Your name: The Vorkosigan Saga Reread
Your quest: To summarize and comment on the books of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga
One thing most people don’t know about you: Why Miles Vorkosigan is on the planet of Kibou-daini in the first chapter of CryoBurn, the book that we’re starting this week.
When nobody is looking you like to: Wander through subterranean cryocorpse storage facilities; hallucinate angels, insects, and lizards; squat on the rooftops of abandoned buildings and raise animals.
Miles has been on the planet of Kibou-daini for five days, and is currently lost in the “Cryocombs”, with cryo-frozen bodies all around him; he estimates that there’s about a hundred of them every ten meters, and there’s one or two million of them stored under the city. It’s pitch-dark, but he’s seeing golden flashes in front of his eyes, hallucinating them as angels; he worried more about what he can’t see. He lost his cane in a scuffle, hours ago now, and the knees of his pants are torn and damp; he escaped through crawlspaces and ducts and utility tunnels to find his way here.
His would-be kidnappers hadn’t roughed him up too badly in the botched snatch, relying instead on a hypospray of sedative to keep their captive under control. Too bad it had been in the same class of sedatives to which Miles was violently allergic-or even, judging by his present symptoms, the identical drug. Expecting a drowsy deadweight, they’d instead found themselves struggling with a maniacal little screaming man. This suggested his snatchers hadn’t known everything about him, a somewhat reassuring thought.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t know anything about them, either.
He’s currently trying to go straight ahead as much as possible, since taking side corridors is how he ended up so horribly lost. His fingers, used to running over the banks of drawers on either side, encounter something different, which he manages to identify as a door; hoping it’s not just another closet, he manages to open it, rusty as it is. He drops to all fours and feels around cautiously on the other side, and discovers emergency stairs, going both up and down; he decides to go up, since it feels like “down” could go on forever, though he tries to tell himself that it would have to stop before it hit magma. He climbs the stairs on all fours as well, testing each step for weight, and avoiding any other exit doors until he reaches the top.
Finally he begins to see a bit of dim light, coming from a window in a door; he pushed it open cautiously, finding himself in an alley at ground level, between his current building, only one storey above ground, and the taller building opposite. No houses or stores nearby, probably an industrial zone; he judges he’s still in Northbridge a.k.a. Kitahashi, Territorial Prefecture capital, since he can’t have wandered that far, or at least not in a straight line. He turns right up the alley, his nearly-bare feet almost numb. He spots a graffiti he’s seen before on the planet, Burn The Dead, and wonders again what it means.
Turning onto the next street, he sees two figures coming towards him, which his addled perceptions tell him are a 6′ butterbug and and a Tau Cetan beaded lizard carrying sacks. Miles tries to greet them, and the butterbug warns the lizard, Jin, that he looks like a druggie and they should stay clear.
“Hey,” said Miles, annoyed. “I can’t look nearly as bad to you as you look to me. Deal with it.” Perhaps he had wandered into some talking animal story like the ones he’d read, over and over, in the nursery to Sasha and little Hellion. Except the creatures encountered in such tales were normally furrier, he though. Why couldn’t his chemically-enhanced neurons have spat out giant kittens?
He put on his most austere diplomat’s tones, and said, “I beg your pardon, but I seem to have lost my way.” Also my wallet, my wristcom, half my clothes, my bodyguard, and my mind. And–his hand felt around his neck–his Auditor’s seal-ring on its chain.
His Auditor’s seal wouldn’t have been as useful here as it would be on Barrayar, but at least Roic could use it to track him; he was alive the last time Miles saw him, anyway, before the panicking mob pushed them apart. He babbles about how he knows that the butterbug image, at least, comes from his own mind, and the pair withdraws a little further. The butterbug says they should just walk away, but Jin wants to know if they can help him; the butterbug says something about getting findings to the secretaries before dark. Jin asks Miles where he wants to go, and Miles confesses that he doesn’t know yet. He had been at a cryonics conference, but he doesn’t dare try to go back until he knows if his enemies will be waiting for him there; after yesterday’s events, he’s not sure he wants to go home just yet, either.
Miles asks humbly if he could at least have some water, since he was probably wandering in the tunnels for at least half a day, probably more. Jin offers to get him some, before yielding to the efforts of his companion (Yani, and not his parent) to drag him away before the custodian closes up. Miles slumps down against the wall in exhaustion, shivering in the chill, but telling himself that at least it’s not pitch dark.
He dozes for a while, then awakens when Jin (looking less reptilian than before) returns and offers to take him to his hideout, where he’s got some water bottles. Miles agrees, struggles to his feet and follows.
