From the reading pile: Barrayar (contains spoilers)

I’m enjoying “Barrayar” right now, from Lois McMaster Bujold, and I thought I’d share an excerpt. Bujold is a keen observer of human interactions, and readers with complicated medical problems might relate to some of this.

Commander Cordelia Naismith (also known as Lady Vorkosigan), a former Betan military commander, is in a doctor’s office on Barrayar. She is being checked out after a series of traumatic experiences.

Her new husband Aral Vorkosigan is regent of the planet Barrayar, a planet of intrigues and assassinations and politics gone mad. Five weeks ago, they were the victims of a poison gas attack, and the antidote that kept her alive was teratogenic. Her fetus was transferred to a Betan uterine replicator for treatment. (The uterine replicator is new technology on Barrayar; they have babies the old-fashioned way.) It is known that the baby have skeletal abnormalities if he survives, and disability of any kind is feared and despised on Barrayar.

A military coup was then attempted by an opposing faction. Cordelia narrowly escaped, heroically saving some of her people (including the five-year-old Emperor-to-be), and has been on the run for a period of time.

The doctor doesn’t have the previous medical records, so he’s starting afresh.

He shook his head and keyed up a new form on his report panel.

“I’m sorry, Lady Vorkosigan, we’ll simply have to begin at the beginning. Please bear with me. Do I understand correctly you’ve had some sort of female troubles?”

“No, most of my troubles have been with males.”

Cordelia bit her tongue.

“I had a placental transfer, let me see – three, plus – ” She had to count it up on her finger. “About five weeks ago.”

“Excuse me – a what?”

“I gave birth by surgical section. It did not go well.”

“I see. Five weeks post … partum.” He made a note. “And – what is your present complaint?”

“I don’t like Barrayar, I want to go home, my father-in-law wants to murder my baby, half my friends are running for their lives, and I can’t get ten minutes alone with my husband, whom you people are consuming before my eyes. My feet hurts, my head hurts, my soul hurts.”

It was all too complicated. The poor man just wanted something to put in his blank. Not an essay.

“Fatigue,” Cordelia managed, at last.

“Ah!” He brightened, and entered this factoid on his report panel. “Postpartum fatigue. This is normal.” He looked up and regarded her earnestly. “Have you considered starting an exercise programme, Lady Vorkosigan?”



Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism, health

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12 replies

  1. I must get this book and read it. NOW.

  2. Heheh 🙂 One of my favourite bits! Another is Cordelia’s “shopping trip”. Reading Bujold makes me so very happy.
    I’ve recently finished reading the the latest in her Sharing Knife series and I’m looking forward to the final one in that series which is due out in Feb 09. There is also a new Miles Vorkosigan novel on its way.

  3. I must get this book and read it. NOW.

    Be sure to read Shards of Honour first! It’s a two-parter.
    Mimbles: I didn’t know there was a new Sharing Knife book coming out – thanks. I’ve got my hands full just getting through the Vorkosigan ones, but I’ll make room for that.

  4. *salutes* Yes ma’am.
    Seriously, though, I need to read more good, solid sci fi. A girl can only take so many overblown Matthew O’Reilly Ps of S before the brain starts to go funny.

  5. I have a scifi anthology with a Miles Vorkosigan short story in it (“Weatherman”) and I must say, I LOVE the humour and humanity in it. I really need to collect more Bujold stories.

  6. Almost throught with Sir Thursday from Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom series. This one is several shades darker than the previous books. It seems like a natural progression, not gratuitous, but I’m still having some cognitive dissonance. Both Leaf and Suzy Turquoise Blue have substantial roles in this one, which is good news on the Hoyden front. Of course Nix’s Abhorsen series is one of the best Fantasy series for females in leading roles, so no surprise there.
    MatildaZQs last blog post..Mixing it up, Toughing it out: Webb Wilder @ Fitzgerald’s

  7. Aaaannnnd, of course I mean to leave my comment in the “what are you reading?” thread. Sorry, the caffeine is still swirling clockwise down my gullet in this hemisphere.

  8. Mimbles–I had no idea there was going to be another Vorkosigan book out soon! I’m really pleased, though I haven’t had a chance to read Diplomatic Immunity yet. Maybe I should start again at the beginning as it’s been two and a half years since I started the Miles books, and three and a half since I read Barrayar.
    For those in the US, Shards of Honor and Barrayar are available together as Cordelia’s Honor; I believe Barrayar alone is out of print.

  9. No worries, Matilda ZQ! It will keep us on our toes.
    Bujold was indirectly responsible for the scales falling from my eyes with regard to a chap on whom I had an enormous (platonic) crush – he was one of my favourite conversational sparring partners, and I regarded his opinions highly, UNTIL he had an xkcd “how it works” moment – I lent him Shards of Honour, and his considered judgement of this book that didn’t appeal to his taste was “I just don’t think women can write science fiction”.
    This was, of course, after she had already won several Hugos and Nebulas. That one remark gave me a whole new perspective on my friend, and my crush dissipated in a moment. We’ve drifted apart entirely now, and I hardly miss him, or his contempt for women that I hadn’t previously recognised, either.

  10. Bene – You can hear Lois mention the new Miles book herself here. I confess to having done the squee thing when listening to the podcast 🙂 I re-read the Miles books on a regular basis – comfort food for the brain.
    Tigtog – Sharing Knife no.3 is out in hardcover, the one due in Feb 09 will be the last one apparently.
    mimbless last blog post..Menu plan 11 Aug 08

  11. Bujold writes the BEST characters. To be fair to the poor ex-guy who didn’t think women could write SF, I’m quite happy to admit I prefer SF written by women. It’s about taste.
    And… a new Miles book?!?!?!?! I thought it was over. I bet that ambitious little guy has got 20 babies brewing in uterine replicator this time. Hehe.

  12. Just resurrecting this thread to say that I’ve almost finished Bujold’s fourth Sharing Knife book, Horizon. There is nothing hugely surprising in there, which is just fine for a fourth book in this type of series. It’s solid and enjoyable, well-paced, and blessedly fairly fail-free.
    There are brief allusions to same-sex partnering and poly marriages in the world-building without anything derogatory said, though none of the main characters are in such. It remains fairly unsexist as a book, showing (but not telling) the gender-role-fixed farmers coming into contact with the more equal Lakewalker society. Dag’s disability is treated openly and realistically, without making a big deal out of it or ever turning him into either a supercrip or Very Special Inspiration; and the taboo of ‘inter-racial’ relationships is also tackled further. A few new characters are introduced, some non-one-dimensional, instead of the easy way out of depending on the old ones to completely carry the story. It’s definitely worth completing the circle with this book.

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