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Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapter 5

Welcome back to the Vorkosigan reread! This week’s Cryoburn cover is by Dave Seeley. This painting was used on the Baen first edition, apparently with some darker filters applied. Baen did something similar to the cover of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. Later Baen editions have brighter colors, although the color palette Seeley is using can’t really be called bright. I chose to use the Spanish version from Ediciones B here because the Baen edition has more marketing copy obscuring the art.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 3 and 4

For most of this reread, I have introduced each book with an examination of its covers. I didn’t get a chance to do that last week, and I feel like it would be an awkward interjection to do the whole round-up now. But we’re very close to the end of the reread, and I’m not willing to leave it out either. For the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at one cover each week. This week’s is Esad Ribic’s cover for Algoritam’s Croation edition. Esad Ribic is one of the many things I would never have known about if not for this reread. His covers are sometimes mind-twistingly over-wrought—he can be a sensationalist—but his most recent work on the series has been more understated. This cover shows Miles in the cryo-combs. From his equipment, this seems to represent the scene in Chapter Eleven rather than the one that opens the book. The rows of cryo-chamber lights create a sense of three-dimensional space while hemming Miles in. Miles’ body blocks the vanishing point where my eye wants to go, leaving a mystery at the end of the corridor. It’s a thought-provoking visualization of Miles surrounded by death.

A number of comments last week described Cryoburn as a good book, but not one of Bujold’s most captivating. And when I read those comments last week, I agreed. I enjoyed this book when it was first published, but I hadn’t felt compelled to read it twice.

That’s changed.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 1 and 2

It’s new book time, Kittens! Today we’re starting Cryoburn! What is Miles doing? Miles is hallucinating. OK. That’s fun. There are falling angels that are also screaming? And there are a lot of them? And also a door and some lizards? Bujold has written this really well, because I feel like I’m hallucinating. Miles has the most interesting allergic reactions. I mean, I have some idiosyncratic allergies, and I just get wheezing and rashes. I suppose it’s possible that the hallucinations are symbolic. These could be the falling angels and lizard people over the fireplace in act one. One of the angels could be Chekov. Miles is going to have some water and a lie down now. On a roof. That’s nice. You know who’s not hallucinating? Roic. He’s chained to a wall.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: The Flowers of Vashnoi

The Flowers of Vashnoi is the most recent Vorkosigan novella. It is set between Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance and Cryoburn. It’s a short adventure focusing on Ekaterin, with Enrique in a major supporting role. While carrying out a research study on bugs that process radioactive waste, Ekaterin and Enrique find a family of mutants hiding in the contaminated area outside the ruins of Vorkosigan Vashnoi. The Flowers of Vashnoi came out last year in the same week as my birthday, which is irrelevant to any and all readers whose birthday isn’t in the same week as mine, roughly 51/52 of literate humanity, but I mention it anyway because I regard the book as a present. To me. I know Bujold didn’t write it for me, but she wrote it and I’m blogging about it, and here we are.

And because of that, it feels a little weird to be blogging about this book. You’re not supposed to dissect presents. You’re supposed to say thank you and be properly grateful and carry your present off to read and appreciate. I did all of those things. I love it and I appreciate it, and I’m also a little skeptical about it.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

A Fun Space Adventure: Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl

Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl is the upcoming title in Disney’s “Rick Riordan Presents” series for middle grade readers. I am, myself, the parent of a middle grade reader. We’ve had to have a number of difficult conversations lately—chores and homework, mostly—and I jumped at the chance to review the book in the hopes that offering her access to a pre-publication work with the word dragon in the title would help me score some cool points. Unfortunately for me, she thinks that reading a book before its release date means waiting longer than everyone else for the sequel. There is compelling evidence that she and I are related, but that is not it.

Typical middle grade space stories feature protagonists who leave familiar worlds (sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not) to have fabulous adventures that sometimes involve aliens, sometimes involve war, and sometimes are hilariously misguided parables about the power of international cooperation or justice or something. Dragon Pearl is neither a war story nor an alien story—it’s about people competing to find and control their society’s most important resource. It’s not a misguided parable either.

