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Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

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

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 10

At the end of Shards of Honor, there’s a story—“Aftermaths”—about a salvage crew cleaning up after the failed invasion of Escobar. It’s a lovely story, and I’m very sentimental about it. In chapter ten of A Civil Campaign, there’s a story about a salvage crew cleaning up after Miles’s dinner party. It’s not half as serious as “Aftermaths” because, despite Miles’s earnest hopes as Ekaterin fled screaming into the night and the Koudelka family decamped, the dinner party had no fatalities. But in other ways it’s basically equivalent. It’s about what people do for each other. If it had its own title, it would have to be “Hangovers.”

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 9

Chapter 9 of A Civil Campaign is one of my favorites in the book—it’s dinnertime! Miles is allegedly throwing this dinner party for the purpose of welcoming Kareen Koudelka home from Beta Colony. Which I guess is what the kids say these days when they mean “wooing his landscape designer despite her stated desire to not be wooed by anyone at least until the end of her mourning year.”

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapters 7 and 8

This week, Mark, Kareen, Ekaterin, and Enrique visit the Vorkosigans’ District to look at possible new facilities for their butter bug enterprise. They also collect some rocks for Miles’s garden and some samples of Barrayaran native vegetation for Enrique, and have lunch with Tsipis. To his great dismay, Miles was excluded from this trip because there wasn’t room for him in the lightflyer. He seems to have taken a hand in the arrangements for lunch at the Count’s Residence in Hassadar. In other news, Mark and Kareen still aren’t having sex. They would both love to, but she doesn’t feel independent enough to flaunt Barrayar’s rules while living on the planet. She’s a very honest person—not the sort of person who feels comfortable leading a double life. Mark has led a double life before at several notable points in the past, and I don’t think he was comfortable with it either. He’s frustrated with Kareen’s decisions, but he keeps that to himself and respects her boundaries.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 6

Chapter six of A Civil Campaign is one of those moments when the book takes a breath. We’re still meeting new characters—René and Tatya Vorbretten make their first appearance in this chapter—but we’re mostly being reminded of how our characters are changing and where they are.

The chapter opens with Ekaterin wandering Vorkosigan House unescorted. Some part of Miles’s household arrangements have broken down, because this is a direct contradiction to his orders about Madame Vorsoisson’s presence in the house. She is to be made comfortable and offered the finest hospitality the house and its staff have to offer to stall her so that Miles can be alerted and scrambled to her location. She is not supposed to be knocking on the door of Kareen’s Butter Bug Ranch asking if they would like some amelanchier bushes and what they’re using all of this earth-descended biological matter for. Miles would especially like her to not encounter any butter bugs and not be fed any samples of bug vomit. Miles’s days with the Dendarii are not so far gone that he should have forgotten that even the most competent hand-selected personnel sometimes experience mission failure. Miles swings through the hatch/lab door like the combat trooper he once was—yelling like the first time he went into combat, although it’s hard to evaluate his volume on the page—to escort Ekaterin and her newly acquired bag of bug guano back to work. It’s very nice bug guano, OK?

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 5

Chapter five of A Civil Campaign opens with Ekaterin Vorsoisson knocking on the door at Vorkosigan House to ask what she should do with the maple tree she’s removing from Miles’s garden. Armsman Pym parks her in the library while he goes to fetch Miles. This gives Ekaterin the opportunity to encounter Mark. Mark has been getting short shrift in the ACC reread because of his tendency to show up in the second half of the chapter, after whatever all the other characters have done. This is unfair because Mark is very interesting. Ekaterin hasn’t previously had the pleasure of Mark’s acquaintance, but Miles described him to her once and she’s an incredibly perceptive person, so she instantly knows who he is. He’s wearing a lot of black—we found Lord Vorgoth!—and offers to take the maple tree off her hands.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 4

One of the delights of A Civil Campaign is that Bujold uses more than one viewpoint character. We haven’t gotten much of Ivan’s perspective in the series so far, but we do this week as he joins Alexei Vormoncrief and Byerly Vorrutyer for a beer in the pub near the Ops building. I learned a lot from their conversation.

The officers who serve in Ops headquarters at Vorbarr Sultana are not interested in cleanliness in their food-and-beverage service establishments. The calculated dinginess of the Ops Department’s favorite bar establishes it as a male bastion. Ick. This does not stop Ivan and Alexei from drinking there, and By is leaning on the bar when they walk in. The Gift of Rereading is that this looks a smidge suspicious. By is the sort of person who wears nice suits. I can’t think why he would frequent this bar—which is (a) gross and (b) popular among the serving officers in an institution that By does not work for—without some kind of ulterior motive. I know exactly how I missed this the first time around—I was busy with the conversation—but I now think I was very obtuse to have done so.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 3

Chapter three of A Civil Campaign introduces Miles to some opposing forces. Miles welcomed Ekaterin home, and now the bachelors of Vorbarr Sultana are following in his wake. This section of the book is strongly reminiscent of Georgette Heyer’s romances. Bujold is putting the players on the stage, and making it clear which of them is interesting as scenery and which of them is a genuine potential partner for our heroine. There’s no reason that Ekaterin needs to be paired off, but a strong Barrayaran societal expectation that she will be at some point.

The Imperial Military Operations Department is heavily represented in the Vorthys family’s living room. The gentlemen present when Miles drops by are Major Zamori, Byerly Vorrutyer and Alexei Vormoncrief. Vormoncrief is an exciting name. This appears to be a red herring; Oscar Wilde’s Algernon Moncrieff, from The Importance of Being Earnest, spells his name with two fs, and the Barrayaran Lieutenant shows no inclination to go Vorbunburying. This is too bad, because Lt. Vormoncrief is an insufferable bore. He’s going to get more insufferable as we go forward. I have no reason to believe that he isn’t perfectly competent at his job in Ops, whatever that is. I’m sure he has some fine qualities as a person. Discovering those qualities would involve spending a lot of time scrutinizing a man who declared that “a daughter of the Vor” is preferable to “off-world exotica” so I’m going to spare myself. Heyer wrote a number of anti-romantic non-heroes, and they absolutely would have said things like that if they had lived in space. Major Zamori seems nice. He’s gotten to know Nikki. By Vorrutyer is a delight, though I don’t feel like he and Ekaterin have any particular chemistry. I don’t feel like any of these people have any particular chemistry. I’m rooting for Miles, even though he doesn’t deserve it.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: A Civil Campaign, Chapter 2

On Barrayar, you come home, you get flowers, and you make plans. This week, it’s Kareen Koudelka’s turn. Kareen is returning from a school year on Beta Colony. This situation is somewhat more complicated than she had anticipated when she left. Beta Colony is very open about sexual matters. Barrayar, by contrast, is a place where it is very difficult to say things like, “I spent a large part of the year knocking boots with your old friends’ recently discovered clone son.”

I would love for Kareen’s family not to care who she knocked boots with, as long as everyone involved was having a good time, but they DO care. It’s not initially clear whether they care because of Barrayaran cultural mores, or if they just want the hot gossip.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga