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Archive for April, 2015

Generally things are numbered up, instead of down, because most of the time you don’t know how many things there are going to be, in total.  You would feel foolish to start with Chapter Fifty of your book and end on Chapter Three, or reach Chapter One and still have chapters to go.  And yet, this is the end of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, so it feels a little bit like we’ve reached Zero in the countdown…or, as we always did as kids, “Blastoff!” or “Ready or not, here I come!”  The last novel to date, CryoBurn, has reached its end, with the sucker-punch of revealing the death of Count Aral Vorkosigan, and all that’s left is the Aftermaths.

Aftermaths

The last five hundred words, or so, of CryoBurn of course require special treatment.  After the bombshell of the last three words of Chapter Twenty, the author decided, quite wisely, not to leave us hanging; however, probably also not wanting to overshadow the rest of the book, she confined herself to five hundred-word “drabbles”.  Quite frankly, I feel that she failed in not overshadowing the rest of the book, because these last 503 words pack more of a punch than the rest of the book put together, IMHO.  It’s like the spearpoint effect, except that these spearpoints are all tipped with scalpels.  Probably laser-scalpels.

Also, because of their extreme brevity, I’m tempted to just quote them wholesale, but I probably shouldn’t.  I was reading about somebody who got sued for lifting one brief passage from Gerald Ford’s biography of Nixon–and lost, because that one passage was the most important one in the book.  So I won’t just quote them, except perhaps for the best bits; in fact I’m not sure it’ll work to just summarize them, because they’re so short that it’d really just be paraphrasing them entirely.  In other words, bear with me here, I’m not sure what I’m doing.

First, we get Mark’s immediate reaction to Miles’s reaction to the news; he’s reminded of the time he shot “a man” with a nerve disrupter, and saw the life drain from the eyes.  Later he realizes that he did see a death, the death of “Lord Vorkosigan”.  I find it interesting that nowhere in that passage does he seem to consider that the man he shot was, surely, Ser Galen, his own father-figure at the time.  I feel like there’s something there–Miles reacting to the death of his father like Mark’s own “father” when he died.  Perhaps it’s more significant that he thinks of Count Aral Vorkosigan as “their” father, in a way that may have seemed inconceivable at the time of Mirror Dance

Second, we get Count Miles Vorkosigan, now on a fast courier to Sergyar, swearing at his reflection and snarling at Roic, asking why they’re in such a hurry now that there’s nothing to be done.  Roic tells him that Cordelia is waiting for them on Sergyar, though he stumbles over calling her “the Countess” or the “Dowager Countess” before settling on “your mother”.  This is, quite frankly, the slightest of the drabbles–I get more of an impression of Miles’s state of mind from Ivan’s piece, later, quite frankly.  But then, I feel like we know Miles the best, after all this time, so I feel that I have a pretty good idea what’s going on inside his head in the first place.

And speaking of inside his head, he says “I feel like my brain’s been pulled out, and there’s nothing in my skull but loose wires waving from my spinal cord.”  This feel uncomfortably reminiscent of the loose wires pulled from the brain of the pilot on Auson’s ship, back in The Warrior’s Apprentice, Miles’s first kill (via Bothari, but I’m sure Miles still counts it as such)

Third, we get Cordelia; she was the one who’d found him, two hours dead of a brain aneurysm on a warm afternoon.  Miles is asking her why she didn’t cryoprep him anyway, in case technology was one day advanced enough to revive him, but she said he wouldn’t have wanted to live as a vegetable.  She thinks privately to herself that his memories themselves were almost as much of a horror, and then apologizes to Ensign Dubauer.

It does feel like a turnabout, after she kept Aral from euthanising Dubauer way back in Shards of Honour, to have made another choice for Aral himself, although it is in accordance with Aral’s expressed wishes on the subject.  Is she sorry for the fact that she couldn’t bring herself to try preserving as much of Aral as she did of Dubauer?  Or is she retrospectively wishing she had let Dubauer die rather than trying to keep his body alive?

Also, the thought that his memories were so much of a horror that death would be preferable; was it really that bad?  Okay, from the period of Mad Yuri’s War and the death of so much of his family, to the violent end of his first marriage, his travels with Ges Vorrutyer…and then his betrayal of Prince Serg and sacrifice of so much of his honour in the name of Emperor Ezar, Gregor and the Imperium, there was a lot of bad stuff in there.  And his feud with his father over Miles.  But was there nothing in the last few decades of his life that outweighed that?  Gaining another son, and grandchildren, seeing Miles grow up and achieve so much, seeing Gregor grow up and achieve so much…nothing worthwhile?  Okay, perhaps Cordelia knew him best, perhaps nothing could dent his ongoing torment of his shattered honour, but…somehow I just don’t see it.  Who shaves the barber?

Fourth, we get Ivan.  Not sure if Tej was a gleam in the author’s eye at this point, but certainly there’s no mention of a wife, or any children of their own.  But Ivan himself is not really the focus of this scene.  He watches Miles go up to present the eulogy, almost deciding to toss away the carefully-prepared speech and do the whole thing off the cuff instead.  But instead he sees his children, calms down, and reads the speech after all.  And Ivan “wonders what the old Miles would have said”.

The whole scene is from Ivan’s POV, and I’m not sure why; perhaps just that we’d already done Miles, and we wanted to see that Ivan was there.  The last thought, about the old Miles, is perhaps a little unkind.  Would it have been better for Miles to babble away about his father in front of all those people?  Perhaps Ivan isn’t thinking it would have been better for the “old Miles” to have taken over, but he’s just curious.  He’s a little wary of his cousin, perhaps, after all this time, and may very well have been avoiding him a little; Lady Alys is mentioned (later) as being in charge of the arrangements, of course, so perhaps there hasn’t been the opportunity.  Ivan’s been on Ylla for a few years by now, hasn’t seen much of his cousin in a while, maybe misses the old familiar Miles who would order him to use his initiative.  But this is also the Ivan who dealt with Miles after getting fired from ImpSec, the one who ruthlessly subjected him to an ice-water bath to pull his head out of his ass; he probably just wants to pull Miles out of himself again, in case he’s shuttering up his grief.  But maybe he doesn’t have the freedom to do that anymore, as father and as Count.

