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Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapter 17

I write to you this week surrounded the pleasant detritus of an early summer weekend—my ukulele, a pile of books, a sleepy dog, a plate containing the remnants of some homemade ice cream sandwiches. We take summer seriously around here. The only problem is that, although my children are both out of school now, I’m not done until Wednesday.

Although I gather that some aspects of being a Betan Survey Commander and Vicereine of Sergyar are similar to some aspects of teaching at the secondary level, Cordelia has never been a high school teacher. Nonetheless, Chapter 17 finds her in a state of mind not unlike mine: With Jole’s decisions about his career and his children made, the moment she is living is warm and glorious, in many ways the polar opposite of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”—but all the responsibilities are hanging over it anyway. We have miles to go before we sleep.

I didn’t capitalize the M. That’s all on you. I’m not a monster.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapter 16

At the end of chapter 15 of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Admiral Oliver Jole found himself underneath an unexpected swarm of radials that had also been set on fire. Where did this leave him?

For starters, it left him shirtless. He removed his shirt to throw it over Alex and Helen, who he was also protecting with his own body. I thought about calling the shirt thing implausible, but I decided against it. I think we have all, at some time in our lives, been in a situation where our desperate need to remove our shirts has caused us to defy the laws of physics. Plus also, take that, ImpSec! Does your training course cover swarming radials? What about emergency shirt removal? Suddenly I realize that I forgot to mention Miles’ childhood reminiscences about shooting fish in a barrel last week. He got caught before he could try the plasma arc. He had a dustbin lid to use as a shield. No mention of the lake fishing trick with the stunner battery.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapters 14 and 15

Chapter 14 of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen opens with Miles and Jole in a field of misdelivered plascrete. Earlier in the book, Jole compared Aral falling in love to being hit by a falling building—not a building falling over, but a building falling from a great height. I haven’t personally laid eyes upon Jole’s collection of plascrete—and indeed, I cannot imagine a reason to see it other than that it offers an opportunity for private conversation with Jole—but today it strikes me as a metaphor for the remains of the falling building.

Miles is spending his week running wargames with Kaya Vorinnis, but he is apparently too much in charge for Vorinnis to run him enough to distract him from his informal investigation of his mother’s personal affairs. The conversation with Jole is an interrogation in Miles’s classic style. Since Jole is also a military officer of significant experience, it is a little more two-sided than it could be. Miles has yet to expand his line of inquiry beyond the relatively simple idea that Cordelia and Jole are an item and Cordelia is having more children. Jole is exploring his own goals and motivations; I think he learns a lot more from this conversation than Miles does. A combination of further investigation and luck brings Miles into the loop on the promotion Jole has been offered and his plan to have a son. This is certainly an educational week for Miles. It’s also educational for Fyodor Haines, who learns that Jole and Cordelia are dating.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapters 11-13

Chapters 11 through 13 of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen deal with conversations that should be had before too late. Chapters 11 and 12 deal mostly with personal matters. Chapter 13 raises the stakes with a second and third perspective on the War for Hegen’s Hub and a look at ongoing threats to Barrayar’s security.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapter 10

In Chapter 10 of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Cordelia is preoccupied with her impromptu visit from her grandchildren.

Cordelia’s grandchildren are amazing. Taura is my favorite. There’s nothing wrong with the rest of them, I just appreciate a person who knows a good hopscotch opportunity when she sees one. I’m ride or die for a tile floor. We’d get along.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapters 8 and 9

Chapters 8 and 9 of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen focus rather more on the Red Queen than on Gentleman Jole. The key issue is that Jole and Cordelia aren’t acknowledging the exact nature of their relationship in public. Rykov, Cordelia’s armsman, supports this decision—which was very definitely NOT Cordelia’s decision—because he’s in favor of discretion in all things. He’s also younger than Cordelia (and probably also Jole) and less aware of the full and complex range of issues that Cordelia needs to consider. These issues are going to make themselves felt.

Jole and Cordelia find themselves very busy with work this month, something that occasionally happens to adults who are running a planet. They find time for another few visits to Lake Serena, still termed as inspections, and they have a discreet and well-chaperoned dinner together in Kareenburg’s unnamed pleasant restaurant. The watchful eye of ImpSec has a quelling affect on their public expressions of affection. ImpSec’s concerns about Jole’s out-dated personal security training have reached his ear now as well. While Jole acknowledges Rykov’s position on discretion, he privately thinks it’s a hard habit to break.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapter 7

Chapter Seven of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen opens on the second morning of Jole and Cordelia’s weekend at Lake Serena. Even people over fifty can’t stay in bed together forever and the picnic hamper was only stocked for one night. Rather than lounging around having difficult conversations about What This Means and What Comes Next, Cordelia organizes an expedition in the transparent canoe.

