Miles and Miles of Miles

Ok, finishing up the Vorkosigan Saga now.  Well, I’m not going to read Falling Free, because by all accounts it’s an inferior product, but here’s Diplomatic Immunity, Cryoburn, and Ethan of Athos.

As usual, here be spoilers.

Diplomatic Immunity–Ok, so I know I’ve said this already, but let me say it once more for improved clarity: Ekaterin’s awesome.  She’s not overly clingy; finding out that, apparently, someone just tried to murder Miles, she assented to being stowed on one of the Barrayan ships.  She didn’t insist on staying with Miles.  She didn’t make a nuisance of herself.  Y’know how awesome that is?  She knew exactly what she was getting into when she asked the hyperactive little guy to marry her, and she’s living with it.  And then, when he gets laid out due to a designer pathogen?  She stepped up and harangued the Barrayans in charge until they listened to her and, consequently, steered them clear of war with Cetaganda.  She’s utterly calm in emergencies.  She’s amazing.  I love you, Ekaterin.

Cryoburn—Lois McMaster Bujold, you are also awesome.  The whole book was about death; escaping death, cheating death, putting death on hold.  People had themselves interred in cryochambers for decades to wait out new medical advancements which would cure them of their diseases and disorders.  Hell, witnesses were brought back from cryodeath to testify against some corporations.  Mark was even working on a cure for old age.

Essentially, she wrote an entire book which reduced the certainties in life to taxes, and then followed up with a punch to the gut.  I doubt if there was a way she could have given the ending of Cryoburn more emotional impact.  I know that it had me in tears.

Sniff, sniff.  Sob.

Heck, it still does.

Oh man, I can’t remember the last time I cared this frelling much about so many characters.  I’m happy to see any and all of them, whenever they show up.  I love you guys, I love you all.  Sniff.

Ethan of Athos—I don’t think I’ll read Falling Free, but I am glad I read Ethan of Athos.  Ethan’s reactions to women were pretty hysterical, and I loved the chance to hear about Admiral Naismith from Quinn.  Because Admiral Naismith was, for the most part, out of commission by the time Bujold started sharing the burden of narrator amongst other characters, we generally only get to see Naismith through Miles’ eyes.  And Miles thinks of himself as Miles, so it’s not a good indicator of what other people see.  And she kept saying “Admiral Naismith should like this”, or “I’ll make Admiral Naismith deal with it”, or “What would Admiral Naismith do?”, the last of which sounds as though it will make an excellent bumper sticker.

Actually, I think I’ll go do that now….

Miles in Love

Before I go rambling on about the Vorkosigan series, I thought I’d share with you a few things my recent perusal of Montgomery county’s library’s e-audiobook collection:

Maybe the fact that I find this funny merely points to my extremely narrow knowledge of James Earl Jones’ acting career, but whatever. It’s hilarious.

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And then there’s this.

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Read the description. Capricious parents? Leopard-shifting ability?  (I read this to Shu–maybe I stuttered a bit, maybe I didn’t–but she misheard it as leprechaun-shifting ability, which added a whole new dimension to the hilarity.)

Anyway, on to the blather.

This is actually an omnibus edition, containing Komarr, A Civil Campaign: a comedy of biology and manners, and the short story “Winterfair Gifts”.

Komarr—Half of the book is told from Ekaterin’s viewpoint, which was cool.  I was annoyed at first (where’s my Miles, damn it!), but I was quickly sucked in.

A Civil Campaign—As the subtitle states, it’s a comedy, which means that quite a number of people who started out single in the beginning of the book end up rather attached (or optioned, in one case) by the end.  It’s a distinct change of pace from the other Vorkosigan books; for one, we’ve got five different narrators.  When a number of the narrators were in the same scene, I’d sometimes have trouble keeping track of whose thoughts and opinions I was reading, but it wasn’t too annoying.