Fifth, and last, we get Gregor, at the interment at Vorkosigan Surleau.  And here I will quote a bit.

The grave was double but only one side dug; the earth waited like a bridal bed. The pallbearers were six: Ivan, Illyan, and Koudelka, of course; Duv Galeni for Komarr; Admiral Jole for Sergyar. And one other.

Lady Alys tells the Emperor that he should be one of the mourners, but Gregor tells her that it’s his turn to carry Aral Vorkosigan now, for a change, and she gives way.

I gather that the “chief mourners” are Miles and Cordelia, perhaps Mark, as the immediate family.  Ivan, as nephew (well, first cousin once removed, really), must be far enough away to be spared for pallbearing.  Illyan and Koudelka make sense as his longtime subordinates and friends, and one presumes that he was well acquainted with Jole after all spending several years on Sergyar.  (How long was that?  Ten years, from _Memory_ to _CryoBurn_?)  Or, actually, looking it up in the Companion, it turns out that there was a Jole who was Aral’s aide-de-camp in _The Vor Game_, likely the same guy; possibly even the same Gentleman Jole from the forthcoming book?  And Galeni?  Is he just there as a token Komarran?  It doesn’t seem like he could have had a particularly close relationship with Count Aral Vorkosigan, especially since he didn’t achieve prominence in ImpSec until after the events of _Memory_…but they had to have one Komarran in there, or else risk whispers about how none of them wanted to carry The Butcher’s coffin, so I guess Galeni was the best bet.

Did Alys had another choice for sixth, that Gregor displaced?  Not sure who that would be…another of the Counts, or an Admiral or General?  Miles and Mark are out; not only are they likely “chief mourners”, but, well, height matters…  Not Mrs. Koudelka, surely; that would be indecorous.  Would Armsmen count?  Was it Pym or somebody who was being replaced?

Also, “bridal bed”?  Shudder.

And so the series ends, at least for now, with the passing of one of its earliest characters.  Like Taura, there’s only so long you can put off killing off a character whose health has been at risk for several books now…


It’s been four years, to the month, at least, since I started this reread.  As you may have gathered, the last two books have been more burdensome, and it’ll be a bit of a relief to be done.  (I’ve made promises to try to do some actual writing with the time that I’ve been devoting to the blog entries, but we’ll see how well I do at that.)  Will I return when Gentleman Jole comes out?  Perhaps, but no promises.  I have no plans to take the blog down right away or anything, but this may be my last post here ever, so…farewell, loyal readers.

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It was the best of blogs, it was the worst of blogs, it was the beginning, it was the end, it was fire, it was ice, it was life, it was death, but most of all, it was the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  And it is, indeed, almost the end, as we reach the last chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s CryoBurn, but not, quite, the very end.  Because the book has a coda, “Aftermaths” as they’re called.  But first, here’s the math:

Chapter Twenty

Jin’s Aunt Lorna joins the Satos, and Consul Vorlynkin, for an outdoor lunch in the back garden of the consulate; Jin was a little worried about her being there, but they end up allies, because she doesn’t want him back living with her either.  She and his mother do agree that it was wrong for him to run away like that, leaving them worrying what had happened to him; Jin points out that if he hadn’t run away, he’d never have met Miles-san, and she would still be frozen.

Consul Vorlynkin has been looking more relaxed since Miles left the day before, which Jin supposes makes sense, given how quiet it’s been since the Lord Auditor left.  There have been lots of people coming to talk to them, police and lawyers and journalists, but they haven’t taken his mother away, so that’s something.

Min comes running out of the house with the box Lady Murasaki lives in, announcing that her babies have hatched; the adults seem less than impressed, and Lieutenant Johannes decrees that the baby spiders have to stay out in the garden.  As Mina is trying to find them a pretty place to live, Jin tries to reassure Johannes that the chickens will likely eat a lot of the spiderlings.

Raven comes outside, and introduces himself to Aunt Lorna, who seems taken with him; after admiring the spiderlings, he tells Lisa that her friends Mr. Kang and Ms. Khosla have been successfully revived, and Lisa thanks him sincerely.  They will also need time for their immune systems to recover, but in a couple of days they should be able to give statements to the police; in the meantime, Kareen is dealing with their security, which her family apparently has a certain talent for.

“Yes, I believe Lord Vorkosigan did say something about that, before he left. He does seem to know the most extraordinary range of people. Only to be expected, given his background.”

“What is this Lord Unpronounceable you keep talking about, anyway?” asked Aunt Lorna.

“What, or who?” said Raven-sensei. “Although I gather that for him, the two are nearly inextricable.”

“Either. Both.”

“He investigates insurance fraud for somebody,” Jin supplied. “His boss is named Gregor. He talks about him a lot.”

Vorlynkin then fills in a few gaps in Jin’s conception of Miles, informing him that “Gregor” is the Barrayaran Emperor, and Miles’s job as Auditor has a much wider scope than mere insurance fraud, in addition to his illustrious parents, the Viceroy and Vicereine of Sergyar; Jin begins re-evaluating Miles from his earliest impressions, and wonders what it would be like to be an adult and still have a living father.  Mina asks what a Viceroy is, and Vorlynkin explains it to her, and then she says he has an important job and an important family.  Aunt Lorna says that he probably has the job because of the family, but Vorlynkin says he also has a talent for ferreting things out, which leads to Jin wishing for a ferret; Vorlynkin points out that he does have a sphinx, and that should be enough for now.  Jin decides that having a mother back is also pretty good, though a ferret would be nice…

Mina is a little alarmed when they find Nefertiti eating violets, and Jin worries that the Consul will be upset, but Vorlynkin says that candied violets are often put on salads, so as long as she doesn’t eat too many at a time, she should be okay.  Jin thinks that he really likes Vorlynkin, who knows all sorts of stuff, and his mom also seems to like him…so maybe he’ll stick around for a while.

