Aug. 11th, 2014 @ 11:25 am Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, third reading
After reading this, I mostly agree with what I thought immediately afterwards (http://cartesiandaemon.livejournal.com/873153.html) except that I like the things I like a lot more, and I'm able to skim over the things that squicked me. It feels like Civil Campaign ramped up: more lovely funny character bits, but even harder to get the plot to feel real.

I love the developing of the characters of Ivan and Byerly and Alys and Simon, and all the other character moments.

I'm still annoyed that I never felt like the plot really mattered, logically there was a good reason for everything, but it never felt like Ivan's marriage or undermining ImpSec happened for real, but just because that's what was necessary to get the characters into an interesting place. I can't explain why it didn't click for me :(

Lots of other ideas tickled me. Is it possible Simon knew about the microborer and didn't tell anyone, to get ImpSec headquarters destroyed and rebuilt? I'm pretty sure not, because there's no way he could have known it would be safe, but it amused me.

I'm also impressed at how Bujold melds history together, so broad outlines in one book can be filled in detail in another book without major contradictions. Like the transition from Negri to Illyan to Allegre. Negri's impsec felt like it was primarily focussed on protecting the emperor personally (like the secret service but more so?) and much less on espionage. Hence, Negri's comparatively low rank of captain, but massive political importance. And later on, ImpSec is a massive multi-planetary bureaucracy of all intelligence agencies rolled into one, comparable in importance to the conventional military. And it's certainly plausible that it expanded from one to the other as Barrayar became more of a galactic power. But it feels like that wasn't planned from the start, Bujold just left enough slack in her original description that she could retcon a bit and have it work fairly seamlessly without any holes. Except for plastering over a few holes, like Simon keeping Negri's rank all through his career, even when he was employing people a lot more senior.

Similarly, CVA spells out how the aristocracy work. Mostly Counts, heirs, and heirs' heirs, plus courtesy titles for Counts' other children, plus a small number of inherited lordships without land attached, like Vorpatril. Which is completely consistent, but it feels like it was retrofitted a bit to cover possible inconsistencies in the early books where lots of people were "lord" but the whole counts' system hadn't quite been worked out yet. However, it was retrofitted very well, so there's nothing to worry about (although personally I'd almost rather it was left ambiguous but kept consistent going forward, or said "I changed this" in a forward, rather than being spelled out).

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From:gareth_rees
Date:August 12th, 2014 09:53 am (UTC)
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I think the reason this novel falls flat is that there isn't really anything at stake. Ivan is an officer in the brutally efficient secret service, he's the cousin of the Emperor, he's friends or relations with the powers-that-be, most of whom are decent competent people. There's no sense whatsoever that he could get into any trouble that he couldn't easily get out of via his connections.

In fact, one starts to feel that Ivan's obvious shirking of responsibility (by now, based on his position in the aristocracy, he ought to be head of a government department, or at least providing political support for the progressive party, not hiding away as a mid-ranking officer in the secret service) is no longer particularly charming.

Edited at 2014-08-12 10:01 am (UTC)