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Archive for January, 2015

A motion is upon the floor, to publish another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  Said reread will contain a synopsis and brief critical discussion of one (1) chapter from the novel CryoBurn, by Lois McMaster Bujold, featuring her recurring protagonist, one (1) Miles Vorkosigan, as well as sundry other secondary characters.  Motion seconded…all in favour?  Sold!  To the lady with the battle-axe.

Chapter Eight

After buying some milk, Jin and Mina find a garden shed behind an empty house to hide during school hours; it’s taken longer than he thought to cross the city, and he’s afraid that they got turned around during the last day and a half.  They did find water to drink, and bathrooms in public parks, at least.   While Mina sleeps, Jin finds a wolf spider, and he ends up waking her up digging out her coin box to use for a spider house.  They discuss what to name her, and eventually settle on Lady Murasaki; after sharing a lunch bar, they refill their milk bottles with water.

Mina asks how long it’ll take to get back to his place, and Jin admits he doesn’t know, and hopes that Miles-san is taking care of his animals; he also hopes that Miles-san can forgive him for losing his money.  Mina asks if he has any children, and Jin isn’t sure, especially since Miles-san is so strange-looking he might have trouble finding a wife.  Mina says that maybe he’ll adopt them, like in a book they read for school about a man from Earth who adopted some children; Jin says he’s from Barrayar, but that might be just as good, he supposes.

A sudden picture bloomed in Jin’s mind of the odd little fellow living all alone in a cottage in the country-no, better, a big rambling old house with a vast overgrown garden. Like the book with that old professor who had taken in two children from the city during wartime-Jin didn’t know what war, except it was from a period before anybody got frozen. There’d been a horse that drew a cart, and wonderful adventures involving a cave with blind white fish. Jin had seen a horse in the Northbridge Zoo, once, on a class field trip. The braver children had all been allowed to pat its glossy neck, while one of the keepers held its lead; Jin remembered the huge beast blowing air out its soft, bellowslike nostrils in a warm whoosh across his cheek. Jin understood there were littler versions bred just for children, called ponies. Mina wouldn’t be scared of one that size. The looming beast at the zoo had alarmed even Jin, but he’d been younger then, too. A great rambling house, and animals, and . . . ​

It was all rubbish. Miles-san wasn’t a professor, or their uncle of any kind, great or regular, and for all Jin knew he lived in a cramped city apartment and wasn’t lonely at all. Jin decided he didn’t like that country daydream. It hurt too much when it stopped. He frowned at Mina. “Nobody’s going to adopt us and take us away from here. That’s a stupid idea.”

Mina isn’t happy about that, and they put on their shoes and socks, Jin feeling a little guilty of his sister’s blistered feet, then start walking again.  They pass a tube station, and Mina offers to pay their fare, but Jin reminds her of how he got caught the last time.  He does find a map, though, so he can figure out where they are, and is shocked to find they’ve gone much more east than south, and haven’t gotten any closer to his building than they’d started.  He does notice, though, that they’re close to the Barrayaran consulate; if he goes there first, and explains about how he lost the money, they may be able to give him more to give to Miles-san.

The Barrayaran party returns to the consulate, dialogue subdued on the limo ride by Aida’s presence and Vorlynkin’s quiet anger; Miles takes some headache medication and then they head downstairs to debrief in the tight-room.  Vorlynkin has already locked himself inside, though, and when he finally lets them in, he tells Miles he’s too late.

A muscle jumped by Vorlynkin’s scowling mouth. “I just sent a full report of what I witnessed by tight-beam to General Allegre at ImpSec HQ, Barrayar. I never thought I’d live to see a Vorkosigan sell himself for money. My career may be slagged, but so will yours, my Lord Auditor.”

“Ah, excellent. That’s done.” M’lord kicked the door shut; it sealed with a sigh that seemed insufficiently dramatic for Vorlynkin’s mood.

Miles says that he’d been more afraid that Wing wouldn’t come through, and he’d have to go through it all again; Roic, wary of Vorlynkin’s growing fury, encourages m’lord to stop baiting him and let him in on what’s going on.  Miles says that he’d been going to great lengths to seem bribable, and Vorlynkin, suddenly enlightened, asks if this is a sting operation; Miles says that it is now, though he hadn’t been sure what he’d find when he got to the planet.  Vorlynkin apologizes in chagrin for the report he just sent, and Miles says that he hadn’t been sure that Vorlynkin wasn’t on the take either, and this proved a good test.  Miles asks Raven for his report, which mostly just supports the infrequency of cryorevivals, and Vorlynkin then realizes that Dr. Durona is also working for Miles.