Miles and Roic meet up with Mark at the Escobar transfer station; Miles has a few hours to kill before his ship leaves for home, so Mark agrees to join him, even though they’ve already spent days together on the ship from Kibou-daini, even if a lot of that was working separately.  Mark says Kareen had sent him a message from Kibou-daini, where she and Raven are getting the new Durona clinic started; he tells Miles about the two friends of Lisa Sato that have been revived, and are now testifying, and Oki has also agreed to testify in exchange for leniency.  Miles’s name has so far managed to stay out of the issue entirely, though Mark twits him about his supposed reluctance to stay in the shadows.

Mark says when he gets back to Escobar he’ll have a lot of unanticipated work for the Duronas, and he should have the first batch sent off within a week.  He plans to give Ted Fuwa a lot of work doing repairs on the clinic, in part to keep his mind off the sale price Mark talked him into.  Miles says he had planned to stop on Sergyar to visit their parents, but his case has run late, and he’ll probably need to spend a few days on Komarr laying the trap for WhiteChrys, so he might not get the chance to see them until Winterfair.  He asks Mark if he’ll be home then, perhaps to pitch the anti-age treatment to the Count in person, and Mark says he’ll have to see how the preliminary results look.

Miles contemplating his still-unanticipated clone, mentions the uncle they never met, Aral’s elder brother who was killed by Mad Yuri’s men; Mark says he never learned much about him, since he wasn’t important to the planned impersonation scheme, and Miles says their father never talked about it much either.  It would have been so different, him not being the Count, maybe not even deciding to go into the military…  He suggests they get the Count to talk about his brother, as one of the few people who’ll still remember him, and Mark agrees.

Miles asks if Mark and Kareen are thinking about marriage and children yet; the pressure is mostly off them, the other Koudelka sisters all having children by now.  Mark admits that he’s terrified of children, since his experiences of being parented were by a psychotic terrorist with displacement issues; Miles says that at least Kareen is sane enough to be a good parent.

“There is that,” Mark admitted. “So what’s your greatest terror, now you’re a Da yourself?”

“What if . . .” Miles pulled at his hair, looking up cross-eyed to see if he could spot any of the sneaky gray ones, but this cut was still too short. “What if my children find out I’m not really a grownup? How dreadfully disappointed would they be?”

This time, Mark laughed out loud. It was a very good sound, Miles thought, and he grinned back ruefully at his brother.

“I think your wife already knows,” said Mark.

Miles asks Mark if he thinks that Vorlynkin and Madame Sato will hit it off, since he’d gotten the impression that the Consul was interested, but wasn’t as sure about her; Mark says he has no idea.

Roic spots Colonel Vorventa further down, ImpSec liaison at the embassy on the transfer station; when Vorventa spots them, he gestures for them to stay where they are and heads for a lift tube.  Miles says he’s probably there for one of them, most likely him, and he hopes that this isn’t a new assignment, since he really wants to go home now.  Roic notes that Vorventa is decked in his full dress greens, unlike his usual civilian clothes.

Vorventa’s steps slowed as he approached, and his eyes searched his quarry, though his face remained stiff. He halted at the table’s side, cast Mark and Roic a grave nod, came to attention, and offered Miles a very formal salute, though Miles was in no kind of uniform at all except his gray trousers and jacket.

The messenger moistened his lips, and said, “Count Vorkosigan, sir?”

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This chapter is, of course, our true denouement.  First the cozy get-together on Kibou-daini, even Aunt Lorna there; I can’t help but compare her and her husband with the Dursleys, and at least they come off well in that comparison, but then they’re not caricatures.  We don’t get to see them much except through Jin’s eyes, which are not the most sympathetic, so I’m sure that they’re not monsters, but they could perhaps have been nicer to their niece and nephew.

Not much else in that scene; even Raven’s news about Lisa Sato’s reawakened friends is also relayed to Mark in the next scene.  In orbit over Escobar, destroying the unity of place which has heretofore kept everything on Kibou-daini, but it gives time for some things to have happened, and is a better place for the finale to take place.  The conversations about their plans for Winterfair with their father, getting him to talk about his brother, pitching the life-extension scheme to him…and not knowing that it’s already too late.

At this point I can’t remember if I was expecting anything like this when I read this the first time.  Had it already been spoiled for me?  Had I glimpsed it while paging ahead to find out how many pages there were in the book?  Probably.  Those three words, so innocuous, are one of Bujold’s spearpoints, a tiny pinprick whose setup over how many books makes it pierce your heart that much harder.  Count Aral was on the verge of death back in _Mirror Dance_, and he’s never been all that young, but it’s never a good time.


 

The full force of that spear comes, of course, in the aftermaths.  But that’s for next week…

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Terry Pratchett described inspiration as like neutrinos; there’s unimaginable numbers of them streaking through every point of the universe all the time, but only a few will actually intersect with anything.  Which is probably why that was the only thing I could come up with to introduce this, the antepenultimate installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, about the penultimate chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold’s CryoBurn, the end of the Vorkosigan Saga so far, at least until next year, when the next book is due out.  But by that point I’ll likely have hung up my shingle.  Still, try to enjoy what I have to say about Chapter 19 of CryoBurn, if you can…

Chapter Nineteen

After Roic stunned Hans, he goes after Oki, who is being hampered by his grasp of Leiber; while he tries to shock a squirming Leiber, Roic points his stunner at Oki’s face and tells him to give up, which he does.  Lisa Sato checks on the unconscious Jin, who only has a small scratch on his neck; Roic apologizes, but said he thought it better to stun both them than let a hostage situation escalate, and sends Raven to get him some synergine.

M’lord strolled up, possessed himself of the shock stick, and regarded their captive with a curious and thoughtful air, like a biologist planning out the dissection of a promising new specimen.

Oki regarded him back, bewildered. “Who the hell are you people, anyway?”

“From your point of view,” said m’lord, “I suppose we’re your karma delivery service.”

