this grateful blogger—and I imagine many others—go out to the staff and volunteers at the ISFDB.

Tragically, most of the covers for Diplomatic Immunity are dreadful.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Winterfair Gifts, Part 3

Welcome back to the Vorkosigan reread! This week, we finally reach the most essential point in Winterfair Gifts—Miles and Ekaterin’s wedding.

Last we heard, this wedding was planned for autumn. It was rescheduled because Ekaterin “wasn’t ready.” I’m not sure what that means in this context—busy with schoolwork? Unable to get a dress on that timeline? But Miles is a man of his word, and he wanted an outdoor wedding in Ekaterin’s Barrayaran garden, so Midwinter be damned, he’s filling in the bare spaces in the garden with ice sculptures, and m’lord and lady’s guests can shiver! At least, they can shiver for the length of the ceremony; The reception will be inside Vorkosigan House.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

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