Miles tells Vorlynkin that WhiteChrys had been vetted by ImpSec and they found nothing suspicious, but they may have been looking for the wrong things.  But when they were setting up on Komarr, and collecting cryocontracts, Empress Laisa Toscane’s business-savvy great-aunt became suspicious of receiving both a sales brochure for a cryocontract and an offer to buy stocks.  Something about it sounded off, and she brought it to Laisa and Gregor, who agreed, but none of them could say what the problem was; thus it got dumped on Miles’s lap.

Komarr’s voting system had, from the beginning, awarded more voting power to those who enhanced the habitability of the planet, which has accumulated in the wealthier families; it now seems that WhiteChrys is trying to acquire those votes for itself through cryocontracts.  Komarrans are no stranger to vote chicanery, and there are certain rules, like corporations being unable to hold voting shares themselves, so the WhiteChrys attempts seemed harmless, but Miles now suspects that they’ve worked out some way around it, through legal loopholes or outright bribery.  He couldn’t figure out how they could make any short-term gains, though, until Wing mentioned being cryofrozen on Komarr; having the WhiteChrys representatives cryofrozen, likely taking turns, will give them the timeframe necessary for the takeover of Komarr to progress during their extended lifetimes.

They still need more information, though; in particular, Miles suspects that it may be a subgroup of WhiteChrys employees who are handling the Komarr scheme, gutting the home company in the process.  Vorlynkin asks how they can do anything about it on Kibou-daini, and Miles says he rather prefers trapping them on Komarr instead, closing their loopholes and leaving them stuck running a mere low-profit service company.  Miles asks Vorlynkin about the probity of the other consulate staff; Vorlynkin says he has no reason to doubt Johannes or Yuuichi Matson, but he admits they haven’t really been tested before.

“Yet routine travel visas for WhiteChrys personnel have been handled through the consulate all this time.”

“Yes, but all we ask is business or tourism? Plus a quick background check for criminal records.”

M’lord’s eyes crinkled in speculation. “I wonder if we should add a box to tick off–Reason for travel: creepy planetary conquest . . . ​no, I suppose not.”

Vorlynkin asks what would have happened if he hadn’t tried to turn Miles in, and Miles said he’d have been excluded from the briefing and added to his list of targets.  Just then, Johannes informs them over the intercom that his child courier has turned up again, with company, and they head for the door.

Comments

I don’t know particularly what books Jin and Mina are thinking about.  The one with the old professor sounds like it should be a real one, at least–makes me think of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, actually, though of course that had more children and more fantasy kingdoms, and less cave fish.  The other one, with the man from Earth, could be something made up out of whole cloth.

Here, finally, we get to the real plot; WhiteChrys planning to use the vote-proxy cryocontracts to take over Komarr.  It’s not clear to me how much power the forces of democracy (even oligarchically-weighted democracy) have on Komarr under Imperial control, but perhaps part of their takeover scheme is throwing off Barrayaran shackles…?  Yeah, probably not, that sounds a little too risky for these Kibou.  But yeah, I could see WhiteChrys attempting to present them with a fait accompli and the Emperor just sending in his troops.  Barrayaran law is, as mentioned previously, more concerned with the spirit than the letter of the law, which must make it a bit of an oddity on the galactic scene.  If the Komarran populace was also not happy with their votes being accumulated by corporations (or their representatives, which might get around the no-corporate-votes law), then they’d probably be fine with the Emperor overruling them, and backing it with Imperial forces.

If I were those guys, gambling on sleeping away the years, or decades, or centuries, until their plans come to fruition, I’d actually have been expressing a little more interest in cryorevival.  After all, they’re going to want to reduce the risk of botched revival as much as possible.  I suppose that if they get frozen under controlled conditions, they’ll already be in better shape than someone being hastily frozen under combat conditions and suffering severe bodily trauma, but there’ll still be risks.  Not to mention that there will be plenty of opportunity for backstabbing when your partners in crime are helpless in suspended animation.  So, all in all, sounds like a stupid plan to me.


Eleven chapters (plus the all-important aftermaths) left in the book.  Meanwhile, I’m five chapters (plus an epilogue) away from finishing reading Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance to my son.  That’ll probably take me a couple of weeks…and then I’ll be reading him the same book I’m summarizing here.  Yeah, I’m going to overtake myself, aren’t I?