Miles asks why they didn’t just run away instead of going back to their bosses, and Oki says that they have families to think about, and for the first time, he’s making good money.  Miles encourages him to turn himself in as a state witness, as long as he does it right now; he asks where they were taking Leiber, and Oki says that there’s a van outside with Akabane from NewEgypt waiting for them.  Delighted, Miles tells Roic that they should get Akabane arrested right now, red-handed, if at all possible.  Oki says that Akabane sensed that the three other heads at NewEgypt, Kim, Choi, and Napak, were going to throw them to the wolves, unless they took some action, so he recruited Hans and Oki.  As Raven returns with the medkit, Roic cuffs Oki, then takes Leiber down the stairs with him, saying he needs him to identify Akabane so he doesn’t stun the wrong man.

“You’re pretty free with that thing.”

“It’s all right. I have a license to stun.”

“I thought that was supposed to be a license to kill.”

Roic grimaced. “That, too. But you would not believe all the forms that have to be filled out, afterward.”

Leiber looked as if he weren’t sure if that was a joke or not, which was all right, since Roic wasn’t sure either. The procedures hadn’t been all that amusing at the time. Or in retrospect.

They go out a side door and circle around to the front, where the doubtless formerly landscaped front lawn, filled with elderly evacuees, is now overgrown; Roic sees emergency lights from the other end of the complex, but no fire-glow.  The facility is surrounded by a chain-link fence, but the gate has been forced open, and a familiar-looking van is parked on the street outside.  Roic says he’ll take cover behind the gate kiosk, and then Leiber can join the crowd to try to draw Akabane out; Leiber protests, but Roic says he can’t stun him through the side of the van, and Mark can charge him trespassing as soon as he’s on the grounds.  Leiber says that he thought Fuwa owned the place, but Roic says that he wouldn’t bet on it any more.  Leiber complies, and Roic watches him mill around, being sure that his face is visible; after a minute, the van creeps through the gate.  Roic wonders suddenly whether Akabane will try to crush Leiber with the van, but instead it stops and the door slides open; a figure leaps out to attack Leiber, and Roic kneecaps him with the stunner before knocking him out entirely.

They toss Akabane back into the van, Roic musing about how this is the first time he’s actually been face to face with any of the NewEgypt people that they’ve been fighting, and how odd that feels; more like space combat, almost, like Miles and his father were familiar with.  But then, from the NewEgypt point of view, the Lord Auditor had come out of nowhere to wreak havoc with their careful plans.  He spots the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle heading for the gate, and tells Leiber to head back into the crowd, then meet him at the door; he’s pretty sure that the action part of is over, and now Lord Vorkosigan can take over with the talking part.

Jin wakes up in a recovery room, feeling kind of blah, with his mother watching over him; he remembers Armsman Roic shooting him, which was a weird feeling of helplessness, and leaves him feeling a little scared of and angry at Roic.  Vorlynkin is also being treated; apparently he found some more prowlers, radical N.H.L.L. members, who hit him with a crowbar, but nothing seems to be broken.  They had been trying to break in with the crowbar and start some more fires in the tunnels; Vorlynkin did managed to tell the firefighters about the asterzine used for the other fire, which was fortunate, because asterzine ignites when it gets wet.  Jin says that the door they’d been trying to pry open is never actually locked, which amuses Vorlynkin; the firefighters helped subdue the men, who were willing enough to finger Hans and Oki as the ones who hired them.

Jin asks after Nefertiti, who seems to be just hiding under a desk, grumbling to herself; Raven checks him out, bandages the scratch on his neck and assures him the numbness on his face should pass soon.  He passes on Lord Vorkosigan’s thanks to Jin and Mina for delaying the kidnappers’ escape until the rescue party arrived, which made his job much easier; Jin catches an alarming glimpse of the men in the next room, but one is still stunned and the other is handcuffed.  He pictures what would have happened if they’d been kidnapped again, and is relieved.

Miles and Roic return, and Roic gives Jin a friendly greeting, but Jin can’t return it, remembering the scary Roic who shot him.  Miles hops on a chair to address them all, saying that the police, and some of Madame Xia’s lawyer friends, will be here soon, but first they need to get their stories straight; he says he’d like to de-emphasize his own role, in favour of Raven and Dr. Leiber.  The story will be that Raven was looking to hire Leiber for the Durona Group, and was told about the cryo-solution and commodified contracts at that point; Raven agreed to revive Lisa Sato as a witness, and Leiber’s abortive flight to Escobar was only a feint to draw pursuit off, which worked a little too well.  Raven requested Roic’s rescue services as a favour from his employer’s brother, while Miles was only along to keep an eye on his brother’s activities, and he’ll be leaving soon now that he’s been satisfied about that, which Jin hears with some disappointment.  Raven agrees to go along with the story.

Miles says he hardly needs the forensic accountant he sent for a few days earlier, but he offers their services to Lisa Sato when they do arrive.  Lisa expresses concern over keeping custody of the children; Miles says they’d need her permission to even question the children, and he encourages her not to let them.

Roic asks if he can show the children something, and Jin isn’t sure, but Mina is eager, so he goes along.  When they’re out in the corridor, Roic pulls out his stunner and offers to let them try it out, and again Jin is forced to agree when by his sister.  Roic tells Jin how to handle it safely, and lets him fire at the wall a few times before Mina gets her turn; by the end, Jin feels much safer, and not angry with Roic anymore.

Miles leaned forward and spoke earnestly into the secure holovid recorder. “I just want you to know, Gregor, that if the planet melts down over all this, it wasn’t my fault. The trip-wire was laid long before I stumbled across it.”

He considered the opening remark of his report cover for a moment, then reached out and deleted it. The one good thing about the very asynchronous vid communication entailed by Nexus info-squirts, moving at light speed between jump points and ship-carried through them, was that if you didn’t think before you spoke, you could at least think before you hit send. Not that he hadn’t generated some of his best ideas as his brain raced to catch up with his moving mouth. Also, some of my worst. He wondered which kind his recent examples would ultimately prove to be.