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 25 and Epilogue

We’re finishing up Ivan’s book this week. I’ve been procrastinating on this blog post all weekend, for once not because of time management but because I’m a little sad to let it go. Ivan goes out in such a good place—perhaps not where he planned to be, but in command of his own destiny. I don’t think that Ivan and Tej will be happy for every moment of their lives together from here on out, but I’m confident that they will put things right when they go wrong, and I’m thrilled for them.

Chapter 25 wraps up the loose ends of the Ghem Estif-Arqua Family and the sinking of ImpSec. In previous books, Ivan warned against the dangers of surprising Gregor. And indeed, while Gregor is willing to see what happens in situations that he is informed of in advance, he really hates being surprised. I’m not going to suggest that his retribution is swift or severe or anything like that, but it is efficient and effective in removing the sources of unwelcome surprises from his immediate environs. And yet not from his sphere of influence. In fairness, his sphere of influence is a multi-planetary Empire plus those areas in which he has agents or personnel who can act on his behalf in matters deemed to be of Imperial importance.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapters 20-24

Welcome back to the reread! It’s been two weeks—roughly, I didn’t count—since our last blog post. I hope everyone had multiple brilliant holidays, and that no one found Ivan being stuck in a bunker with his in-laws excessively relevant to their celebrations. And for those of you who are just tuning in, this is the week when Ivan gets stuck in a bunker with his in-laws!

The last blog post left Ivan at a perilous point: He made promises to Tej without knowing what he was promising. This is because he so desperately wants her in his life. I think Tej is good for Ivan, but of course, her family isn’t good for her—they’re quite dysfunctional—and she’s very much under their influence these days what with all the driving, the lectures from her sisters about what she should be willing to do, and her Da’s offers to have Ivan assassinated. She’s handling all of this better than I would.

That’s not the same as saying she’s handling it well. In her defense, every good option I can think of involves having a family that respects one’s personal boundaries.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapters 16-19

One week before Winterfair, and Ivan is desperately trying to get his wife’s attention.

Tej is BUSY. Family are making a lot of demands on her time, which is just so typical of this holiday season. There’s a lot of pressure to pitch in and make things work and put family first. There are some domineering parents and grandparents.  Most of us are not using experimental chemicals to excavate bunkers located underneath government buildings while wearing fuzzy slippers for stealth, but otherwise, all of this sounds very familiar.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

A Love Letter to Murderbots, Hamster Princesses, and Other Cute Reads

Sometimes, when you blog about fiction, people say things to you that are inexplicable—things like, “I hated the winged horse,” or “I wanted to set this book on fire.” That’s fine, really. Cool story. Is there more to it? Did Satan give you something when you handed over your soul?

I have strong literary preferences of my own. For example, I prefer that people’s psychic companion animals not comment on their sex lives. And it really bothers me when time travel stories try to explain the underlying science involved by treating time like matter, and yet don’t tear the universe apart—either your time travel is hand-wavy and doesn’t really need an explanation or you have to deal with the laws of physics. Some of my opinions are controversial. There are lots of people who don’t like psychic cats, or happily-ever-after endings. And again, that’s fine! Many things are a matter of taste. But I’ll be honest—I think those people are missing out.

So I’m giving in to the urge to recommend the things I love: You should read cute stuff.

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapters 15 and 16

In this segment of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, the Dowager Lady Vorpatril is hosting a dinner party for her son’s in-laws who have just arrived from Earth. It’s been just over six months since this blog last discussed a dinner party. Lady Alys is much better at them than her nephew, but the evening is not without its dangers.