 

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What’s that, Mr. Scruffy?  You say it’s time for another Vorkosigan Saga Reread post?  Okay, here it is!  Another chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s CryoBurn, last chronologically in her Vorkosigan Saga, in which our frequent protagonist, Miles Vorkosigan, is investigating something odd about the cryonics businesses on the planet of Kibou-daini.  No, Mr. Scruffy, there are no cats in Chapter 7.  Well, some sphinx statues, but that’s about it.  Maybe in one of the other chapters.  Until then, enjoy this chapter despite its lack of felinity.

Chapter Seven

Miles is mostly recovered from his seizure two days later when WhiteChrys send a luxurious groundcar to collect him and his party–Roic, Vorlynkin, and Raven Durona.  As they watch the car arrive, Miles instructs Vorlynkin to play along with whatever he says, and generally be a yes-man.  The car comes to a stop and an attractive Kibou woman steps out–dressed in Kibou business formal, somewhat geisha-like, with a short skirt to enhance her sex appeal, and her diminituve height and flat shoes seem aimed specifically at Miles.  She greets them and introduces herself as Aida, assistant to Mr. Ron Wing; Miles suspects she’d been specially selected in an attempt to appeal to him.

He’d been hoping to meet with Ron Wing, and held out for him during yesterday’s repeated wooings, driving Vorlynkin to distraction in the process.  Wing was the man in charge of the Komarran expansion effort, and his underlings had been the ones who had been courting Miles at the conference; Miles is eager to see who’s been pulling the strings.  The groundcar is very roomy inside, reminding Miles of his father’s, but Roic says it doesn’t feel like it has nearly enough armour plating.  Miles looks out at the city, which looks fairly galactic-standard, with no hint of the endless Cryocombs beneath it.

“The Cryopolis began to be developed some forty years ago,” Aida informed them in good guide style, “when further extension of cryofacilities beneath the city grew too expensive. Now Northbridge has grown out to meet it, and it has become its own municipality, named Western Hope.”

“And how many representatives does Western Hope field to the Territorial Prefecture’s legislature?” Miles inquired.

“Fourteen,” she replied brightly.

As many as the parent-city itself, though it occupied a fraction of the area. “Interesting.”

Several of WhiteChrys’s competitors have showy facilities–NewEgypt has pyramids (and sphinxes, and Anubis-headed mascots), and somehow manages to charge more for space near the top of the pyramid.  Shinkawa Consolidated has lights and music, and Aida says they’re trying to appeal to a younger crowd, trying to lock them in earlier into paying their fees over a potentially longer period of time; Northern Spring seems to be on the way down, with a downright stodgy look, though Miles is aware that they’re still in the top half-dozen.

They finally reach WhiteChrys itself, where they debark and walk through a traditional-style garden and into the lobby.  Ron Wing is dressed in more traditional formal Kibou business attire, in the most expensive style.  With him is Hideyuki Storrs, a high-ranking minion who had been the one trying to bribe Miles before the kidnapping.  He notes that Wing seems fully as interested in him as he is in Wing, and wonders why.

Wing expresses regret for Miles’s unfortunate experiences, and hopes that he’ll be able to make up for it with a detailed tour of the facility.  They are held to Miles slow pace with his cane, only partially feigned, as his recent experiences, and the seizure, have left him achier than usual.  After a brief look through the headquarters building, they head over to the intake building; Wing says that while some of their clients are sent in after being frozen at the hospital, but some come in while still alive to be frozen while still in good health.  He offers to let them observe some of the scheduled freezings, but Miles passes on the opportunity, the smell getting to him a little bit; Raven goes off with Storrs, though.

Miles asks how many revivals they do in a day, and Wing hedges, saying he’d have to look it up, and then changes the subject to their acquaintance with Dr. Durona; Miles merely says that he and Roic bonded as captives.  Wing mentions a Mark Vorkosigan, who invests in the Durona group, and Miles says it’s his younger brother; Wing asks if he should be involved in the Komarr deal, and Miles pretends a bit of sibling rivalry, expressing a desire to come out ahead of Mark in a business dealing for once.

“And the rest of your famous family? Are you on warmer terms with them?”

“Oh, yes. Though a chance to show them all up doesn’t come along every day.” Miles let his voice turn faintly whiny. “I’ve always had more to prove, on Barrayar.” There, let Wing digest that. A nice balance between jealous greed and the promise of an influence worth peddling. And it would stand up to surface inquiry. Thank you, Brother.

Miles implies that he’s working on suborning Raven Durona as well, to keep him from reporting back to his brother; he tells Wing that Raven doesn’t need to be invited to a presentation on the Komarr Project, implying that Raven is more interested in science than business (which, as a Jacksonian, is highly improbable).  Wing, though, apparently hasn’t spent much time off-world.

