[LMB] GJ&RQ - The Discussion Begins!
gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 7 15:23:52 BST 2016
A quick infodump to set the scene, and we meet Jole - a man at
the height of his powers, handling events and people easily. There's
also a first mention of Aral, gone but not forgotten, his influence
still strong. (Aral really is a character in the novel, he's shaped all
the events and people, and his handprints are everywhere you look.)
A female aide - after all the heated discussions and imaginings about
women in the military, Herself now shows us they were there all
along. (Damn that woman is sneaky.)
Then we meet the Vicereine, and somehow there's more electricity
in the air. Vorkosigans do add energy to any situation.
And then the hits start coming - one delightful shock after another.
Cordelia is going to hatch six (SIX? SIX! Greedy, Cordelia!) babies,
as a retirement project. Apparently knitting or gardening aren't to
her taste, so she's taking up babies as a retirement hobby. And
then there's the whole Aral-Oliver and Aral-Oliver-Cordelia
relationship. Of COURSE Cordelia was ok with it - it was her revenge
on Barrayar's old-fashioned society. She lived the most Betan of
lifestyles behind that Vor façade. And she offers Oliver three or
four babies of his own (she gives great presents, but they're not
easy to wrap). I love it when, before the conversation ends or
he's officially decided about accepting them, Oliver is already
thinking of names.
But apart from enough information to blow our heads apart,
there's some themes off and running.
First, and probably biggest, is time. Lifetimes, and history - and
these people are both. We get the severed-head joke again, and
let's face it, that will NEVER be dropped from the history books.
But it's part of a savage past, which these characters lived through,
and dealt with, and created this much less dangerous age. Their
memories go back through incredible times - just the titles of
Regent - Prime Minister - Admiral - Count Vorkosigan covers a LOT
of history. Created a lot of it.
Plus there's their lifetimes. Oliver went to work for Aral 23 years
ago; his aide is 23. Oliver and Cordelia both think that the
officers and other trained personnel around them look so
terribly young. Just children, to their older eyes. Cordelia notes that
she's started counting down, calculating how much life she has left,
rather than how long she's lived.
Time brings experience; incredible experiences in their cases.
Time brings wisdom, and amazing memories, and pain, and love.
And it's to be used, to do the best you can with the time you have.
Make the most of it. Enjoy the moments, plan ahead, use your
talents and resources. There's a sense of relentless time rushing
by - but the incredible burst of new babies shows that the best is
not all in the past, despite the still-painful loss of Aral.
Another big theme - loss. Dealing with it. You don't get over it -
they'll never get over Aral. He can't be forgotten. But you deal
with it, you get used to it, and you keep moving. They both walked
around in grey shock for months, even years, but now they're
looking forward as well as back. All that new life will carry Aral
forward, but drop all the old baggage. (Does Cordelia spare a
moment to wonder what all those children are going to do?
Sergyar will never be the same.)
And possibly one more theme, in a quieter way: Love. Cordelia
loved Aral passionately, totally, with wild abandon, and gave up
home, career, nationality, and more just to be with him. But
she wasn't possessive at all, she was pleased for him to have a
relationship with Oliver, because it made Aral happy. And
because she was so generous in spirit she found joy there, too.
There's a lot of different kinds of love through the book, so
many different relationships. All the important events in the
novel happen inside people, as they come to terms with their
emotions. And over it all is Aral, and the love, respect and
admiration so many people had for him. And his love for them.
All in all, it's a ripper of a first chapter. There's enough info for
the new readers to pick up most of it, there's so many delightful
chuckles for readers who know the Vorkosiverse, and there's
some lovely OMG moments. Plus, already, plenty to think about.
Oh, and one more theme - the danger of Vorkosigans. They're
smart, incredibly charismatic, terrifyingly energetic, passionately
dedicated to their chosen causes, powerful, savvy, ruthless,
and somehow unaffected or unaware of many social constraints.
They stride through life, and history, sweeping mostly-stunned
people along in a trail of sparks. They should come with warning
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