Jin thinks the little man is definitely a grown up, from his voice, despite its strange accent, even if he’s no taller than Jin himself; he looks like a habitually cheerful person, too, and his clothes look like they used to be nice. They reach the ladder and Jin asks the man if he can climb, reassuring him that it’s only three stories to his hideout; the man offers to go last, in case he falls, but Jin says he has to go first so he can raise the ladder after them. The man balks at the edge, though, apparently unable to see how far down it is over the ledge; Jin tells him that it’s only half a meter, and the man rolls over onto the roof, explaining that he’s a little dizzy.
The man is a little dismayed to see Jin’s chickens on the roof, thinking they’re hallucinations like the angels, until Jin assures him that they’re real. He leads the man over to his hideout, a makeshift tent made out of tarps and drop cloths, where his other animal friends live–Lucky the three-legged cat, Gyre the falcon, and his caged pet rats. The man seems a little nervous, and rejects Jin’s offer to hold one of the rats, though he says it’s because he’s still shaky. He reminds Jin of his offer of water, and accepts Jin’s offer of his only chair; Jin gets him a water bottle, and assures him he can refill it from a tap on the roof. The custodian had helped him hook it up, and also helped him with his tent.
Jin is curious about the man, his appearance and odd body shape, but he settles for asking him his name. The man introduces himself as Miles, with a last name that most people on the planet seem to have trouble saying; Jin introduces himself in return, adding that he’s almost twelve. He asks about Miles’s funny accent, and Miles tells him he’s from Barrayar, which he then explains is an empire of three planets. Jin is excited to meet a real offworlder, though a little disappointed because that probably means he’ll be leaving as soon as he get in touch with his friends or hotel.
Jin tells Miles that the building was an old cryofacility, but he and several others are sort of hiding out in it. Miles asks about Yani, and Jin says he’s a revive; his cryocorp thawed him out after a hundred years, like his contract says, but Yani really wanted to stay frozen until they figured out a cure for being old, so now he’s all grumpy about it.
Miles grumbles about his head still being confused, and Jin offers to let him sleep for a while; he asks about bathroom facilities, and Jin admits that he mostly just uses the gutter and rinses it down the drainpipe. Jin offers Miles some food after his lie-down, and Miles allows that by that time he’ll probably be ready for it. Jin has another thought about the gutter, that it might be a little dangerous if Miles is dizzy, and offers to tie a rope to his ankle (like he did with the baby chicks) if that’ll help; Miles thinks that’ll be a good idea, and Jin fetches the rope and ties him with it, though Miles is asleep by that time. Then he heads down to see if he can get some scraps at Ayako’s Cafe.
Once again, not two chapters. Sorry about that. I do have this one in HTML format (from the CD included with the hardcover) so I can’t blame the difficulty of working with the book copy, like it was with Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. As I’ve said before, I don’t like this book as much, but also I’m less familiar with it, so it takes more work for me to figure out what’s happening so I can summarize it properly.
Kibou-daini sounds like it’s somewhat Japanese, culturally. They have trouble saying “Vorkosigan”, possibly because of its consonant cluster or something (and before all us skilled English speakers get smug, try saying “Tkvarcheli” sometime). “Jin Sato” (Jin’s full name), Ayako, Yani, Kitahashi, all sound nice and Japanese. More than Kibou-daini, to my ears, actually, but maybe that’s also good Japanese, or maybe it’s not all Japanese, just this one area? Oh, and apparently there’s tons of people cryo-frozen, which the title is liable to make one thing is important to the plot of the book.
I’m not really that big of a fan of Jin’s POV, not yet, at least. Seeing things from a native’s viewpoint, in third person, is great if you don’t mind tons of unexplained references to things that said native already knows about and doesn’t have to explain to oneself. Often first-person narrators are obliging enough to explain things to the person they’re telling the story to. For instance, Jin’s story about Yani is full of references that probably go right over Miles’s head, and he isn’t quite self-aware enough to really think that maybe offworlders wouldn’t know everything he’s talking about. There’s also something about his mother, who’s obviously not around, but he doesn’t tell us about that either.
Of course, Miles starts out so in medias res that we’re left disoriented with how he got there, too. He starts this story off so isolated; Roic is onplanet somewhere, but they got separated, apparently. There was a kidnapping attempt or something, with attempted drugging resulting in hallucinations; this must be something from the fast-penta family, I guess, though slightly different. So it’s good for him to have someone to talk to, and to help him, and maybe a kid is the only one who’d help a stranger like this, but still. In some ways it makes me think of Steven Brust’s Athyra, except there we get all or most of the book from Savn’s point of view, rather than from Vlad Taltos’s. (It’s not my favourite Vlad Taltos book, either.)
Another chapter next week, or maybe two if things pick up, but don’t get your hopes up. Oh, it looks like Chapter Two starts with Armsman Roic’s POV, so hopefully we’ll find out more of the backstory. Because we get at least those three viewpoint characters in this book; I don’t recall any others, but I’d forgotten until a little while ago that we got Roic, either. Not up to the five from A Civil Campaign, but at least the chapters are shorter…