The presentation seems entirely aboveboard, unfortunately; ImpSec’s investigation of the Komarr project so far has only turned up a few unscrupulous contractors and the like, which WhiteChrys was pleased enough to have rooted out.  Miles asks why they’re going for Komarr, rather than Escobar; Wing says that Escobar has some very restrictive cryonics regulations, but Komarr was more open for growth.  Miles muses that he supposes they’d have to look offplanet once everyone Kibou-daini already had a contract; Wing agrees, though he notes that they’ve been doing some trading in cryo-contracts, though not, he reassures them, the frozen bodies themselves.  They don’t plan to do this on Komarr, though, which Miles presumes is because WhiteChrys plans to have a monopoly there.

Miles asks Vorlynkin his opinion, and if he’s ready to sign up for a cryo-contract; Vorlynkin says he’s more concerned with the living, and mentions some of the bodies he’s had to deal with transporting to and from the planet.  They are fed lunch in a Japanese-style building, where Aida turns her sex appeal on Miles full blast.  He doesn’t believe it’s worth stringing her along, though, so he provides evidence of being happily married, and she backs off; instead, he complains of financial woes instead, which piques Wing’s interest.  Wing manages to delicately convey a nice bribe of company shares to Miles, which Miles of course accepts, though he wishes he knew why they were bothering to bribe him.  Wing claims to believe solidly in the Solstice Dome project, and says that he’s transferred his own contract there.

And Miles, connections boiling up at last, thought, Ye gods. I think you’ve just handed me your head.

Comments

The last few chapters have been divided fairly neatly between two scenes, from either Jin, Roic, or Miles’s POV.  This one, though, is only Miles’s…which is good, I suppose, because I have been complaining about not spending enough time in his head.  He spends the whole time acting, though, pretending to be less competent and more susceptible to bribery than he actually is.  And I guess, at the end, they give something away, though I’m not sure what.  And the next chapters starts with a Jin scene, so I’ll have to wait to find out what the heck our main character was thinking about…

Wing’s evasive answer about not knowing how many cryo-revivals they do is just another sign that these companies aren’t interested in bringing the people back, just accumulating more and more cryocorpses, and their votes.  The whole business about trading the contracts as a commodity is just another way of vote-buying, too; after all, if your contract specifies that Company X gets your proxy vote, and Company Y buys the contract, then surely they get the vote, too.  And so the system perpetuates.  But if they reach saturation, then all they can do is spread out to other worlds.

How is their system going to work on Komarr?  I guess there is the whole “planetary share” thing, though surely even a majority shareholder in the planet, if one were to exist, wouldn’t be able to override the Emperor.  Do they have some plan to deal with that, too, or have they just not thought this thing through?  Or is their plan just too sinister?  I guess we’ll find out.  Eventually.  (Because I seriously don’t remember how the main plot turns out.)


I almost considered doing two chapters, because this one felt shorter, but I’m not sure it was.  Plus, the new Order of the Stick book came in, so that’s been distracting me a lot.  I should be done it in plenty of time to do another chapter next week, though, so till then…

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It is happening again.  That blog you like is going to come back in style.  Or at least produce another new post, which is to say, this one.  The Vorkosigan Saga Reread did not, in fact, kill Laura Palmer, but it is attempting to summarize and provide insightful commentary on the books of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, and it is now on the home stretch, in the last book chronologically, CryoBurn.  (And recent statements by the author have not indicated any particular plans for a new book in the near future.)  This week we go through the sixth chapter, in which people are reunited and other people run away again.

Chapter Six

Roic is relieved to actually talk to m’lord, but wonders why he insists that Roic bring Dr. Durona along with him.  Raven says he’d been planning to pick up his luggage and then leave, but Miles encourages him to stay, pointing out that there are daily jumpships; he even evinces willingness to pay for Raven’s time.  By midafternoon, they are being dropped off at the consulate, where Roic craves shower and sleep; the police had fed them, albeit only ration bars.  He nobly holds off, though, until he can speak to m’lord, and Johannes guides them to where Miles has taken over the basement secure-communications room.

Miles greets them both, dismisses Johannes, and debriefs them thoroughly; after they’re done telling their story, he says he’s glad Raven is all right.  He’d hoped the Duronas would send Rowan, but Raven says she’s too busy, heading up the Cryonics department and preparing for the birth of her and her husband’s second child; Raven says she hardly gets to do any real work, and reminisces over Miles’s eighteen-hour cryorevival, back in the day.  Miles confirms Roic’s suspicion that he’d invited Dr. Durona to come to the conference, though Raven notes that they’d been planning to send someone anyway, though more likely a junior resident.