Miles had spent a couple of days training Johannes on the kind of information to forward to ImpSec about coming events on the planet, but now he’s got the tight-room to himself; he adds a commendation for Johannes.  He’d recently overheard a conversation between the clerk, Yuuichi Matson, and Vorlynkin, where Matson was complaining that he’d heard people’d be trying to grease his palm if he had a consulate job, but he’d been severely disappointed; Vorlynkin, amused, said he should ask the Lord Auditor for tips.  His report includes information on the Komarran scheme, which should allow ImpSec to deal with the ploy.

Meanwhile, outside the Consulate, NewEgypt executives are under arrest for conspiracy, the preservative scandal blown wide open, and Lisa Sato and her group are suing them; the other cryocorps are trying to spin this as best they can.  Vorlynkin is doing a good job managing the Consulate and looking after the Satos, and Mark is handling the Durona interests; Miles is glad of the serendipitous effects of his unplanned side-jaunt into NewEgypt business.  Miles records a personal cover message for Gregor, summarizing the fact that the WhiteChrys suspicions proved correct, and requesting a commendation for Vorlynkin, before going on to tell him about how he got embroiled with NewEgypt.

He was a little out of breath by the time he finished. Miles tried not to wince as he imagined the look on Gregor’s face as he heard all this out. Nonplussed? Pained? Bland? Gregor could out-bland Pym.

“So far, no criminal charges have been leveled against me, and I trust I’ll be long gone from Kibou-daini before anyone on the other side thinks of it,” he concluded in cheerful reassurance.

He ends with a mention of Mark’s experimental rejuvenation treatment, which might end up being the most important thing to come out of the affair, and recommends it to Laisa’s aunt as a potential alternate investment instead of WhiteChrys.

Comments

The tail end of the climax, with the subdual of Oki and the capture of Akabane, both reasonably effortless on Roic’s part.  I guess Roic gets to the action stuff that Miles is getting too old for, or something.  I guess when he was younger, he was more brittle, and tried to avoid the physical confrontations anyway, but then he had Bothari, and the Dendarii, and all that, and he still ended up getting more physically involved anyway.

Things tie up neatly.  Lisa Sato gets to stay conscious and in custody of her children, Leiber may get a job with the Duronas, the cryofacility is surely under Mark’s/Durona’s auspices now.  We do get one more scene with Jin in the next chapter, I see, but by that point it’s almost more of an epilogue than a denouement, despite having a chapter number.  You can’t trust those chapter numbers.  Matson turns out to have been a red herring, if you can use that term to describe something that was only alluded to once and never bothered about after that.  Yes, I’m still unsatisfied with the book.  Can you tell?

Miles and Roic seem to start off the book in jeopardy, but it gets resolved too quickly, and isn’t really related to the main plot except by letting Miles make the acquaintance of Jin.  Miles’s supposed mission is pretty much peripheral to that main plot too, and doesn’t even coincidentally tie into it at the end.  They do some risky investigations, but manage to stay mostly unscathed, until last chapter’s temporary jeopardy.  We get a cameo from a couple of beloved characters from earlier books (Mark and Kareen), not to mention Raven Durona.  It all…fails to gel.


Next week, the last chapter, as we get to one last knot introduced by the author at the end of the book.  But I’ll talk about that more then.  Until then…

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As the termite of time gnaws through the log of eternity, and the three-legged stool of fate topples and spills the barfly of destiny into a puddle of spilled beer, I notice that it’s time for another installment of the Vorkosigan Saga Reread.  As our regular listeners know, this is a long-running series devoted to a scholarly, or at least not utterly illiterate, analysis of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold in her saga of Miles Vorkosigan and his assorted friends, relatives, and strangers.  This week we surge ever so slightly forward into Chapter Eighteen of CryoBurn, where things happen that you will find out about if you just bestir yourself to finish reading this introduction.  Go on, we’re not stopping you…

Chapter Eighteen

Ted Fuwa, the building’s owner, and Madame Xia, the consulate’s lawyer, join Mark, Kareen, Suze, Tenbury, Miles and Roic for the meeting.  Suze and Mark start out disagreeing over future treatment of the poor; Suze says they’re the whole reason she’s running this place, but Mark points out that after she got frozen herself the place probably wouldn’t last long anyway, and Fuwa says he’d been looking forward to it.  Mark says that they’ll need the Durona Group treatment to keep the place going in any case, unless they manage to make cryofreezing obsolete; Miles points out that they might just change the timescale of it, people getting frozen a few hundred years older than before.

Kareen points out that the treatment will be free for test subjects during the transition phase, particularly ones who haven’t been frozen yet, which will probably provide more valuable data than the thawed; Miles spots tiny gestures between her and Mark as part of their good-cop-bad-cop routine.  Kareen adds that the Durona Group will surely want to hire some locals to oversee the operation, and Suze could easily be one of them, possibly Directory of Community Relations; Suze is not impressed with being offered a fancy title, though, and asks what about the rest of them.  Mark says he’d love to have Tenbury for Physical Planet, Medtech Tanaka seems a valuable resource, and Fuwa’s construction company would likely be useful as well; the rest he’ll have to see.

Madame Xia says that she’s pretty sure Suze can be given de facto proxy for the frozen residents; Miles asks if the city won’t try to fight for their extra votes, and Xia says she’s sure she can throw up enough obstacles in their way, as long as the current residents stay united.  Miles notes that it sounds like a job for Lisa Sato’s group, and wishes he’d grabbed the remaining two members when they were at NewEgypt; Xia warns him not to say anything too self-incriminating in her hearing, but says that she can probably subpoena the two of them.  Mark asks Kareen to put her on retainer, but Xia protests that her plate is already full; Mark says they’ll negotiate later, but they will definitely need local legal representation.

They are interrupted by a boom from outside, and while they’re trying to determine its source, Miles receives a wristcom call from Vorlynkin, who tells him about the arsonists outside; the Consul says he’s contacted the authorities, and is looking to see if there’s anyone else around.  Fuwa reacts to the accusing stares of everyone by protesting that he wouldn’t do this now, when he was on the verge of finally selling it; Tenbury says that if the heat exchanger tower burns down, all the freezers will fail, and Suze narrowly stops him from running out to do something about the fire himself.

