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Posts Tagged ‘Mark’

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?”

Comments

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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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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And here we observe the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, in its natural habitat.  As discerning blogwatchers will know, this particular blog appears approximately every seven days, its plumage encompassing a summary and discussion of some portion of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga.  In this season, it’s wearing a coat of CryoBurn, and I see by the markings on its feathers that we’re up to the sixteen chapter.  Let’s examine it more closely, shall we?

Chapter Sixteen

Roic interrogates the goons, Hans and Oki, confirming that the deaths of Lisa Sato’s friends had been mostly accidental, but murderers or manslaughterers, Miles isn’t sure what to do with them.  He can’t just let them go now; eventually they should be given to police who can’t be suborned by the cryocorps, but he’s pretty sure that NewEgypt would just disown them in any case.  Roic gives them water and takes them to the bathroom, and, for now, they’re re-sedated; freezing may be the right thing to do with them, because he sure as hell isn’t going to take them back to Barrayar with him.  At least NewEgypt must be panicking about their minions having disappeared without a trace, and Leiber too.

In the meantime, Miles makes another appointment with Wing at WhiteChrys for that afternoon.  They are greeted by a secretary with an astonishing sphinx-like pet (named Nefertiti); the pets, Jacksonian-made, were apparently given out as part of a promotion by NewEgypt on the first day of the conference.

Wing brings Miles into his office, leaving Roic outside with the secretary and the sphinx; Miles says that he’s done a little digging and discovered a problem with his new investment, and asked Wing if he knew about it.  He says the commodified contracts they bought from NewEgypt are going to go bad, and ruin their stock price, and tells Wing about the flawed preservative fluid.  Wing seems surprised, but a little impressed at the scam with the contracts; Miles says he can prove they knew eighteen months ago, and suggests that they sue NewEgypt.  Wing says that won’t help protect his investment, unless they get a chance to offload those contracts again first, and then let the news come from a more neutral source; Miles pretends outrage, really being disappointed that WhiteChrys isn’t willing to fight.  Wing even says that it’ll be best to tell all their competitors about it, so they can figure out what to do next.

“But where, in all this, do those NewEgypt bastards get nailed to the wall?” Miles tried to keep his tone plaintive and not outraged.

“Have you ever heard the phrase, Living well is the best revenge?”

“Where I come from, someone’s head in a bag is generally considered the best revenge.”

Wing says he needs to get back to work to deal with this new information, but Miles takes him up on his polite offer of tea before he leaves.  They head back to the outer office, where Roic is taking possession of Nefertiti; he explains to Miles that he knows someone who would love to take care of her, and Miles hopes that he’s gotten something of value in exchange.

While his mother and Mina nap in the isolation booth, Jin lets himself out; he’s happy to have his mother back, but he’s beginning to feel uncertain about the future, with all these grownups trying to determine it.  He hears voices in the hallway and goes to investigate; he’s stunned to see Vorlynkin and Raven with two new people, a blond woman and a man who’s just like Miles except fatter and younger-looking.  Vorlynkin says he was just about to go back to the consulate when they arrived; Raven heads back to check in Jin’s mother.

The woman asks about Jin, and Vorlynkin introduces them; the new people are Lord Mark Vorkosigan and his “partner”, Miss Kareen Koudelka, from Barrayar, who shake his hand.  Jin asks if he’s Miles’s brother, and Mark says they’re “twins, born six years apart”, and, when Jin asks, he adds that he’s perfectly happy not to look exactly like his brother.  Raven returns to recommend Mark meet with Suze; he seems to be interested in buying the place, and notes that the legal owner is one Ted Fuwa, but Raven says he’ll need Suze’s buy-in if he wants to get more than just the physical plant.

“Did your brother know you were arriving, Lord Mark?” asked Vorlynkin. “He hadn’t mentioned it to me. Nor had Dr. Durona.” His glance under his lashes at Raven-sensei was not very friendly.

“We caught an earlier ship than expected,” said Miss Koudelka.

“I actually haven’t any interest in impinging on whatever hornet’s nest Miles is presently poking,” said Lord Mark. “We don’t normally comment on each other’s enterprises. Think of it as the parallel-play stage of siblinghood.”

Kareen points out the consulate’s duty to assist Barrayaran businesspeople, and Vorlynkin says that the Auditorial investigation has been taking precedence recently; she invites the consul to come along for their meeting, and Raven says that Jin will be welcome too.  At Suze’s office, the door is opened by Tenbury, who is upset to see still more new people, especially another “sawed-off galactic”, but lets them in to talk to Suze.

