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Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapters 3-5

In chapters three through five of Komarr, Bujold presents an ever-growing list of reasons why Tien Vorsoisson is a terrible person. Ekaterin’s day out with her Uncle Vorthys showcases the Vorthys family’s concern for Ekaterin’s health and happiness. It strikes them as odd that Ekaterin and Tien have had only Nikki—Barrarayan families tend to reproduce in sets of four to six. The Professora wonders why they didn’t send Nikki to a Komarran school, for the cultural experience, and worries that Ekaterin is unhappy. Auditor Vorthys probably could secure medical treatment for Nikki and safe harbor for him and his mother in short order. He doesn’t know what she needs, and Ekaterin doesn’t tell him. Why not?

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapters 1 and 2

In last week’s blog post, I asserted that Ekaterin had a number of reasons to flee Barrayar screaming. I recall the first time I read the opening chapter of Komarr as one of the biggest surprises of my reading life because Ekaterin was the viewpoint character. Framing the book with her perspective lets Bujold get right down to brass tacks on the reasons to flee screaming front.

The first couple chapters of the book introduce Ekaterin and Tien Vorsoisson. Using Ekaterin’s point-of-view allows Bujold to reveal Tien as an asshole with remarkable economy. In his first appearance, he criticizes his wife’s family and her cooking without pausing for breath and then moves on to barring Ekaterin from seeking help in getting him medical treatment. This conversation has a dramatic finale—she begs him not to kill himself on the way to the shuttleport. This is the everyday discourse of their marriage. I can only imagine how terrifying life must be for their son, Nikolai.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapter 29 (Plus Komarr Book Covers)

In the very last chapter of Memory, Miles finally makes a clean breast of it with Elli Quinn. You may recall Quinn as having appeared in the very early chapters of this story, round about the bit where Vorberg’s legs came off. Since then, she has been in Miles’s thoughts as someone he couldn’t explain himself to. You might also recall that Miles’s most recent dalliance, prior to this chapter, was with Sgt. Taura.

I certainly do.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapter 26

This week, Miles invades ImpSec HQ with a squadron of witnesses, a spray bottle, and a black light and catches Haroche in the act of trying to cover his tracks. It’s like when Lord Peter gave Norman Urquhardt arsenic-laced Turkish Delight in Strong Poison. If you haven’t read Strong Poison, you should. It’s a Christmas story, it has a fake seance in it, and, if you aren’t already, you’ll want to be familiar with Peter Wimsey by the time we get to A Civil Campaign.

Miles is very busy with the dramatic denouement, and he handles it very nicely. It’s a treat to watch. While he’s traipsing around the building with his various friends and relations, he leaves Delia Koudelka to be the last man standing next to Duv Galeni in the cells.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapter 25

Remember when Miles was just a kid, climbing the dock and jumping back into the lake down at Vorkosigan Surleau, and sneaking rides on his grandfather’s horse? All he ever wanted to be was a soldier in Barrayar’s space navy. Here we are now, in chapter 25 (I checked), and his life has taken more twists and turns than he can count. BUT SOFT, WHAT LIGHT THROUGH YONDER WINDOW BREAKS? It is the East, and Lucas Haroche is the sun.

As you may recall from last week, Miles had left Gregor’s reception and was headed to ImpSec to try to address the bogus treason charges and spring Galeni when he had a badly timed seizure.

Not that there is any such thing as a well-timed seizure.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapter 24-ish

Hey reread readers! This blog post is coming to you from Thanksgiving morning, where your intrepid reread blogger is Not hosting, Not guesting, and Not triggering her respiratory allergies. I have also opted out of our annual national seminar on Current Issues in Gender Politics; we are not trying to make the house look like a new Mediterranean Fusion restaurant, and we are not cooking a turkey. What even makes it Thanksgiving? We wore out the dog on an extra-long walk this morning—he got to play with several of the neighbor-dogs, we are all very thankful—and now we’re making pie.

To further the theme of not allowing anyone to be judged for their adherence to meaningless cultural standards, let’s talk about my recent difficulties keeping track of which chapter we’re in! Last week’s blog post delved fairly far into chapter 23, but didn’t admit it. This week we’re going to Gregor’s reception. Can I remember what chapter that is in? No. I could look it up, but the book is on the other side of the dog. I would have to put down the laptop, move my feet (which are under the dog), and rummage around in a pile of books. I’m not doing that. Gregor’s reception is somewhere in the vicinity of chapter 24. If that’s not good enough for you, you can look it up yourself.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapters 21 and 22

Last week’s blog post, which purported to end with Chapter 19, actually covered Chapter 20. This week, we start with Chapter 21, in which Miles and Illyan have a meeting, and Miles’s mother comes home. In Chapter 22, Miles decides to turn ImpSec upside down and discovers a false entry in the evidence room logs.