Miles asks Raven if he saw anything interesting; Raven says the technology seems standard, though he notes they’re more interested in freezing people than thawing them these days.  Miles says the cryocorps are mostly interested in accumulating their “patrons'” proxy votes; he notes that the political atmosphere seems full of debate, noisier than Barrayar or Jackson’s Whole, even with incompetent crazies like the N.H.L.L.  Thanks to their interference in the conference, though, he has loads of new questions.

He tells them his own story, about the Cryocombs and the illicit freezing operation; Raven is unimpressed and doesn’t give them much chance of success, but Miles says that the cyrocorps don’t seem to feel too threatened by those kinds of operations.  In fact, the only thing that did seem to frighten them was Lisa Sato’s organization, which they put a lot of effort into breaking up; in fact, his research has turned up the fact that several others of them seem to have died or been frozen.  What he can’t find out is why, exactly, they were thought to be so troublesome, since somebody seems to have done a good job of expunging all that information.

Roic asks what all this has to do with Barrayar, and m’lord says it’s too early to tell; he’s reminded of the Emperor’s warning about Miles’s tendency to “expensive knight-errantry”, and wonders if he’s supposed to try to keep it in check.  Consul Vorlynkin arrives with news about Jin’s legal status; there’s nothing they can do, legally, because he’s not an orphan, but at least he has been released from police custody into that of his relatives.

“Damn!” M’lord slumped. “Damn. I hope Ako proves a more faithful zookeeper than I did.”

“Well, it’s not as if we could kidnap him,” said Vorlynkin, with a faint smile. M’lord eyed him. Perhaps thinking better of this mild venture into humor, Vorlynkin cleared his throat and went back to looking bland. Roic wondered if he should take Vorlynkin aside later and warn him not to say things like that around m’lord, and not because the Lord Auditor might take offense.

Roic suggests that they sleep on it, since m’lord doesn’t look any better rested than he does; he asks, knowingly, if m’lord has checked his neurotransmitter levels, and Miles mutters unconvincingly.  He dismisses Raven to go back to his hotel, though not without a secured wristcom; he laments his lack of data.  He tells Vorlynkin that if WhiteChrys or one of the other cryocorps calls looking for him, he’s to pass on that the Lord Auditor is furious with the disruptions and ready to go home and complain in the Emperor’s ear; he assures Vorlynkin that this is a test to see how much the corps want to stay in his good books, and he encourages the consul to consider bribes, if they’re offered, as long as he tells Miles about them.

They go up to the consulate’s guest bedroom and Roic prepares the seizure stimulator as Miles gets undressed; he asks m’lord if he’s supposed to be trusting the consulate staff, and Miles admits he doesn’t know, based on past experience.  He encourages Roic to sound them out when he’s not around, and see if he can come to any conclusions about them; it may just be a question of whether or not anybody thought the Barrayaran consulate staff was worth buying before now.

Roic triggers the seizure, which is a longish one, and the aftermath is, as always, unpleasant for m’lord, probably good to knock him out for at least a day, if not two.  M’lord goes to bed finally, his energy thoroughly drained.

Jin awakens in his sister’s darkened bedroom with chagrin, having wanted to stay awake to try to outwit his captors–his aunt and uncle–but had been too tired.  He’s wearing nothing but his underwear, neither of his cousins being a match in size, and he doesn’t know where Aunt Lorna took his clothes.  The window doesn’t open, Uncle Hikaru having put a rod in to block it opening further after an argument at supper.  When he’d run away last year, he’d just gone out the window, gathered up his animals from where his aunt had exiled them outside, loaded them in an old stroller, and gotten away clean.  The door is locked too, leaving with only a bucket for any bathroom needs.

He wonders if Miles-san is looking after his animals, and whether he’d blame Jin for losing his money to the police, or if he’d just think Jin had stolen it.  He makes vague plans to hide a screwdriver or something in the room to try to break the locks, though he’s not sure he knows how to do that; he knows he should wait until their suspicions are lulled, but he can’t make himself stay here that long.  Soon they’re even going to sign him up for school, which will be even harder to escape from.

The door opens, and it turns out to be his sister, Mina; Jin growls at her, asking what she wants, expecting something annoyingly trivial.  Instead, she asks if he’ll take her with him if she lets him out; caught off guard, he refuses at first, then changes his mind when she starts closing the door again, and insists they talk downstairs.

Mina asked, “Do you remember Daddy?”

“Sort of. Some.”

“I don’t. Just his picture in the family shrine Mommy set up.”

“You were three.” Jin had been seven when their father had died. Four years ago–it seemed half a lifetime. He remembered his mother’s extravagant grief and anger rather better, and how seldom he’d seen her after that–as if one death had stolen both parents, even before the policewomen had come for her. “Doesn’t Aunt Lorna keep the family shrine anymore?”

“She let me keep it in my room for a while, but then we ran out of space when I needed a desk for school, so she boxed it up and put it away. I wasn’t sure if to set your picture in it or not.”

He tells her again that she can’t come with him, even as she’s putting her shoes on; he says it’s too far, and wonders why she’d want to go anyway.  She says her cousins tease her a lot, though Jin doesn’t see why that should upset her so.  She says she wants her own brother, she doesn’t want her aunt and uncle to adopt her, like they’re planning.  She says she’ll scream and holler if he tries to leave without her, and he realizes she probably isn’t bluffing; she adds that she has saved up some money, too, and helps him find his clothes and shoes, so he gives in.

Mina is a little uncomfortable being out in the dark, but determined; she mentions Aunt Lorna’s threat to have Jin frozen as a repeat runaway, and Jin says she was probably just making that up to scare him.

An unwelcome memory rose in Jin’s mind. It wasn’t the clammy smell of the night that triggered it, because the policewomen had come for his mother in the daytime, but the clammy chill in his gut that day had felt much like this. Mom kneeling down, gripping his shoulders, saying, Jin, help look after Mina, all right? Be a good big brother, and do what Aunt Lorna tells you.

Jin had given up on that last when Aunt Lorna had insisted that he get rid of all of his pets, yes, all, a clean sweep, there was no room and they smelled and pooped too much and that bird was homicidal and to top everything, Ken was supposedly allergic to Lucky, who was too lazy to scratch anyone. Jin just figured his cousin was doing all that sniffling and blowing on purpose, to be annoying, in which he certainly succeeded. Jin had forgotten the first part of that maternal parting . . . ​blessing, curse, whatever it was, because, after all, nobody yelled at Mina they way they’d yelled at him and his pets.

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Maybe I missed it, but while Roic talks about Miles checking his neurotransmitter levels, all we see him do is just trigger his seizure.  Does he not normally check?  Was he just sure that it was time?  Or did he just figure that it was better to get it out of the way now anyway?  I suppose he’s used to them by now, but not, apparently wholly reconciled to them yet.  Did they get any worse after the whole Cetagandan bioweapon incident?

I suppose it’s not that surprising that Raven is there because of Miles, or at least partially.  Even if the Duronas probably owe more to Mark than they do to Miles, he does have a few favours he can call in.  I suppose that Lily is over Miles now, given that she’s married to an Escobaran and has children, but it might still have been nicer to see her instead of Raven.  For one thing, there’s a shortage of female characters; I suppose there are a few so-far minor characters back at the illicit cryohouse, but the Barrayarans are, of course, all male.

It’s a bit weird to be getting Roic POV when Miles is around.  It’s like the author is deliberately trying to keep us out of Miles’s head.  When we were in his head, he was thinking more about his current situation and speculation, but from what Roic saw there’s some kind of scheme going on, Miles trying to invite bribery from the cryocorps and all that.  It’s time to unpack, Miles.

Jin’s aunt and uncle totally sound like the Dursleys, except that there are two Dudleys…and Jin’s sister in the mix.  We don’t get to actually see any of them except the sister, though, just vague second-hand reports in Jin’s head.  And just like that, he’s out on the loose again, with his sister in tow.  So…another potential complication has been swept aside, or at least transformed into something different.  Not so much of Jin being trapped until Miles could rescue him, or he rescue himself, but more of a way for him to collect Mina.

Jin’s mother seems to be increasing in importance, which also makes Jin a little more important.  Though, of course, I always get a little suspicious when randomly encountered characters turn out to be significant–it just seems too much of a coincidence.  If it’s not intentional on one side or the other, then somehow it just seems too convenient for the author…


I’m sure you can count on me for another chapter next week…why not?

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If you had one wish, what would it be?  Fame?  Money?  Superpowers?  Or perhaps another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread?  While you may consider that to be a flagrant waste of a wish, I would point out that it’s more likely to come true than the other ones.  In fact here it is right now, another chapter from Lois McMaster Bujold’s CryoBurn, the latest (chronologically) (so far) in the Vorkosigan Saga.  This week it’s Chapter Five, as things get somewhat brighter for most of our characters.