Suze asks Raven when she gets her two free revivals, and Raven proposes changing the Deal…to something more like two thousand revivals; he introduces Vorlynkin and the two newcomers, adding that Mark is co-owner of the Durona Group.  Mark says he’s an entrepreneur who’s interested in knocking the clone-brain-transplant industry out of business, and the Duronas are considering expanding to Kibou-daini, since the cryo-revival industry there seems to be somewhat neglected.

He says they’re proposing reviving the current frozen tenants of the building, close to three thousand by this point, which are proving such an obstacle to its sale; Suze asks derisively if they’ve developed a cure for old age, and Mark says that they may have found a “fountain of middle age” which should give as much as twenty more years to older patients.  They’re currently doing their first trial on Lily Durona herself, and they hope that with two or three thousand more they’ll be able to work through a lot of the potential problems.  Suze says that this sounds pretty lucrative, but Mark says that it’s not going to satisfy an eighty-year-old who wants a body of sixteen, not sixty, so it’s only a side venture; he adds that it should work even better on those who have never been frozen, and Suze says it sounds less dangerous than freezing, or brain transplants.

Medtech Tanaka said, “But what about the poor?”

Lord Mark gave her a blank look. “What about ’em?”

Their stares of mutual incomprehension lengthened. Miss Koudelka put in, “If I may offer an interpretation, Mark, I believe Madame Suzuki and her friends feel just as strongly about Kibou’s poor being shut out of their chance at the future as you feel about the Jacksonian clones being shut out of their chance at a future. Or they wouldn’t have been running this place as a protest for more years than you’ve been running the Durona group.” She turned to Suze-san. “Mark, and Dr. Durona for that matter, were both raised on Jackson’s Whole, where one must hustle constantly to survive, and there is seldom margin to think of others. They’re both getting over it, slowly.

Kareen says that they’re planning to meet with Mr. Fuwa about purchasing the building, and are hoping for an inspection tour first; Suze turns mulish, but Kareen points out that cooperation would yield benefits for all of them.  Suze tells Tenbury to show them around, while she thinks about it; as they’re leaving, Jin asks Vorlynkin why she was so upset, and Vorlynkin explains that she’s afraid of what Mark will do if he buys the building, like maybe throwing out her and all the squatters.  Jin says that would be horrible, and Vorlynkin says that hopefully that is not Lord Mark’s plan.  He then has to explain to Jin why he’s “Lord Mark” and not “Lord Vorkosigan”; Jin is still left confused about the brothers’ family history–one Jacksonian, and one Barrayaran?–but is eager to try listening in and learn things.

After hours of following Tenbury, Mark and the others around, though, Jin is thoroughly bored.  At one point they hear banging and shouts from a locked door, and Raven explains to the newcomers that that’s just Lord Vorkosigan’s prisoners, now awake; Mark doesn’t seem that concerned, though he hopes they’ll be gone before he closes the deal on the building.  Then Jin hears the voice clearly and realizes it’s Yani; they go over to investigate, and Yani tells them that he’d come to investigate the noises, and the two men inside beat him up and locked him inside instead.  They let Yani out, Raven muttering about how the Lord Auditor is not going to be happy about this.

Comments

Had NewEgypt really managed to keep the problem with the flawed solution hidden?  Were they the only ones who used It?  I didn’t get that impression from Leiber’s story, but maybe I missed something.  I suppose that if they’re all affected by it, it would explain Wing’s eagerness to try to keep it under wraps, along with the commodified contracts NewEgypt had duped them into.  I’m not sure why Miles had expected anything better from them, but I suppose he had to try.  And…now they have a sphinx.  A Jacksonian creation?  Seems almost more like one of those Cetagandan ghem-lady things, like the kitten tree.  Well, Jin should like it, at least.

I remembered that Mark showed up before the end, though I’m sure it caught me pretty much off guard the first time through.  I mean, I knew he was associated with the Durona group, and there was already a Durona on the planet, but nonetheless, it seemed out of the blue, and a little random.  Despite Miles’s conviction that he needs help, he still doesn’t seem very threatened, so adding more clout on his side seemed like overkill.

It was nice to see Mark and Kareen again, still together but still not married, apparently, still exercising their mutual option, whatever.  But then, it was “nice” to see Duv and Delia Gelani in _Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance_, but for longtime readers there’s still a lot of rehashing of backstory that we already know about.  The longevity treatment sounded interesting, though, but I can’t help thinking of it in terms of Count Aral, and the ending of the book…

Oh, and the goons have escaped.  Yay.  Will we actually get some physical jeopardy before the end of the book?


Four more chapters, plus the extra bit, so I think with any luck I’ll be done by the end of April.  My enthusiasm has been waning as I get into my least favourite end of the series, but I promise I will carry on at least to the end of CryoBurn.  After that, who knows?

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As our scene opens, we see a new blog post arriving on the Internet.  According to the caption, the blog is something called the Vorkosigan Saga Reread; from previous information, you realize that this means it probably has to do with Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga…but what?  Could our intrepid blogger be trying to summarize and make insightful comments on the books in the series, a chapter or two at a time?  Right now it seems to be close to the end of the series, in the book CryoBurn, though of course the series is theoretically open-ended, so who knows what will come in the future.  The lights go down, and we begin the chapter…

Chapter Ten

With Jin’s anxious guidance, Johannes brings the lift van up to the rooftop menagerie, and under the canopy, hopefully to conceal their activities from anyone watching.  Ako, who’s been trying to feed the falcon, is waiting for them; Miles and Jin get out to talk to her alone.  Ako is happy to see Jin back, at last, and Miles thanks her for her efforts looking after the animals.  Jin says that they’re going to be moving the animals somewhere else, and Miles says that he needs to talk to Suze first.

Rowan, Roic and Johannes emerge from the lift-van, and Jin introduces them to Ako, assuring her that they’re offworlders, not cops.  Raven joins Miles and Jin (Roic staying behind with Johannes, under protest) to head inside; Miles picks up some coffee in the kitchen, and they head up to Suze’s room, where he asks Jin to let him do the talking.  They knock on her door, and Suze greets them blearily and suspiciously, grumpy as always, but the coffee seems to sway her to let them inside.  She says that Miles seems to have recovered his resources, and Miles says he’s back in business, on an investigation; Jin assures her that it’s some kind of insurance fraud, and Miles reminds himself to tell him sometimes what his real job is.

Miles says he wants to talk to her about using her facilities; Suze says they don’t want to draw attention, and Miles says he doesn’t either.  Suze asks if he wants to illegally freeze someone, in a way that makes Miles think that she’s done that before, and he wonders if she’s used that to help secure their protection, but she refuses to confirm this.  Miles says they want to revive someone instead, which takes her aback; he assures her that Dr. Durona has the necessary skills, and they just need some facilities.  In lieu of money, Miles offers them another free cryorevival, which Suze finds a startling, and tempting, offer; he shows them his own needle-grenade scars as proof of Raven’s skill, omitting that he was only assisting at the time.  Raven suggests that they make up a list of candidates and he’ll figure out which ones have the best chance.

Suze considers it for a while, and Jin implores her to do it; she asks why he cares so much, and Jin says that they’re going to bring his mother back.  Suze says that Lisa Sato will draw attention if nothing else does, but Miles says they’ll take her back to the Barrayaran embassy right away, so any attention should end up focused there first; Suze says they’ll still want to find out who unfroze her in the first place.  Miles makes vague promises to give them something more important to worry about first, his plans being far from firm yet; he notes that Madame Sato may have to recover from cryoamnesia first.

Miles…turned again to Suze. “I need one more favor. I’d like to borrow a cryo-corpse.”

What,” Suze began in a towering tone, which weakened to, “. . . kind?”

“Female, about fifty kilos. As young as you have available. Anything else, Raven?”

Raven shook his head. “That should do it.”

“We undertake not to damage her in any way that would compromise her future revival,” Miles went on, hoping he didn’t sound too airy.

Miles notes that there will be some risks in their operation, and Suze is less than reassured, so he ups his offer to two free cryorevivals; eventually she gives in and sends them on to Vristi Tanaka, the medtech, and says she’ll go along if they can get Tanaka’s buy-in.  Miles promises her it will be interesting, since he can’t bring himself to promise that she won’t regret it.

Jin leads them up to the infirmary on the second floor; Tenbury is outside, and greets Jin warmly and Miles and Raven warily.  Jin says they need to see Tanaka; Tenbury says she’s busy preparing, and Raven says he’d like to see it.  Jin introduces Raven as a doctor from Escobar, which doesn’t reassure Tenbury that much, but Miles goes ahead and knocks.

Tanaka opens the door, a woman of an age with Suze, also pleased to see Jin but expecting him to be bringing news of another person hurt by his animals.  Jin says Suze sent them, and it’s kind of urgent, and introduces his companions yet again; Miles mentions the plan to use their facilities for a revival.  She looks askance at Raven, and Miles wonders if they should have made him look less respectable so he wouldn’t look quite so out of place.

An old man is in cryoprep, his brain being chilled and his blood replaced with cryofluid; Jin stares, and Miles belatedly wonder if the boy finds it disturbing, perhaps a reminder of what happened to his mother, or if he’d seen it before.  Ako asks if they’re getting a real doctor, and Miles explains that they’re just visiting.  Raven asks about the provenance of the cryofluid, a crucial part of the process, and Tanaka says it’s black-market fluid, past the use-by date; Raven allows that might be okay if the date was conservative in the first place, and Miles thinks that they don’t have much choice about it.

They finish prepping the body, and load it onto a float pallet, where Tenbury prepares to take it down to storage; he invites Jin to join him, but Jin prefers to stay in the infirmary with the others.  While Ako cleans up, Miles trots out his pitch for Tanaka, heavily implying Suze’s approval already given, and letting Jin chime in to implore their help.  Tanaka is dubious, but mostly because she’s not sure how much functional equipment they have for revival purposes, but she can go look.

Miles asks about Suze, and Tanaka says her full name is Susan Suzuki; Tanaka, Suze, and her sister were the three founders of the scheme, with Tenbury added soon after.  She’s surprised it’s lasted this long, since it started out as just a symbolic protest, but the street people needed their services, and that’s kept them going.  Ako came to them after her great-aunt got sick, and she proved a willing worker, so she was allowed to help.

They go upstairs to look at the revival facilities, mostly gutted, but with one functioning operating room; Tanaka and Raven consult in upbeat-sounding medspeak, which requires Tenbury to be brought in.  Miles asks who legally owns the building; Tanaka says it’s a contractor, who only found out about the cryocorpses on the premises after he bought it, and now he can’t sell it because of the legal liability.  Suze has him under control, but they’re afraid that someday he might try to get rid of the place by burning it down; they just keep going day to day.  Tenbury returns upstairs, and the inspection continues; Raven eventually says that it should work out, with some improvising.

Miles asks Raven when he’ll be ready for the operation; he says he’d like to bring Raven along on snatching Lisa Sato’s body, if he’s up for it.  Raven isn’t afraid of arrest, knowing Mark will get him out if Miles doesn’t, and they can go any time; Miles says he’d rather do it sooner than later, both to get home sooner and give himself time to deal with whatever complications arise from Sato’s revival.  Raven says he’ll stay there and get things set up, and encourages Miles to take Jin and the animals back to the consulate; he will want to use the tight-beam later to contact Mark and/or Lily, because he thinks he’s found something of interest to the Duronas.

Back at the consulate, Mina is happy to be reunited with the cat, Lucky, and Jin shows her the pet rats as well; Vorlynkin admires the falcon, and the chickens seem happy in the green grass, while Roic unloads the terrariums against the back of the house.  Lucky ingratiates himself with the Consul, and Mina convinces them to keep Lucky inside, as long as she and Jin look after her.

Miles-san strolled past. “All shipshape here, Jin? Then I need Johannes back.” He added to Consul Vorlynkin, “We’ll be in your tight-room for a time. A lot of detail-work still to do.” At his gesture, Roic rose and took up what seemed his accustomed place at his shoulder.

“Is your scheme going to fly, then?” Vorlynkin asked. Miles-san nodded. Vorlynkin grimaced.

Miles-san returned a wry smile. “Flexibility, Vorlynkin. That’s the key.” He trod indoors, swinging his cane. Jin and Vorlynkin stared after him.

Vorlynkin voiced Jin’s own half-formed thought: “Was that supposed to be reassuring?”

Comments

Suze seems really shocked at the offer a free cryorevival, like there’s someone that she has in mind, and Miles knows it; he seems not to be surprised by her reaction, but I guess I missed this.  Who is frozen that she wants back?  Another scene spent outside of Miles’s head so he can keep secrets from us.  Suze is fairly old, so maybe someone frozen when she was younger?  Not sure.

What did Raven find that he thinks the Duronas will be interested in?  Well, the actual quote is “I may have found some elements of interest to the Durona group, here.”  Is “here” the secret cryofacility, or Kibou-daini itself?  Is it to do with the cryorevival?  Some piece of equipment?  The whole cryocorp scam?  Not sure if this comes out later or not, though I do know that we do see Mark before the end of the book, so perhaps it does.

So Miles goes ahead and manages to talk everyone into doing what he wants, getting Suze and Tanaka to go along with his idea, having Jin’s buy-in because he wants his mother back, and of course generally being able to order the Barrayarans around from his rank and Raven because of whatever deal he made with Lily.  Raven is really part of the secret preparation he made for this mission, part of the background that we haven’t been actually told about because most of the flashbacks have been on Roic’s part.  Even when we get Miles’s point of view we don’t get to see much of his plan; he’s turned into an unreliable narrator for this book, which is frankly a little annoying after the previous books, where we tended to get deep inside him and his head.  Maybe that’s one of the several reasons I’m not as fond of this book.


Next chapter: the actual body-heist.  Now, some excitement!  At last!  Or, rather: next week, some excitement!  At last!

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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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