Miles muses to himself that the fire was set on the opposite corner of the complex from the front of the intake building, and suspects this is a diversion; he tells Roic they should go look for Leiber, because he suspects that’s the next target, and tells Suze they’re going there to warn people.  Suze and Xia head the other way to warn others; meanwhile, Mark seems to be seizing the opportunity to offer Fuwa a “fire sale” price.

Jin manages to grab Nefertiti when she tried to bolt past him, but does not enjoy lugging the beast up the stairs back to his mother’s recovery room with Mina.  Leiber, who’s also there, is not pleased to see the sphinx again; their mother asks what’s happening, and Mina says that ninjas started a fire.  Jin says they’re not ninjas, but fills in more details about what they saw; he asks where Raven is, and Leiber says he went down to help Tanaka with a cryoprep.

Jin and Leiber are about to leave the room–Jin to go downstairs and tell them what’s happening, and Leiber to find a window–when the door is kicked open, and Hans and Oki enter.  Hans focuses on Leiber, but Oki seems unsettled by the children’s presence; Hans gets him to grab Leiber anyway.  Lisa protests, and Hans, spotting her through the window, says they should grab her too; Leiber goes limp in protest, and Oki jabs him with a shock-stick, cursing as the charge flows back through Leiber into him.  Hans heads into Lisa’s room, Jin protesting that she’ll get sick; Hans manages to grab her and drag her out.

“No, you can’t have my mommy!” screamed Mina. “We just got her back!” She grabbed the folding chair, flopped it shut, and swung it as hard as she could. She might have been trying to hit the security chief in the stomach, but Mina was pretty short, and her aim was rather blind, as she whirled around. Instead, the chair legs took him square in the crotch-but not quite hard enough.

He bent over, saying really horrible words, but didn’t let go of their mother’s arm. With his other fist, he backhanded Mina, who fell on her butt, crying. Their mother tried to kick him, more accurately than Mina had, but she was barefooted and frighteningly breathless. “How dare . . . ​you touch . . . ​my children, you . . . ​horrible murderer!”

Jin grabs Nefertiti and throws her at Oki, who flails at her ineffectively with the shock-stick; neither suffers much damage, but Leiber is able to escape Oki’s grasp.  Hans grumbles at the unexpected complications to their simple snatch plan; Jin tries to headbutt him, but Hans tosses Lisa aside and grabs Jin instead, putting a knife to his throat and telling everyone to freeze (“Not you, Oki!”).  Oki protests that he’s just a kid, but seems to be convinced that Hans means it.  Once they’ve all settled down, all quiet except for the whimpering and muttering sphinx, Hans tells them all to keep their hands in sight, tells Oki to turn his shock-stick up to full, and starts marching them out into the corridor.

In the corridor, they’ve just turned toward the stairs when Jin hears Roic telling them to halt.  Hans turns, still holding Jin in front of him, and Jin sees Roic, Miles and Raven at his side, pointing something at them; he finds Roic’s remote expression unsettling and scary.  Before Hans can do more than begin to protest, Roic fires at them, and Jin’s awareness vanishes.

Comments

After the end of the last chapter, it feels a little weird that the people at the beginning of this chapter aren’t reacting to the events yet, but I guess that’s what happens with multiple viewpoint characters; sometimes you have to backtrack and catch up to them.  I almost wish Madame Xia had been introduced earlier, or at least referred to by name, since they certainly made a few references to the consulate’s lawyer, with reference to the Jin situation if nothing else.  It seems a little late in the book to be adding new characters like that.  I suppose we hadn’t met Ted Fuwa before either, though, had we…

Throughout this book, it becomes easy to forget the whole purpose of cryofreezing someone in the first place–the attempt to preserve people in poor health, or slightly dead, against the possibility that they might be revived and fixed later.  The proxy-vote situation, and the corporatization, have made freezing the end in itself; Suze’s group, who are almost the only Kibou we meet who _aren’t_ corporate, are still focused on the original purpose of the freezing, and, in particular sharing it with the disadvantaged.  Now Mark comes along and presents them with the possibility of actually fulfilling the promise of a potential fix, for aging at least, but he doesn’t understand Suze’s motives for doing anything for the disadvantaged…

The fire doesn’t seem to be threatening anyone except the cryocorpses themselves (yeah, I suppose that if you were keeping a whole bunch of bodies frozen, you’d need to bleed off heat from them somehow, wouldn’t you?), so that was a bit of a letdown tension-wise, but then we get the return of Hans and Oki, having used their diversion to good effect.  Except that they’re a little behind the times, still thinking that grabbing Leiber will accomplish something (which I’m not sure it would by this point, the worms being pretty much out of the can by now).  Lisa Sato might have made a good hostage, but they were really in over their head, and quite frankly not too bright in the first place.  Did we ever resolve whether they had gone back to HQ for orders, or if they were still trying to fulfill their last orders?  Anyway, after a brief scuffle, Roic comes in and saves the day, so that’s that.


Two more chapters left, and it feels like we are nearing the end of the climax, though not quite into the denouement yet.  Two chapters and then, of course, the Aftermaths, three more weeks, and then the series will be over for the nonce.

 

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Okay, so I guess I didn’t just dream getting up in the middle of the night to bash out a blog post.  Huh.  I definitely was dreaming that ending of CryoBurn, though.  A Song of Ice and Fire crossover?  Only in my dreams, I’d wager.  Besides, Brienne was obviously actually Taura in disguise.

Anyway, this is the real Vorkosigan Saga Reread, going through the real published works of Lois McMaster Bujold, which is finishing up (over the next few weeks, at least) with CryoBurn, the last novel chronologically to feature Miles Vorkosigan and his cohorts.  (Speaking of which, she just recently posted a link to an interview online about CryoBurn which I hadn’t seen before.  I promise it’s not a rickroll…)  In Chapter Seventeen, the action starts to heat up a little…

Chapter Seventeen

Miles and Roic return, immediately noticing the lack of the prisoners (and their van) and the presence of a number of other people nearby, including, surprisingly, Mark and Kareen.  Jin tells them the story, and Miles is at least relieved that Yani isn’t worse off; Raven says it probably happened shortly after they left, and apologizes for undermedicating.  Miles tries to work out where they might have gone, whether they’d have dared to go back to NewEgypt; they hadn’t sene Miles, but they’d likely be able to describe Roic’s distinctive appearance, which would lead them to him.  NewEgypt would also thus know the location of Suze’s facility, and suspect that Leiber was there, but it was uncertain whether they knew about him having Lisa Sato’s cryocorpse; if they did, would they check security camera footage and find Miles and company’s attempted rescue?  He’d have to get more information from Leiber about his bosses.

“And hello, Mark. Why are you here? And so unexpectedly, too.”

Mark tilted his head in un-apology, smirking a bit.

Miles eyed Raven. “I thought we’d had an understanding about such surprises.”

Looking faintly guilty, Raven shrugged and mumbled, “Earlier ship.”

He greets Kareen instead, but they are interrupted by cries of “Aowt!” from the back of the van; Vorlynkin resignedly asks if he has another kidnap victim, but Miles says it’s a present for Jin, and Roic and Kareen go to help Jin unload the sphinx from the van.  Miles asks Raven how soon they’ll be able to move Lisa Sato to a safer place, i.e. the consulate; it’ll be a safer place to keep her from legal attacks, and in a few days he’ll have some help in protecting from less legal attacks.  Raven says the kids have already been compromising her isolation, and he’s already shot her up with as many immune-boosters as he can, so tomorrow should be doable; Miles asks Vorlynkin to stay there overnight and be ready to evacuate her in a hurry if necessary.  Vorlynkin asks if he really thinks that’ll be necessary, and Miles admits he’s not sure; they might just hide behind their lawyers, but they may take more aggressive action instead.

Miles asks Mark again why he’s there, and Mark tells him about the plan to buy up the building and test the life-extension treatment on the cryo-corpses that they revive; he asks Miles not to mess up his Deal, and Miles asks him in return not to screw up the case.  Mark admits that Raven hasn’t shared the details about that, and Miles tells him about the WhiteChrys project on Komarr; the NewEgypt issues came up later.

“I’m trying not to leave undue collateral damage upon a local kid who befriended me, at some cost to himself. Good intentions, Mark. My path is paved with them.”

“So glad I don’t have any of those.” Mark’s glance grew uncomfortably shrewd. “It’s not your planet, you know. You can’t fix it.”

“No, but . . . ​well, no. But.”

“Well, try not to leave too much rubble in your wake. I can use this place.”

Miles says he hopes the treatment is more successful than the last one, which killed its test subjects; Mark says that Lily herself is testing this one, though more out of desperation than extreme confidence.  Miles mentions another potential test subject, an older male, like their father; Mark is dubious that they’ll be able to talk him into it, though perhaps their mother might be able to.  Miles suggests that if they play up the risk factor, it might actually make him more likely to try it, out of a weird sense of duty.  Mark says that if the deal goes through, he’s likely to leave Raven in charge, as a kind of promotion; it’s not likely to put the clone-transplant people out of business, but he jokes that it might make him enough money to hire a band of mercenaries to attack them.

Miles grimaced. “Do you remember the last time you tried that?”

“Vividly. Don’t you?”

“Patchily,” said Miles dryly.

Mark winced.

Miles asks what their plans are next, and Mark says that they’ll be meeting with Fuwa, the building owner; he allows that Miles can sit in if he wishes, but to otherwise keep out of it.  Roic, Jin and Kareen return then with the sphinx, and Jin lobbies to take it up to show to his mother and sister; Roic prefers to stay and guard, but Vorlynkin volunteers to come up instead, Raven offers to come along to make sure his patient is okay, and Miles follows to go have another chat with Leiber.  Mark and Kareen resume their interrupted tour with Tenbury.

Jin is unsurprised that his mother is highly dubious about the prospect of keeping Nefertiti the sphinx, but Mina seems to like it, saying she’s kind of like Lucky and Gyre put together.  Jin puts the sphinx down and she flaps her wings, but he’s pretty sure she can’t fly any more than a chicken, and Raven says it’s likely designed for appearance over function.  Jin wonders if they’d lay eggs or have babies, and Raven said that they might not have made any males to breed with, so they’d have to clone them, which doesn’t sound that hard to Jin…  The sphinx says “Hum!”, and Jin tells Mina that they know about twenty words, and wonders if they can teach her more…

Jin’s mother says that they don’t even have a home to take her to, and then begins wondering what happened to her apartment and her possessions; Mina says that Aunt Lorna has some of her stuff, but had to sell some of their furniture, and Consul Vorlynkin says that these are solvable problems, and they don’t have to all be solved right away.  He says that she’s under the Auditor’s protection, and they will put her up at the consulate, and look after her needs for now.  Raven says that she needs to recover physically, which may take a few weeks yet, and her mental composure will follow; she says she never feels like she’ll have time.  Vorlynkin assures her that they have space at the consulate for the Lord Auditor’s perhaps ill-considered gift, along with the other animals, who he insists are livening up the place, and her unease subsides.

Vorlynkin lets Jin talk to Johannes at the consulate and give instructions for the animals; Miles and Roic join them after a while with a bunch of takeout food, supplied by Kareen, and they have a meal together in the recovery room.  Miles tells them about his visit to Earth with his wife on his honeymoon, skimming over the details of his previous visit.  Jin tries feeding Nefertiti some people food, which results in a mess in the corner; Ako makes Jin clean it up, and says the sphinx will have to stay outside overnight.  Jin takes Mina up to show him the rooftop hideout, Vorlynkin carrying the sphinx up for them.

On the way they pass a person looking for Ako to help someone who collapsed in the cafeteria, which Jin says is a reasonably common occurrence.  They descend down into the tunnels, Jin leading the way, then back up five flights to the rooftop; Jin shows them around, though a lot of the useful things have already been taken over to the consulate.  It’s dark outside, apparently having gotten quite late while they were inside.  They let Nefertiti out to explore, which she does cautiously, though Jin follows her around, not wanting her to go over the edge in case she plummets to her death; he says he should tie a line around her leg, like he did with Miles, and explains the earlier tethering to Vorlynkin, who seems amused by it.  He wonders if he should spend the night out there with her, or stay with his mother.

Nefertiti does peer over one parapet, but doesn’t try to go over the edge, and then goes to check out the other side; there, she sees something which seems to disturb her, and begins crying “Foes!”  Jin can’t see much in the dark, but there is a van parked down there, and some men in dark clothing moving around; then one of them breaks a window, and Jin realizes they’re breaking in.  They lug a barrel out of the van; Vorlynkin gets a whiff of the liquid inside as they shove it through the window, and says they’re trying to set fire to the place.  They toss something inside and then drive off in the van; they hear an explosion and see flames start up inside.

Vorlynkin asks how they can get down, and Jin tells him about the ladder; he leaves the sphinx with Vorlynkin and climbs down to unlatch the ladder to its full extension.  Mina comes down cautiously, and Jin helps her down after he reaches the ground; Nefertiti jumps over the edge of the building, and is apparently able to use her wings to break her momentum enough to land with little more than a thump.  Vorlynkin comes down last, a scratch visible on his face, and tells them to go to their mother and Dr. Durona, and do what they say; he begins to make calls with his wristcom, telling them to leave the sphinx behind.

Comments

Some good snarky Miles-Mark dialogue in this chapter, so there is that, at least.  And I guess that one of them did think of Count Aral as a potential test subject for the life extension treatment; I like the suggestion that playing up the risk will make him more willing to do it.  Would Cordelia think the same way?  Not sure.

The sphinx seems like an interesting creature, but just a novelty, really.  One doubts that all the potential problems of its hodgepodge nature have been worked out, and one wonders about how it’s brain is wired, too.  Does it have more intelligence than a regular pet, or does it just have the words it can speak hard-wired into it for various emotional state?  Though it does seem to be smart enough to recognize “Foes”; would that really be one of the 20 most important words?  I suppose it could use that for when it sees the neighbour’s cat outside the window or something…

And now we do have some actual violence, or enemy action, at least.  Must be linked to the NewEgypt people, though whether it’s the thugs who escaped coming back on their own initiative or if it’s organized by the Gang of Four themselves.  It wasn’t clear on the first read-through that the building that was set alight wasn’t the same building the rest of the characters are in, but presumably they’re hoping to spread through the entire complex.  I’d actually forgotten that it was more than one building, since it’s been a few chapters (and months, for me) since Jin first showed Miles through them.


Getting down to the climax now, one hopes, three chapters left, and I’m pretty sure the last one should be denouement, by this time.  Still on track to finish this month, at last.  See me next week…

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I guess I didn’t remember the ending of this book as well as I thought.  I thought there were more chapters, too, but last night after I finished playing chess with Spock I went to write my blog, once they finished installing the waterfall, and there was only the one chapter left, so here we go…

Chapter Seventeen

Miles and Roic return to the embassy to hear the news about the escaped prisoners, but just then they have a visitor, Mr. Wing’s assistant Aida…except that she pulls out a nerve disrupter, takes off her mask, and it turns out that’s actually Cavilo!  She arranged to whole thing to lure Miles to Kibou-daini, and now she wants revenge for his screwing up her plans in the Hegen Hub.  She takes Miles and Roic hostage and locks them in the back of her van, but when she goes to drive off she’s attacked by Jin’s bird and knocked unconscious.

The back of the van is opened by Jin, who reveals that he’s really an Athosian telepath, who’s been planted on Kibou-daini with a family who were all given false memories, and he’s been trying to breed animals for telepathic powers, with some success.  He tells them that they’re needed on another planet in the system, and takes them off on his spaceship, where he’s already picked up Mark and Kareen.

It turns out Taura is there too, still alive!  She hadn’t really died, just slowed down her metabolism enough that it looked like she was, until she could undergo her transformation.  She is the real successful result of Mark’s longevity experiments, and she’s also now a telepath.

They fly in the spaceship to the other planet in the system, which is in a highly eccentric orbit that results in extreme variations in climatte; it’s just about to enter a long winter period.  Jin tells them that the inhabitants live in a low-technology state, most of their history wiped out in the first long ice age, and they’ve been strictly sequestered and kept secret, but now Miles needs to help them.

They head down to the surface in a shuttle that’s camouflaged to look like a large black flying lizard, following a homing signal, until they reach a primitive city full of ornate pyramids; there’s a large arena where a short man who looks a lot like Miles and Mark is about to be killed, so they fly inside and Jin distracts them with file while Miles slips out to help.  A white-haired woman in rich clothes runs up to the shuttle, and before Miles can get back on board, it flies away with her carried underneath.

Miles meets the other man, who calls himself Tyrion, and between the two of them–and with Taura’s help, since she also turns up a few days later–they manage to help secure the rule of Queen Daenerys and repel the invading forces of the two other cities.  Daenerys returns with an army of horsemen and marries Tyrion, and then they fly with her dragons to the icy northlands and melt the army of ice-men, changing the planet’s orbit back so that the long winter stops.  Then they reconquer the Seven Kingdoms, capturing bad Queen Cersei, who’s been secretly working with Cavilo the whole time, and they manage to clone Ned and Robb Stark and fix Catelyn’s brain damage, and give Jaime a new hand, and everybody lives happily ever after.

Comments

The story took a few unexpected turns, but I was happy to finally see Miles and Tyrion meet, which the authors have been hinting for years was going to happen.  Cavilo turning up was a bit of a surprise, but in retrospect the hints about Jin’s true heritage was really obvious, especially in his own POV chapters.  The bird always did seem too intelligent.  I would have liked to see more Ekaterin, but she only showed up for the wedding at the end.  There were some hints that they might foster some of their children with each other, so maybe in the next book we’ll get to see some of that.

I’d like to write more, but maybe later, because it’s really quite late, and I just wanted to get this all down before I forgot it.  If I get a chance I’ll edit it later and add more.  But good night for now, and happy first day of April…

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