Chapter Five

Roic doesn’t venture out until he’s satisfied it’s dark and quiet enough; then he kicks the door until the doorframe splinters around the lock, which doesn’t seem to draw any untoward attention.  He scouts around, keeping low to avoid the windows; he is the top floor of a two-storey building, with another couple of buildings nearby in the scrubland.  He is startled to hear a voice from above; Dr. Raven Durona, who was captured at the same time, is on the roof, and gives him a hand up.  M’lord had made sure he and Dr. Durona kept clear of each other at the conference, for some reason.  Durona says he’d unlocked his window and slithered out, apparently not having been chained like Roic; the guards sleep on the first floor, but right now they’re mostly in the dining hall.  Raven estimates that they’re 100-150 kilometers from Northbridge, deep in the forest, at a former resort accessible only by aircar; it closed down after some legal troubles, and the owner is one of the kidnappers.

Roic asks if he’s seen Miles, and Raven says that he hasn’t, not since they tackled him back in the lobby; there’s only eight hostages here, including the two of them, and the terrorists are unhappy with Roic for helping so many of them keep from getting captured.  Raven says the rest of them have been forced to sit in the dining hall and listen to lectures about their ideology.

“Oh. I had a sample.”

“Only a sample? The rest of us have endured hours of it. They marched us down to the dining hall and harangued us till they were hoarse.”

“How come I wasn’t invited?”

You have a reputation as a bold Barrayaran barbarian–say that six times really fast–too dangerous to let loose. Chains, huh? You were fortunate to miss class. I think they might be trying to inculcate some sort of identify-with-one’s-captors syndrome in us, but are doing it wrong. Old Baron Ryoval could have eaten them all for breakfast.”

Roic had heard a little about Lord Ryoval, the occasional quote from Mark, who had rescued the Duronas from Jackson’s Whole and killed Baron Ryoval in the process.  He wonders why Raven is up here; obviously he’s at the conference because of his cryorevival experience, and Miles had been invited to attend a lecture in which he was one of the anonymous patients.  Raven is derisive about these idiots’ goals, kidnapping people to try to indoctrinate them when they can’t even get people to visit their website.

Raven says that he’s not quite sure what to do next, since they’re so far from civilization, and it seems foolish to plunge into the wilderness.  He suggests they jump someone after they’ve unlocked their lightflyer, which Roic surmises will be mostly him doing the jumping, but he hasn’t seen anyone come or go for quite a while.  Roic notes that one of the other buildings looks like it might be a toolshed or boathouse; Raven points out the lake that used to be here has disappeared, so a boat wouldn’t be too useful to them, and it’s hard to hijack a lightflyer with any common tools.  Roic insists, though, and they climb down to the ground and sneak into the trees to check the building out; he kicks the door in, and they creep in, where Roic is positive he can smell the old boats.  He convinces Raven to help him uncover a big power-boat, which proves, as he’d hoped, to have a working comlink.

From there, he contacts the Northbridge police and uses the boat’s nav system to give them precise coordinates; they are happy to get some information about the kidnapping, but, to Roic’s dismay, don’t have any more information on Lord Vorkosigan.  While waiting for their rescuers to arrive, Roic places a call to the embassy as well; he gets a recording, but while he’s leaving a message Lieutenant Johannes breaks in and asks where he is, and Consul Vorlynkin soon joins him.  Roic tells them his story and says the Northbridge police are up to date as well.

Vorlynkin asks if Lord Vorkosigan is with him, saying that they’re not sure if he’s contacted them or not, puzzling Roic.  Raven speaks up, and Roic introduces him as another delegate, and a friend of M’lord’s; Vorlynkin grumbles about being kept in the dark, which Roic takes to mean that he has received some enigmatic communication from M’lord.  They sign off, and wait for the rescuers to arrive; Roic hopes that they come quietly, as he recommended, so that the kidnappers aren’t driven to panic and do something unfortunate.

In the pre-dawn, Miles arrives at the Barrayaran consulate, a tiny building suited to Kibou-daini’s minor importance to the Imperium; the gate is locked, so he climbs over it and rings the doorbell.  The local man who answers it doesn’t want to let Miles in, not recognizing him, but he pushes his way in until Consul Vorlynkin sees him.  He asks the Consul what happened to his courier, and Vorlynkin says he can answer that, which shows that Jin made it there, at least.  Vorlynkin invites Miles, visibly coveting his tea, to join them and Johannes at breakfast; he also notes Miles’s bedraggled appearance, but doesn’t comment on it, except to ask how he got there, which Miles says was on foot, dodging street guards.

“Did you get my don’t-panic message off to Barrayar, and my wife? Coded, I trust?”

