So let's see. Chapter 4 was about the time that Cordelia and Vorkosigan had spotted the Barrayarans, right? Since then, we've had Aral's proposal; Cordelia saving Aral's ass, then leaving him; the Escobar war with Cordelia's capture, rescue, and second capture; Cordelia saving Aral's ass, then leaving him -- again; a fairly disturbing picture of state of mental health care on Beta Colony, and Cordelia making a dramatic escape from her homeworld.
I continue to not be certain whether Aral/Cordelia is a fine romance or deeply problematic. I have difficulty with love-at-first-sight romances under the best of circumstances, and this is hardly that. Something about the way it's written makes their feelings seem a little distant to me, a little too telling-not-showing. We only see the depths of Cordelia's feelings for Aral in flashes: the kiss, the way she reacts to being drugged by him, the fact that she saved the uniform she wore in his ship, a few other things. I want a stronger sense of a continuing connection. Hopefully that will change now that she's escaped to (I assume) go be with him on Barrayar.
The suggestion that Cordelia is actually a deeply programmed Barrayar agent and doesn't even know it is a pretty fascinating one. It would help explain the weird dips and rises and gaps in her emotions; it would explain the lost hours on the ship. I'm not sure it's fully consistant with the story as it's been presented to us, but I think it could be made to work without being a cheat. If that is the case, and Bujold pulls it off, I'll be really impressed. (I hope goes without saying that, as of this writing, I don't want to know whether this is going to happen!)
The Emperor's plan for getting rid of the Prince was pretty brutal, but effective, and interesting. I like the insights the whole situation gives us into Barrayar as well as the individuals involved. Now that I've accepted that we're going to have bits and pieces of the worlds revealed to us, I can appreciate how well that's being done. Like Cordelia commenting that her world has neither moonlight nor lakes: a sudden shift to my image of Beta Colony, and what life there must be like.
I do still get flashes of a fanfictiony feel to the story. The "canon slash" of Vorkosigan's past relationship with Vorrutyer, for one; also, Cordelia having to bear up under media reports of Vorkosigan being personally responsible for atrocities puts me in mind of a fic that's tweaking canon to write a romance between a heroic character and a villain. It makes me wonder whether Vorkosigan was based on a specific Star Trek Klingon character. Barrayar is developing more of its own character over time, although that may be because I don't know too much about ToS Klingons -- I'm much more familiar with the later series, and it's my understanding that TNG and DS9 developed the Empire rather differently.
Final thought: it's come to my notice that, almost every time Betan president "Steady Freddy"'s name comes up, the speaker makes a point of saying they didn't vote for him. A simple running gag, or hints of something deeper? Hmmmm...
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