Reminder: This reread has an index, which you can consult if you feel like exploring previous books and chapters. Spoilers are welcome in the comments if they are relevant to the discussion at hand. Non-spoiler comments should also be relevant to the discussion at hand. Like Earth, Barrayar and other places in the galactic nexus live out sets of cultural practices that range from beautiful to genocidal. Regardless of what may be commonplace as a cultural practice in any place at any time, comments that question the value and dignity of individuals, or that deny anyone’s right to exist, are emphatically NOT welcome. Please take note.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapters 17-19

This week in the Vorkosigan reread, Simon Illyan has his chip removed! Miles gets the cause of his seizures diagnosed! Those are important. I mean, wicked, wicked important. If Illyan didn’t get his chip out he was going to have a stroke from the stress, and possibly I would have had a stroke from the stress of reading about it. Honestly, I think what happened to Illyan is in the range of what happened to Mark, and Bujold let us off light by describing it only from the perspective of observers who weren’t there for very long. Harouche says it seems a waste to lose the chip, which proves that Harouche is underinvested in preserving Simon Illyan. Miles invites Illyan to recover from surgery at Vorkosigan House. The architecture there is a lot nicer than at ImpSec, and the food is amazing.

So those are the major plot points. And without discounting them in the slightest, I would like to turn our attention now to the matter of VOR LEISURE TIME.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapters 13 and 14

Chapter 13 of Memory opens with a continuation of Gregor and Laisa’s romance. Miles has a great deal of assigned reading to do and Gregor and Laisa are having a courting picnic to introduce Laisa among the Emperor’s social circle. Their engagement is sort of an open secret at this point; those in attendance at the picnic certainly seem to be aware, those not in attendance are, perhaps, less well-informed.

The event also offers an occasion for Miles’s first conscious encounter with Lieutenant Vorberg. Vorberg is unlikely to ever hear Miles’s side of the story of what happened to his legs, but he gives Miles his. It is not flattering to the Dendarii. Miles tries to defend them. Oh Miles. How did you survive in covert ops? Miles’s assertion that he has heard some good things about those mercenaries who coincidentally happen to be named after some mountains he owns, but of course has no personal connection, is unconvincing.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapter 12

Last week, I included Miles’s birthday correspondence in my discussion of chapters 10 and 11. That doesn’t actually happen until the beginning of chapter 12—oops.

It’s an easy mistake to make because Memory tends to suck you in. I plan to read a couple chapters, just to make sure I’ve nailed down the boundaries of the next blog post, and the next thing I know someone is having brain surgery.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapters 10-11

This week’s chapters deal with Miles’s 30th birthday. Happy birthday, Miles!  

My copy of Memory was purchased from the Oberlin College Cooperative Bookstore shortly after I turned twenty. That was a very different time to be reading about Miles turning thirty than now, almost exactly twenty-one years later. Thirty seemed old then. I sort of got what Miles said to Martin about middle age being a moveable feast, always ten years older than you are, but it really hit home on this read. Miles is striking me as shockingly young this week because I finally noticed that his birthday means that he must have been killed at twenty-nine. Or possibly at twenty-eight—it was a long convalescence. He’s been leading the Dendarii for slightly more than a decade, and he’s been assigned to ImpSec for approximately seven years. Rank notwithstanding, his career has been meteoric; he has come an incredibly long way as a result of a few impulsive decisions he made to impress a girl while vacationing at age seventeen. Gregor has already asked him not to return the the Dendarii, but I think he needs to go further. Miles is Not Safe to be out of direct Imperial control. He’s dangerous; he needs a job.  

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapters 7-9

Here’s the thing: I love Barrayar.

It’s a hideous horrible clump of dirt orbiting a sun somewhere a bunch of wormhole jumps and several centuries away. Its culture is godawful and masochistic. It is dismissive of women, callous to men, and completely horrible to anyone who doesn’t fit into its limited collection of Proper Barrayaran molds. It’s overdue for a Marxist revolution, but thus far its streets have run red with blood on several notable occasions without any substantial changes to its intolerable injustices. I don’t know why anyone puts up with it.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapters 5 and 6

One of the many things I appreciate about Memory is that Miles’s character-shaping important mistakes are in the early chapters. He’s already shot himself in both feet (and Vorberg just below the knees) by not telling his ImpSec doctors about his seizures, not seeking medical attention for his seizures, not telling his second-in-command about his seizures, personally leading troops into combat despite his seizures, and falsifying a report to cover up his seizures. He also cut off Vorberg’s legs and argued with Quinn. There’s just one mistake left, and he already started making it when he falsified the report. He’ll finish the job in chapter six.

Before that—Duv Galeni goes on a date.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga