Monthly Archives: September 2014

Carpe Diem – Chapter 4


In which Shan discusses the situation with Priscilla.

Priscilla, of course, is the other reason Shan was so definite about rejecting the prospect of a contract marriage. It is of course beyond question that Nova must be aware of Shan’s relationship with Priscilla, but it’s open to question how well she understands what it means to them. (The fact that they’re still together coming up on seven years after they met must count for something, even if they haven’t taken the step to officially seal it; but perhaps Nova has concluded that the important detail is that they haven’t taken the step to officially seal their relationship even after being together coming up on seven years.)

Can I count Priscilla’s house as another for the list of characters who appear only briefly but in memorable detail? The descriptions of her situation add richness to the chapter, and the value of Dablin’s commentary on events is immeasurable.

Carpe Diem – Chapter 3

Trealla Fantrol

In which Val Con’s family are concerned for his whereabouts.

There’s more about certain aspects of Liaden culture in this one chapter than there is in all of Agent of Change, although that’s perhaps only to be expected when Agent of Change was about a Liaden surrounded by Terrans and this chapter features two Liadens interacting on Liad itself.

I’m a bit puzzled by the mention of Val Con being a Scout Captain in a time past, because it was said several times in the later chapters of Agent of Change that his present rank is Scout Commander, and Commander is usually the rank below Captain (traditionally, it meant that although one was not a captain yet one had risen far enough to be put in command of an unrated ship) — and I don’t picture Val Con doing anything that would have got him busted down a rank. Maybe the Scouts just do ranks differently. Maybe it’s just a typo.

This is the first chapter not to contain any reference to Miri since almost the beginning of Agent of Change, which in a way underlines how much Val Con’s family don’t know about what he’s been up to.

Carpe Diem – Chapter 2

Neefra’s Tavern

In which Tyl Von sig’Alda enquires after a colleague.

This chapter gives us the first mention of the name of Val Con’s erstwhile employers, the Department of the Interior. It’s the first mention in publication order, obviously, but I’ve discovered on this re-read that it’s also the first mention in chronological order: the prequels are all careful to avoid mentioning the name, though there are places in them where one familiar with the Department’s style may recognise its hand at work.

We also get, in Tyl Von sig’Alda, a look at another of the Department’s agents in action, and a reminder that Val Con isn’t typical. Though Miri complained about him sometimes seeming to be two different people, that was really her good fortune, because that was a sign he was already working free of the Department’s influence; if he’d been one person, it would have been the person who would have killed her out of hand as soon as she ceased to fall within the Department’s narrow definitions of usefulness. Agent sig’Alda doesn’t have any hesitations on that score (and his lack of interest in Miri as a person is going to come back and bite him later).

Agent of Change – Chapter 26 & Epilogue

In which the Yxtrang lose their prey and much else besides.

I’m not sure why Commander Khaliiz punishes his underlings for failing to ensure that the ship was empty after he’s accused Val Con of stealing their prize, which suggests that he’s aware of the possibility that Val Con and Miri arrived after the ship was emptied. Maybe he’s just making sure to cover all the bases, but it seems to me that an organization that can get away with harshly punishing people just in case they might have done something wrong is an organization that’s seriously flawed.

One thousandth of a light second, the safe radius for going into Jump, is approximately the distance between New York and Baltimore.

Agent of Change – Chapter 25

In which Val Con declines to surrender to the Yxtrang.

I’m not sure how to picture the spin that Val Con applies to the yacht. Spinning around a central axis, perpendicular to the motion of the yacht? Tumbling end over end? Neither of those quite match all the other things that are going on at the same time.

A belated observation: when the Yxtrang first attacked the yacht, their scans reported three people on board, but Miri and Val Con only found one body. If Val Con’s right about the dead guy being a smuggler, it’s most likely that the other two were colleagues, rather than any of the family members he was carrying around photos of; and the fact that he was carrying around photos of his family adds to the likelihood that they were off somewhere far away. At least, this is what I am telling myself; given some of the threats the Yxtrang Commander utters in this chapter, I don’t like to consider the possibility that their previous victims included women and children.

We’re back in the land of short chapters which indicate increased pace if one reads them all at once but drag things out when one reads one chapter per day.