I saw a hilarious parallel between Ekaterin’s relatives’ reaction to her attraction to Miles and Cordelia’s psychologist’s reaction to her attraction to Aral.  They were both cornered by people who a) didn’t understand what Cordelia/Ekaterin saw in Aral/Miles, b) believed Aral/Miles had an ominous hold on Cordelia/Etaterin’s mind, and c) misguidedly thought they had Cordelia/Ekaterin’s best interests at heart.  I wonder, isn’t it somewhat ominous that people have misgivings about family members marrying Vorkosigans?  Oh, and then there’s Kareen and Mark, but, well…I’m trying to figure out whether Mark could actually be, objectively, considered worse than Aral or Miles.  They’re all quite damaged and deranged in their own special ways….

I absolutely loved the Donna/Dono subplot.  Oh Barrayar, do the balls make the man?  Feel free to think it over before you answer.

Bujold’s humor was in excellent form.  The butter bugs were hilarious, and then there’s this—

“My glimpse of her was so frustratingly brief. What little I could see was very attractive, I thought. Not too thin. She squished well, bouncing off me.” Count Vorkosigan grinned briefly, at this memory. Miles’s father shared an archaic Barrayaran ideal of feminine beauty that included the capacity to survive minor famines; Miles admitted a susceptibility to that style himself. “Reasonably athletic, too. Clearly, she could outrun you. I would therefore suggest blandishments, rather than direct pursuit, next time.”

Miles up to Memory

Miles, Miles, Miles.  Je t’aime.  I’ve just finished Memory so…here be spoilers.

The Warrior’s Apprentice—First, I have to say; what’s up with this title?  Could they have picked a more high-fantasy title is they’d tried?  The Vorkosigan Saga’s science fiction, thank you very much.  I don’t have much to say about this book, except that it’s awesome.  The plot never went where I was expecting, and it snowballed amazingly.  First, it looks like he’s going to overcome his physical limitations and get into the military—wait, no, he just broke both his legs.  Ok, now he’s going to Beta colony to visit his grandmother and get off of Barrayar—no, ok, he’s deeply in debt and is supervising a smuggling operation that’s going blockade running.  And now they’re going to bluff their way past the blockading mercenaries—erm, wait.  How did seventeen-year-old Miles end up commanding a mercenary operation?  No, no.  I think I’ll just go with it.  It’s better this way.

In other words: awesome.

The Vor Game—I didn’t like this one as much.  Miles spends too much of the book reacting to events and trying to smuggle his emperor (who’d run away from his job) back to Barrayar.  Finally he got his act together and reprised his role as Admiral Naismith, leader of the Dendarii Mercenaries, but he took his time getting there.

Cetaganda—The Cetagandan society was bizarre, but I liked how this shadowy group of haut women were the real power behind the society, and almost no one knew it.  The calm way in which they discussed whether the current generation of men were getting too aggressive, and how best to genetically modify the next generation to get the results they wanted…they sounded like dog breeders.  I must say, I had a bizarrely inaccurate bit of prescience partway through the book, and spent about half of it waiting for it to reveal that Rian was using her feminine wiles to blind Miles to her true goals.  However, Rian never budged from damsel-in-distress mode and I was actually really relieved about that.  There is something I find exquisitely painful about having my protagonist get taken in by feminine wiles.

Brothers In Arms—I don’t know exactly why, but Mark kept making me think of Artimis Fowl.  It’s the evil genius part, I guess.  I giggled quite a bit during the scene where Miles was exposed to fast-penta.  I’m not quite sure whether it was because of the horrified looks I was imagining on his captors’ faces, or the shock, or the confusion, but whatever it was had me laughing so hard that Shu got worried.  Actually, I also got a kick out of the clone explanation that Miles fed to the reporter, and then he was proven right….

Mirror Dance—Also known as, shit just got real.  I got pissed a few pages into the book, because I did not want to read about Mark.  At all.  I wanted my Miles, and I begrudged Mark every single page he took up.  That is, until he got carted back to Barrayar and I got to see Cordelia again.  Suddenly Mark was more likeable, and by the end of the novel I would have been happy to read a book dedicated entirely to him.  His Black Gang is dark (obviously) but hellishly interesting.  And there’s this one quote, from when he was being tortured, let’s see…

“’I hate to be the one to tell you this, Baron,’ said the technician, ‘but your torture victim appears to be having a wonderful time.’”

I howled (haha) with laughter for a few solid minutes after hearing that one.  Luckily, Shu wasn’t around.  I can’t imagine trying to explain that one to her.

Borders of Infinity—Damn you, Bujold.  Trying to decipher the proper reading order of these books was much harder than it should have been, thanks to these novelettes (novellas?).  Ok, “Labyrinth” needs to be read before Mirror Dance; “Borders of Infinity” before Brothers in Arms; “Mountains of Mourning” definitely before Memory but possibly even before that.  And then the framing story used to sandwich them together for this book thing seem to indicate that this is taking place before Mirror Dance.  This construction means that it’s impossible to read this book without running into spoilers, no matter when you do it.  And for me, spoilers means any time an event that has happened (but I haven’t read about yet) gets mentioned.  For some reason, if I haven’t experienced the original event, I can’t file away mentions of the event properly.  This means that I’m in for a lot of rereading.

Anyway, the novelettes are all good and important and wonderful.  I liked them all.

Memory—Awesome.  I guess that all of the Miles books start out a bit slowly; you get a few hints of things happening, something building, but everything seems pretty leisurely and listless until WHAM.  Stuff starts happening, we start seeing the shape of the mystery….

But this one was very convincing in its aimlessness.  And despite that (or maybe because of it), I think this book’s been the most…stressful…to read of the lot.  I’m so emotionally invested in Miles that I was scared and upset right along with him (which led to me banning reading before bed, because I couldn’t fall asleep afterwards).  And yet, it was the most satisfying of the bunch.  For the first time in the series, Miles is complete.  He isn’t stuck keeping his dutiful Barrayan half in Lord Vorkosigan and his lively, adventurous half in Admiral Naismith.  He’s found a position where he can be himself, and it’s made me unspeakably happy.  The little admiral is not the answer!

And Miles as a royally appointed auditor?  Awesome.

Cordelia

For a around two weeks, I’ve been reading Bujold’s Vorkosigan books like House pops/used to pop/once more pops/will have soon popped Vicodin.  As such, the books are going to blur in my head in record time, and so I shall write down my impressions for all of posterity and post them here.

You’re welcome.

These are the Cordelia books.  I’ll do the Miles ones I’ve read so far next.

Shards of Honor—The writing is shaky (it’s the first book in the series Bujold wrote, I think), but my happiness at having a strong female lead got me through the introductions.  After that, I was hooked.  I’m not usually one for romance, but the one in this book was unfraught with the usual repellant teenage-esque misunderstandings, love triangles, angst, and sparkly vampires, so it was all right.  Also, although the characters fell head-over-heels for each other in a matter of days, you have to remember the extenuating circumstances.  Trekking through hostile territory which is infected with hostile mutineers while herding a disabled underling tends to bring out dominant character traits, for better or for worse (hint: here, it was for the better).  And I have to admit, Cordelia and Aral are pretty adorable together.

Barryer—I got a bit pissed at first, because my wonderful female protagonist got all preggers and domestic.  She’s from Beta, a really forward and egalitarian planet, and she’s married a guy on Barrayar, a really sexist and backward planet.  And she settled right into her role as housewife, and then spent part of the book being towed around on a horse through the woods while a usurper tried to claim the throne and all hell broke loose.

And she sat on a horse.

Later on she got her act together and devised a cunning plan to trick her pursuers into searching for her in a cave system she wasn’t actually hiding in, which was pretty awesome.  Then she got a couple friends together to sneak into the capital and raid the palace for her uterine replicator (it was carrying her unborn child, and was being held hostage along with the five-ear-old emperor’s mother), during which she authorized one of her companions to kill the would-be usurper, then carried his head back to her husband’s headquarters as proof of what her little group had accomplished.

Totally badass, in other words.

Doctor Who Rant, #1

If you haven’t watched up to “The Girl Who Waited”, then here be…

 

 

 

I really hope there’s some sort of grand design, here.  Because at the moment (as I texted to Becca after watching The Girl Who Waited), “I’m not sure whether I want to vomit or cry.”  I know Doctor Who has never hesitated to lay on the angst, but I feel like this new Doctor’s getting more than his fair share of it.  I mean, seriously.  The girl who waited, The Girl Who Waited, THE GIRL WHO WAITED.  Please, please tell me there’s some sort of significance here, some theme which will coalesce into a pattern with a touch from the benevolent Moffat, because if not then I think I’d suspect the writers of being covert Stargate: Atlantis fanboys except for the almost total lack of physical harm the characters have come to.  Emotional harm, though?  Right on track.  Whumpage++

Amy, Amy, Amy.  She waits for the Doctor but, as we all know, the Doctor tends to have a tenuous grasp of times and dates.  This is nothing new.  It was established in season one of the new series, let alone the old one.  Oh right, the old one.  Let’s talk about that, shall we?  I can’t say I’m an expert on them—my tolerance only extends as far as Pertwee of the velvet jackets and Baker of the scarf.  But I do recall that, when Sarah Jane Smith wanted off/got kicked off the TARDIS (to go pursue the rest of her life in vaguely well-adjusted peace), the Doctor managed to set her down in the wrong part of the country.  You know what TARDIS stands for?  Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.  The operative word being “relative”.  I mean, c’mon.  Compared to the entirety of time and space, shouldn’t you be glad the Doctor managed to be only a few decades (or miles) off?

And I guess they had angst in the old series.  Didn’t one of the companions die?  But it was more of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality.  And, God help me, I’m actually hankering for some of that simplicity.  No more Rory getting killed, erased, brought back as a mannequin, brought back as a Human, then killed again on a freaking pirate ship.  No more Amy waiting, sobbing because Rory’s died, being turned into a creepy doll, and then waiting some more.

And this…this unreliability, it has to be a theme.  Please tell me it is.  He screwed up River Song’s rescue, too.  Didn’t get to her before she was all grown up and psychopathic.  Is that where this is going?  He’s going to fail everyone he holds dear, perhaps as a way to explain why the people who kidnapped River Song felt the need to utterly destroy him?  Is he going to suffer his own psychopathic break and go off and terrorize the universe?

I mean, terrorize it more than it’s already being terrorized.

And please, Doctor Who writers, please explain to me why any sane Earth person would, when given a choice between a red and a green button, go and push the red one?  And plus, if those sick people are in some sort of stasis where they don’t need to eat or drink or anything, then how do they age?

Damn You, Step Class

No, I’m not talking about the dance style.  Stop giving me that look.  We’ve got a gym at work, and we’re allowed to use our thirty minutes of lunch break to work out.  I know, awesome, right?  And they’ve got various classes that they offer, one of them being step (it’s the only one I’ll attend.  I’ve sworn off the class they call “yoga”).  So anyway, the music they put on for the class is, rather predictably, aerobified versions of popular songs.

I’ll have you know, I led a perfectly normal and happy life back before I ever knew who “Iyaz” was, let alone that Shawnee is a melody.  Now, of course the CD didn’t stop between songs to announce the name of the artist.  No.  That would be silly.

I know who Iyaz is because I heard that bloody song so many times that it got stuck in my head and I was forced to google for songs which contained the lyrics “write you a symphony”, because those were just about the only intelligible words I could pick out from the horribly skipping record that is my brain.

Even worse than that, though, was when “do do do do do do do do, do do do do do do do doo” burrowed into my brain.  Have you ever tried to google for songs based solely on do’s?  It’s enough to drive even the most well-adjusted person to frelling insanity, and I was already unhinged from the forced occupation of my mind by pop tunes.  Eventually, as I tried to drift off to sleep with the maniac melody circling, circling, I managed to push it far enough backward that I was able to cull a few lyrics.

It was “Funhouse”, by the artist apparently known as P!nk.  On the plus side, I had a fun time singing about evil clowns as I washed the dishes.

That’s more than I can say about Shawnee.

Anyway, you know what’s almost more awful than that?  Once I finally ID the song that has been illegally squatting on my auditory nerves, I realize that the original version sounds like a pale imitation of the aerobified one.  That’s right.  I track down the song that, apparently, some part of me likes enough to listen to on repeat, and find out that only the step class version will do.  I can’t even buy to and listen to it enough times to desensitize myself to these siren songs.

In that case, I’ll just have to listen to Nephew on repeat until they forcibly evict these uninvited residents.