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Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

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

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 6

Chapter six opens with Tej hanging over the balcony. The balcony is at the center of Tej and Rish’s emergency backup plan, but on this occasion, Tej is using it to spot Ivan. Let the record show that there is no question about whether or not Tej is smitten with Ivan. She is deeply smitten.

Rish is all but glued to the wall, urging Tej to come away from the railing. Rish is a cynical realist, smitten with no one. Yes, she found Byerly attractive last night, but that could happen to anyone.

What is Ivan doing? He’s picking up takeout and hitting the grocery store. He returns home bearing Barrayaran Greekie food and a box of groats.

This chapter is a series of escalating incidents involving groats.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Chapter 4 (part 2) and Chapter 5

Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger / You may see a stranger across your distant cousin’s crowded temporary flat convenient to the nightlife in Solstice…

That happens shortly after Byerly walks through the door. Not in time to cut off his critique of Ivan’s activities last night—and I, for one, don’t think it’s fair to criticize Ivan for having been tied to a chair, or for talking to Dome Security. I share Ivan’s concerns about the inadequacy of By’s briefing. Byerly is charmingly stunned by Rish’s appearance. He says so! He says “My word” and “Mademoiselle, may I just say, a stunner seems redundant?” If he had brought takeout, as well as saying those things, I would forgive him all his previous transgressions since the parking garage incident. And that one would be on the table for negotiation. He didn’t bring food, but he has managed to turn himself from a slimy rat fink into kind of a cute fluffy pet-type rat. And Rish has a secret weapon—Rish and Tej both have very sensitive senses, and are learning a lot about Ivan and Byerly from smell. Rish can pick up changes in heart rate. She knows By isn’t faking his attraction. And we know he won’t be able to deceive her. In the interrogation that is to come, By may hedge, he may refuse to speak, and he may select information carefully, but all of those things will be apparent to Tej and Rish. He will be able to obscure information, but not to make it up. He can protect himself, but not deceive anyone. Except Ivan. By can still deceive Ivan if he chooses to.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

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

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