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Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

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

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Winterfair Gifts, Part 2

Last week, we started discussing Winterfair Gifts by looking at Roic and Taura. This week, we’re looking at the mystery the two of them unravel. Initially, this looks like the keys to this mystery might be the story of Miles and Elli.

Elli Quinn didn’t make it to the wedding—I can’t blame her. The wedding of a former lover whose proposals you declined multiple times doesn’t HAVE to be awkward, but that certainly is well within the range of possibilities. This is not her official excuse; She has responsibilities with the Fleet. She has sent a gift. Arde Mayhew gets to play Exposition Fairy here—he reveals that Elli contemplated sending the bride a barbed wire choke chain for keeping Miles in line, but decided it would be too easy to misinterpret. I see Elli’s point. Instead, she sent Miles and Ekaterin a live fur accompanied by a dirty limerick. This is the perfect combination of warmth and humor—Elli is always amazing, even as an ex.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Winterfair Gifts, Part 1

Roic knows you were staring at him.

Everyone has had the dream where you’re at work, or school if you’ve ever been to a school, or maybe somehow both, and there’s a test or an emergency, or a test that IS an emergency, and everyone is there and you aren’t wearing any pants.

Roic has lived that nightmare, with a side helping of bug butter, if you can use the term “side helping” to describe a quantity of bug butter that is coating a person’s entire body. It escaped most people’s notice in the moment, but his underwear and sidearm were on backwards. Roic regards the incident as an unfortunate and humiliating lapse in the standards due to his liege lord, and one that explains why he is still on what appears to be permanent night duty.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Epilogue

Barrayaran culture is made up of many parts. On the one hand, they have a feudal political system that glorifies the military. On the other hand, they have absolutely gorgeous weddings. (Although these have moderated in recent years, the planet’s rabid anti-mutant biases mean that most Barrayarans refuse to acknowledge the existence of individuals who deviate from the standard “two hands” configuration.)

Anyway, GORGEOUS weddings. Very meaningful. Lots of groats. In the run-up to the wedding, we learn that Miles can effectively deploy his reputation as a murderer against people who believe, well, that he’s a murderer. He didn’t like those people anyway, so this is very convenient. The rest of Gregor’s wedding is also very educational.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapters 18 and 19

Chapter 18 opens on Miles pacing the floor in the Council of Counts, waiting for Dono to arrive. This close to the climax of the A Civil Campaign, Bujold is doling out tiny chunks of action to prolong the suspense. Everything happening all at once is how life works. Everything being known all at once is how fiction works. We, as readers, know that Ivan has taken Dono et al to Vorpatril House, and that the vote on Dono’s countship, and on Rene Vorbretten’s, is taking place in the Council of Counts this morning. Miles only has some of this information. Fun fact: sessions in the Council of Counts start when it’s time, rather than when there is a quorum present. Or possibly, Counts endeavor to arrive on time so that there will be a quorum assembled at the appointed hour, but I can hardly believe that of Barrayar—this is science fiction, not high fantasy.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

A Boys’ Guide to Valdemar: Mercedes Lackey’s The Hills Have Spies

It’s been a year and a half since our last new Valdemar novel, and fans of Valdemar rejoice! The Hills Have Spies continues the series that began in the Collegium Chronicles and continued in the Herald Spy series. The first eight books made Mags Lackey’s longest-running protagonist. Since being dramatically rescued from forced labor in a mine, Mags has been trained as a Herald, been trained as a spy, become an elite athlete in the newly-created Valdemaran sport of Kirball, fallen in love with Amily who became King’s Own when her father the previous King’s Own died for a few minutes (he was saved by CPR, just like Buffy the Vampire Slayer!), discovered his personal roots as the son of a couple fleeing their clan of assassins, met his assassin-prince cousin, and gotten kidnapped, like, a TON of times. It’s been a wild ride.

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 17

This week, Miles and Ekaterin meet in the Vorkosigan House attics to discuss the separation that Hugo and Vassily have forced them to. As readers may recall, they haven’t been together yet.

Did you enjoy the Flowers of Vashnoi? Great! Don’t tell us about it here. Causal mentions of who liked the book lead to discussions of why, and those inevitably reveal plot details. Flowers is set after Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, and we will talk about it then. This blog post contains NO discussion of Flowers of Vashnoi and I have asked the moderators to delete all comments that mention it, even briefly or peripherally.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 16

I wrote about three chapters last week so that I could get to this one faster. A Civil Campaign is an infinite series of meetings, and the best one is in the Library where Lady Vorkosigan slays the Koudelkas with a couch.

A really quite terrible one is at the Vorthys’s house where Hugo Vorvayne and Vassily Vorsoisson confront Ekaterin about her relationship with Miles. I don’t know what Vassily does in the military, but here he is a human instrument of torture. He and Hugo are colluding to act as the arbiters of Vor Social Propriety, and they are assholes. This is a great example of how seemingly nice people can turn against you in horrible ways if they decide that control is more important than caring. Vassily, who Ekaterin has met briefly twice and who has never had a conversation with Nikki, has an informant who has sent him intelligence suggesting that Ekaterin is being manipulated by the mutant Lord Vorkosigan, who, the informant also states, is known to have murdered her husband. (Picture a lot of whisper-screaming here—AN INFORMANT COMMUNICATED INTELLIGENCE ABOUT TIEN’S NOT-MURDER!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!)

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapters 13-15

Heads up, rereaders, it’s been a wild week! The AP European History exam, which as a history teacher is kind of a big deal for me, coincided with the release of The Flowers of Vashnoi. I haven’t even had time to watch the royal wedding yet, and obviously I need to—it’s thematically relevant.

The Flowers of Vashnoi is set after Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. I will blog about it at that point. Out of respect for readers who rely on public libraries or paper formats for their books, I will put a warning in the opening paragraph of any blog post that deals with The Flowers of Vashnoi. Please do not discuss Flowers in the comments of blog posts about other books. This blog post contains NO information about The Flowers of Vashnoi, and those who have read it already should not discuss it in the comments.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapters 11 and 12

Chapter 10 featured hangovers. Chapters 11 and 12 see our characters sufficiently recovered from Miles’s dinner to begin having meetings.

Kareen Koudelka didn’t put in an appearance in chapter 10. Chapter 11 moves quickly to bring us up to speed on her situation. Her parents have stopped short of bricking her up with the cask of amontillado. Instead, they have barred her from visiting Vorkosigan House or speaking to anyone who lives there, and have imposed her sister Martya on her as a chaperone.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

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