Ivan’s unscheduled morning meeting with Admiral Desplaines and an ImpSec agent has made it clear that Ivan’s personal life has a great many political implications. His in-laws—previously thought to be deceased—are a matter of significant concern to ImpSec. There is some question about whether Ivan should be relieved of duty until the situation is resolved. Ivan deploys his Vor-ish dignity to reject this calumny. It’s not entirely clear to me how ImpSec chooses to follow up. Did they involve themselves in the dinner party through any of the three ImpSec operatives who attended, or did they pursue other avenues of investigation? I suppose they could have done both.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 14

Chapter 13 ended on a dramatic cliffhanger near (but not in) the detention area at the shuttleport, where Tej and Rish were about to be reunited with most of their family.

Tej and Rish have talked about their family—the Arquas of House Cordonah—a few times so far.  We know that one of Tej’s older brothers didn’t feel like he was cut out for life in a Jacksonian House and relocated to Escobar to work with the Duronas, because the Nexus is Galactic, but also very small.  We know that Tej and Rish have a lot of siblings, not all genetically related. Rish and the other Jewels were designed by the Baronette who is, among other things, a geneticist. We know that two of Tej and Rish’s siblings are in the hands of the Prestene Syndicate, and one of them is cryogenically frozen.  I think there might be more than two missing? There are a lot of Arquas and I am having some difficulty keeping track.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapters 12 and 13

True confessions:

I watched The Princess Switch.

It was exactly what the review led me to expect. My heart was warmed. Literally its only connection to Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was that in some scenes it snowed.

There is snow in part of chapter 12 of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance because Ivan and Tej travel up north to the Vorpatril’s District. Apparently it snows there for a lot of the year, because there was no mention of Winterfair. I could go for Tej and Rish’s first Winterfair! But Winterfair is nowhere near Ivan’s birthday, and the reason Ivan and Tej are traveling is so that Count Falco can divorce them.

Yeah, total downer.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapters 10 and 11

Possibly the most influential thing I read this week was this review of Netflix’s new holiday movie, The Princess Switch. I am no more likely to watch The Princess Switch than I was before I read the review—television takes a looooong time, ya’ll. I’ve got some pretty major commitments on the pie crust front this week before I get too busy celebrating the winter holidays to watch movies about other people who are also celebrating the winter holidays. But I strongly recommend the review which a) was a hoot and a half and b) made me a happier person.

Why is that here, in this blog post about Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, a book that is not on Netflix, and is also not set at the winter holidays? Because holiday movies are made of tropes that make us feel warm and fuzzy, and Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is also made of these tropes. We are very much in the section of the book where we roam from scene to scene feeling warm and fuzzy.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapters 8 and 9

This week, Ivan and Tej appreciate each other aesthetically in the Admiral’s suite on Desplaines’s courier. That’s not the point though—Tej has been focused on what she is escaping from, and now she’s confronting what she is escaping to. Chapter 8 is sprinkled with little reminders of who Tej is and where she comes from; She has the Cetagandan ear, and the the genetically engineered facility with languages. She’s been carefully trained to be charming—those Betan instructors her parents imported to teach their children? They were instructors in the erotic arts. Ivan is a wilder specimen and came by his social strategies by way of experiment. His first lover was an older teenager who worked in Lord Piotr’s stables. Tej and Ivan seem to be pleased with each other as lovers. I’m happy for them, but their pleasure is a lower priority than Tej and Rish’s escape.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 7

This blog post opens in Ivan Xav’s apartment on Komarr. In another sense, it opens in the Student Union at UC Storrs where I am writing while my students argue about international affairs. Were I not committed to this for the weekend, I would be knocking on doors to get out the vote. Instead, I’m writing to you. We are just two days away from the midterm elections—and by the time you read this, it will be tomorrow. If there is one thing I have learned about Vorkosigan fans in the last three years, it’s that they’re phenomenally diverse in their views and phenomenally passionate about those views. The most important way to express passionately held views in the US is to vote. If you’re reading this and you’re a registered voter in the US, please make sure you vote! I don’t know or care how you will vote, just vote. In some states it’s possible to register to vote on election day, so if you’re a US citizen but not a registered voter, check your state’s rules—you might still be able to vote.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post about refugees fleeing violence and the militaristic-but-slowly-liberalizing quasi-feudal regime to which they have fled.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

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