…which is why, presumably, my notes indicate that tomorrow I will be covering both Chapter Twenty-Six and the Epilogue in a single entry.

(And then we will be going straight on to the second chapter of Carpe Diem, since the first chapter is basically a repeat of this one, slightly reworded, with a few bits abridged and a couple of additions that don’t need an entire entry to cover. The more significant one is the addition of a dateline establishing that this scene takes in “Second Quadrant: Ramal Sector”.)

Agent of Change – Chapter 24

In which the Juntavas let Miri and Val Con go.

A nicely unobtrusive example of virtue being its own reward: if Miri hadn’t thought about notifying the dead stranger’s family, she wouldn’t have found the coord page before it was spaced, and they’d have been in a heap of trouble.

Well. Not that they’re not in a heap of trouble as it is, with an Yxtrang ship bearing down on them, but you know what I mean.

Agent of Change – Chapter 23

In which Hostro’s message catches up with the Juntavas.

I had forgotten about Val Con’s near-death experience. Given some of the weird psychic stuff that happens elsewhere in the series, it might have some deeper significance that isn’t immediately obvious, but if it does I don’t know what it is.

Agent of Change – Chapter 22

In which the Juntavas catch up with Miri.

There’s something tricksy going on with the timing in this chapter: the scene with Hostro and Edger is clearly Edger returning after one hour to hear Hostro’s decision, as promised two chapters ago — even though several days have passed for Miri and Val Con in those two chapters. Clearly there’s been a bit of stretch-and-squash going on in the relative placement of the scenes that don’t involve Miri and Val Con.

I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that the period of time Terrans and the Clutch have been dealing together is roughly the same as Edger’s age.

Up to now, when considering Miri and Val Con’s potential (and now newly formalized) partnership, the emphasis has mainly been on Miri’s preference for playing single’s odds and consequently not being sure what she’d do with a partner — but it should be noted that Val Con, whatever he might have done when he was a Scout, has spent the last few years playing his own version of single’s odds, and his response to the ship being boarded suggests that he could do with brushing up on the finer points of having a partner himself. Trying to take sole responsibility for one’s partner’s safety is not how it’s supposed to work, even when it doesn’t result in the two of you being separated and then individually pinned down and captured.

Agent of Change – Chapter 21

In which Miri and Val Con discuss marriage.

I raise my eyebrow at Val Con’s assertion that who he marries is his choice and not the choice of the Clan. From what we’ve seen in the prequels, I think the Clan would have something to say about that, particularly since what he’s proposing is a lifemating that would deprive the Clan of any possible future use it might get from his marriage prospects. As Delm, of course, he would have the ultimate say. But he’s not Delm yet — and if he holds to the intention he goes on to suggest, to steer clear of Liad and Korval in future, he’s never going to be. (Then again, if he steers clear of Liad and Korval in future, he’ll be depriving the Clan of the use of his marriage prospects whether he marries Miri or not.)

It’s a sign of the new balance Val Con has worked out for himself that he’s comfortable again identifying himself as “Scout Commander”. He’s probably doing it at least partly to reassure whoever might be on the distressed ship, but I don’t think that would be sufficient impetus for him to do it if he were still in the spy-not-a-Scout headspace he was in before.

Agent of Change – Chapter 20

In which Agent of Change Val Con yos’Phelium meets his death.

Hmm. The glossary in the back of Pilot’s Choice is quite explicit that “Entranzia volecta” is High Liaden, with the Low equivalent being “Tra’sia volecta”. Then again, Miri says she understood that bit, so maybe her complaint about Val Con springing Low Liaden on her applies only to the “cha’trez”, which is definitely Low Liaden. That just leaves the question of whether it’s likely that Val Con would mix High and Low Liaden in a single three-word sentence.

On a less confusing note of drawing-information-from-other-stories: Given what we know from the prequels about Liaden customs, the non-verbal components of Val Con’s leave-taking say a lot about his regard for Miri and his hopes for the future, though Miri herself is no more able to translate than she is able to translate the murmured comment that precedes them. (I wonder whether Val Con would have done the same if Miri did possess the knowledge to interpret, or if he only allows himself to make the declaration because it won’t be understood.)