Vorlynkin said, a little stiffly, “We notified ImpSec Galactic Affairs on Komarr that we’d heard from you, and that you were not in the hands of the kidnappers.”

“Good enough. I’ll send my own update in a bit.” Miles trusted it would overtake any word anyone had been maladroit enough to hand on to Ekaterin, or he’d have some groveling to do when he got home.

Miles asks if he’s heard anything about Roic and the hostages, and Vorlynkin says that Roic managed to get clear and call in the police; they have since arrived and freed everyone, but Roic still needs to give them his statement.  He asks suspiciously about the young man who let him in, and Vorlynkin introduces their sole local employee, Yuiichi Matson; Miles isn’t sure he trusts him, but he decides not to be too paranoid.  He asks about Jin, and Vorlynkin says they sent him back with the envelope of money, with a tracer in it; the envelope seems to be in police custody right now, and they identified the boy after his arrest as Jin Sato, an eleven-year-old boy who’s been missing for over a year.  Miles says he knows that.

“When my father was eleven,” said Miles reasonably, “he became aide-de-camp to the general-my-grandfather in a full-scale civil war. By age thirteen he’d helped to bring down an emperor. I didn’t figure an afternoon’s jaunt across his home town and back-on a peaceful planet at that-to be beyond Jin’s capacity.”

Unfortunately, he hadn’t reckoned how the heavily-monitored Kibou society might be hard for a runaway to navigate safely, and says they’ll have to retrieve him; Vorlynkin is dubious, and Johannes mourns the loss of their petty cash, which was made untraceable enough that they won’t be able to claim it back.  Vorlynkin notes that the police haven’t called them yet, and Miles realizes that means Jin has managed to keep some facts to himself.   Miles tells them a version of his story which omits the illicitly-occupied building, fudging timelines as necessary, trying to convey how Jin helped him when he was drug-befuddled; Vorlynkin hopes that Miles’s addled state at the time might help with legal troubles if necessary, and promises to set their lawyer to work on getting Jin loose.  Miles says they can notify the police that he’s found his way back, but be careful if anyone else asks about him.

Johannes takes him upstairs to be reunited with his own luggage, recovered from the hotel after the kidnapping; his other possessions are mostly in the hands of the police, though the Consul had been able to extricate the Auditor’s Seal.  Miles showers and changes into clean clothes, before starting on his first comconsole search–for Lisa Sato, Jin’s mother, who was apparently important enough to have worried somebody.

Comments

This chapter was a bit of letdown in tension.  Roic escapes without much difficulty (after a couple of chapters of working on that bolt, I suppose, but no other complications arise to speak of), and so he seems to be out of jeopardy.  And then Miles just walks back to the embassy and is also reasonably out of jeopardy.  I mean, starting with Miles hallucinating and Roic locked up was pretty good, but it ends up being resolved too neatly.  Now the only one in jeopardy is Jin (and perhaps his mother), but we barely know them, and I have a tough time feeling much urgency for them.  Maybe next chapter we’ll get back to Jin and see how bad his situation is–getting sent back to live with hated relatives…doesn’t sound that awful, quite frankly, except perhaps in one of those children’s books where all the adults are caricatures, and this isn’t one of those.  They could still be objectionable people, but it doesn’t feel the same.

There are still lingering threats–the people who took Miles off in the first place, who may or may not be associated with one of the big cryocompanies, and of course the things we was investigating in the first place, but he hasn’t shared a lot of that information with us yet.  And the Lisa Sato thing, of course.  I have to assume that maybe we’ll see the people from Jin’s building again, because otherwise why introduce them right near the beginning?  But this is, I confess, where I really started to lose confidence in the book.

One thing about doing a reread of this series, as opposed to, say, Wheel of Time or Harry Potter, is that there are major differences between the series.  WoT and HP were finite series, building up to the grand finale; I suppose you weren’t quite guaranteed that the books would keep getting better or anything, but you had to keep going to get that resolution.  This one, though, each book is sufficiently independent that it contains its own resolution, apart from leaving perhaps a couple of dangling plot threads (like Mark’s existence, or Miles’s seizures, or his crush on Ekaterin).  Somehow it seems like A Civil Campaign tied up all the rest of the loose threads, and so Ms. Bujold’s spear-thrust has been getting a little overextended ever since.  I’m almost beginning to not wish for any more books…


I suppose I didn’t manage to bring out a post anytime during the holidays, so hopefully you weren’t all too disappointed at that.  I should be back on my weekly schedule now, though, so next week another chapter, most likely…

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