Transparent canoes are really cool. So are the many yet-to-be-properly-surveyed lifeforms in Sergyar’s lakes: lots of radially symmetrical organisms in a wild array of colors and patterns. I’m assuming these are mostly insects. That might be unfair, but I’m assuming it. Some of them have CHEVRONS. I’m intrigued by what this might imply about what characteristics are advantageous to Sergyaran aquatic lifeforms. Possibly, bright colors and patterns offer a reproductive advantage that isn’t cancelled out by the reduction in camouflage. Alternately, when they aren’t moving around, these organisms hang out in a brightly colored and wildly patterned environment. Jole spends some of his morning thinking about how Cordelia’s staff might react to the change in circumstances, but much more of it entranced with things in the water.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapter 6

This week, Jole and Cordelia take off on what Bridget Jones might have described as a weekend mini-break. There’s a vast range of reading experiences between the Bridget Jones books and this one, but they DO have some things in common, most notably a connection with the works of Jane Austen. Gentleman Jole is, in some ways, Persuasion with a sexually adventurous backstory. Like, if you took the scene in chapter 20 of Persuasion where Anne Elliot talks to her cousin about Italian love songs, and rendered all the Italian love songs literally and with a carefully curated collection of sex toys, then Gentleman Jole *is* Persuasion.

The most important similarity between the two stories is the progression of the protagonists from friends to lovers. Jole and Cordelia have flown (via lightflyer, no roads) away from what passes for civilization on Sergyar, to a sort-of-kind-of rustic retreat. They’re camping, but there’s a cabin with a roof, a bed, and a door that shuts. There are also boats, a dock on the lake, dry towels, food, Cordelia’s armsman, and the Penneys, who own the facility and see to the catering. This is a very grown-up camping trip.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapters 4 and 5

Welcome back to Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga! Schools in Massachusetts get the week starting with the third Monday in April off, because of the Boston Marathon and the Battle of Lexington and Concord, so I’ve been on vacation this week. It’s been amazing. I took my dog out in my kayak! Chapters four and five of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen get much farther out in the wilderness than I have this week, and also follow up on chapter three’s long series of conversations about life, the universe, and parenting.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapter 3

As readers, we’ve known Cordelia for a long time. We met her in her thirties when she became Aral’s prisoner and then fell in love with him shortly after he fell in love on her. Cordelia has adopted Jole’s description of that.

We’ve seen Jole around, here and there—looking like a recruiting poster, acting as Aral’s ADC, as an admiral it is unwise to cross with your peculation scheme, and as pallbearer “for Sergyar”—but we don’t really know him. In chapter one, we learned he has some feelings for Cordelia and a past with Aral. In chapter two we elaborated on his feelings for Cordelia. We still have to get to know him and his relationship with Cordelia. And new readers have to figure out who Cordelia is, herself. So Cordelia and Jole have to talk. A lot. I love reading long conversations. The series we see in chapter three explores Cordelia and Jole’s shared pasts and their thoughts about the future, but it treads gently.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapter 2

This week, Oliver Jole goes to a reproductive clinic and a garden party.

While the Vorkosigan Saga as a whole is very much a space opera, a number of the stories within it are very much romance novels. This one is a love story about a love story. Bujold has called it a meditation on grief and loss, and she has said that it is for adults. In the last weeks, I have reread chapters two and three several times and I can confirm: It is meditative and it is for adults.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Chapter 1

At the time of this writing, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is the last book in the Vorkosigan series. It was released in 2016. As almost always, we will start with the cover.

Gentleman Jole has only one cover. I have located a version with the title in Bulgarian (thank you, ISFDB), but it has the same art. The art is by Ron Miller, who has had a long career painting lots of science fiction book covers, based on a design by Bujold herself. This is the perfect genesis for a book cover.

I don’t like it.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, “Aftermaths”

At the time of this writing, Aral is the last character to die in the Vorkosigan Saga.

This is the second time a book has ended with something that functioned as an epilogue titled “Aftermaths.” The previous “Aftermaths” appeared at the end of Shards of Honor and described the process of finding and identifying the remains of the casualties of the Escobar War. Aral lost a great deal in that war, and among other things, that story was about his losses. He got to go on and have a second life he never anticipated; the losses never went away, but he gained things he never expected to have. The current set of aftermaths are about everyone else’s loss of Aral.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 19 and 20

In Esad Ribic’s cover of Cryoburn, Miles is looking for something.

I came to Cryoburn looking for something, and one of the things about blogging a reread is that the things I thought I was doing never go away, they stay where I wrote them. My recollection of the book, before I started rereading it, was that it had a lot to do with unwanted people. It has some unwanted people in it. Lisa Sato was very inconvenient. Yani was inconvenient. Jin’s father hadn’t bought a cryofreezing contract. Suze offered a refuge for people waiting to be frozen in her underground cryofreezing commune in the building she didn’t own—people whose needs weren’t drawing public attention. But that’s not what Cryoburn is about; it’s about what it means to be alive and what it means to be dead. One of those is something you decide for yourself, and the other is something other people make decisions about for you.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cryoburn, Chapters 15-18

Last week, Miles questioned Lisa Sato and invited her to sit in on his interrogation of Dr. Leiber.

Last week I also mentioned that I think Dr. Leiber is a creep.

If one absolutely MUST be a creep, one should at least use one’s creepiness to anticipate and outsmart the creeps who want a piece of you. And Leiber didn’t. We’ve had a lot of morally ambiguous characters in this series, including a number for whom I have a great deal of affection. But to win my love, a character has to have something else compelling going on in addition to their moral ambiguity. Like intelligence. To borrow, and then mutilate, a phrase from Rainbow Rowell, my VERY LIMITED sympathy for creeps is reserved for creeps who haven’t been kidnapped by numpties.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

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