Monthly Archives: September 2015

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 26

Office of the Road Boss
Surebleak Port

In which Val Con pays an educational visit, and Miri has a visitor who just won’t learn.

Val Con is interrupted twice as he gets to saying “Now, I wonder–“, so we never do find out what it was he was wondering.

I think it might be too much to expect that all Val Con will find at the Road Boss office when he arrives is Miri grumpily shutting down her computer. Even if Smealy wasn’t inclined to push matters, his shadow is likely to have something to say (although whether that means that Val Con will arrive to find Miri under attack, or just to find Smealy bleeding out on the front doorstep, I’m not sure).

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 25

Boss Conrad’s House
Blair Road

In which the Juntavas make Korval an offer he can refuse.

I’m not sure I understand the motivation behind the Juntavas’ offer to bring Korval into the family. If even an ordinary alliance would be risky, why go so much further? The only thing I can think of is that someone hopes to be able to envelop and gain control of Korval, in which case it’s only polite of Val Con to have given warning. Korval doesn’t really do “enveloped and controlled”.

I’m impressed by the Juntavas’ information-gathering if they’ve learned that Aelliana is still around. Maybe it’s explained by the fact that they’ve obtained detailed information about Daav’s visit to Nev’lorn, since Daav did mention to a few people then that Aelliana was with him. Perhaps more impressive is that the High Judge seems pretty casual about it, Aelliana being still around so long after she was declared to be really most sincerely dead. Could be that this time it’s a case of not having learned everything; if he doesn’t know how definitely dead Aelliana was, he might fall back on assuming reports of her death had been exaggerated, which I expect is something a High Judge of the Juntavas would be familiar with.

Dragon in Exile – Interlude 9

Vivulonj Prosperu
In Transit

In which Daav is not yet ripe.

The thing the Uncle didn’t take into account in his plan to wake Daav up first and bring him up to speed while they were waiting for Aelliana to join them is that Aelliana’s presence has been a mainstay of Daav’s existence for decades. There’s a hint of the trouble in the Uncle’s reflection, just before his error makes itself known, that Daav will be inventorying himself and checking his memories: for Daav, that process would automatically include checking to make sure Aelliana is still there, and now she isn’t.

Daav’s first question is always going to be “Where’s Aelliana?”, and the Uncle’s not going to be able to wake him safely without having a satisfactory answer ready – with any answer other than “Right here” likely to prove unsatisfactory. He might, in the end, have to reverse his plan and leave Daav asleep until Aelliana’s conscious and up to speed.

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 24


In which there are meetings and partings.

I’m still inclined to the idea that Tolly is the specialist Jeeves is sending with Tocohl. Conversely, this implies that Jeeves is the colleague who encouraged Tolly to settle on Surebleak, which raises the interesting question of what enterprise they might have been colleagues in.

I haven’t the faintest idea what High Judge Falish Meron (whose name is given here for the first time) might want with Val Con. Based on past performance, this probably means I haven’t been paying attention and it will be obvious as soon as it’s said.

Smealy’s meeting with Miri is sure to go badly for somebody, but I’m not confident in guessing who. Miri might send him out with his tail between his legs, the way Val Con did, but he’ll be more inclined to fight back this time, because he needs a success to show his colleagues. He might be tempted to do something foolish because Miri is small and female, in which case he’d be making a mistake in underestimating Miri – not just because she’s ex-merc and Korval, but because she grew up on Surebleak, and was pretty tough already before she was either of those other things. I suspect the Syndicate Bosses are similarly underestimating Surebleak’s population in thinking the campaign of examples will make them roll over.

Dragon in Exile – Interlude 8

The Firmament

In which Claidyne ven’Orikle has already made a choice.

And here I was thinking that there weren’t any really interesting variations left.

Now Korval has not only a group of people with abilities and motives to go after the Department; with Claidyne’s knowledge and the plan that arose from it, they have something specific for them to attempt to achieve.

Helpfully, Claidyne’s target is not the same download point the current Commander of Agents used and built her headquarters around – that was the secondary download point, and this is the quaternary – so there will be no necessity to confront her directly. (The primary, of course, was lost when the Headquarters under Solcintra were destroyed. That leaves a tertiary unaccounted for, and perhaps a quinary, a senary, a septenary, …)

I’m not entirely clear on where this leaves Claidyne in the waking world. Her mind took extreme measures to keep her from being consciously aware of the plan, and if that remains the case then she can’t be counted on to willingly assist in it. We’re told Anthora has pinned the two halves of her together more securely, but I’m not clear whether that means a return to them acting and working together. We shall see.

(It occurs to me that what Claidyne achieved is something like what Daav achieved with Jen Sar, or Cantra with Maelyn, only more painfully and with considerable damage to self due to stressful circumstances and lacking the advantages of training or genetic aptitude.)

I’m interested in this talk about the Commander of Agents being downloaded. Claidyne speaks of information: knowledge about the Department’s holdings, its codes, its plans. But the novel has also spoken of another kind of download – the download of an AI into the physical platform it will be running on. I’ve already mentioned that when the current Commander received the download it reminded me of Theo forming a connection with the Bechimo AI. Suppose the information required to act as the Commander is packaged with a personality, a tried and proven Commander of Agents personality, that can pick up smoothly where the former instance of itself left off and will render irrelevant any plans the Commander-candidate may have had to use the position for a personal goal. It seems like the kind of thing the Department might do. (But what happens if the Commander gets downloaded into one half of a mind divided? That could get interesting…)

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 23

Boss Conrad’s House
Blair Road

In which the Road Boss makes plans for the day.

Miri’s bruised cheek is one of those things that have extra resonance from details mentioned in other stories. Pat Rin is especially upset about it because the culture of Liad puts a big value on presenting a clean and unblemished face to the world: no dirt, no smudges, no injuries. (No concealing make-up, either.) That’s also part of why everyone made such a fuss about Val Con’s scar in Plan B, beyond its inherent unpleasantness. Val Con is less concerned about it, partly (as with his scar) because of his Scout training, and partly because, as he reminds Pat Rin, this is not Liad.

Val Con and Miri do a neat job of diverting Nelirikk’s disapproval.

I somehow suspect there’s something to the fact that Tocohl’s proportions are described entirely in terms of being similar to Theo’s. Her voice isn’t Theo’s though, if Val Con recognises it but Miri doesn’t. (I wonder if it’s modelled on Aelliana…) Perhaps Jeeves decided that if Tocohl was to be a child of Korval, she ought to bear some resemblance to her sisters and her cousins and her aunts.

Tocohl takes after her father in choosing a name from fiction that suits her intended role: Susumo Tocohl is the protagonist of Janet Kagan’s novel Hellspark; she’s a linguist, a dab hand at smoothing over the problems caused by clashing cultural assumptions, and her universe’s leading authority on the process of teaching an AI how to be a person.

(Hellspark is a long-standing favourite comfort-read of mine, and I would perhaps be more excited about this development except that the surprise was spoiled for me long ago by an acquaintance who, in addition to our shared loved of the works of Lee & Miller and of Kagan, has a taste I don’t share for reading Advance Reader Copies.)

We still haven’t been given the name of the specialist Jeeves proposes as Tocohl’s colleague, which suggests that the authors consider it something worth building up to. My only guess at this point is that it’s Tolly, if only because he’s been established as a specialist earlier in the novel. And, come to think of it, if he’s still being looked for by someone he doesn’t want to be found by, he might welcome a trip away. (…and if he’s a specialist in AI, what does that say about the person who’s looking for him?)

Dragon in Exile – Interlude 7

The Firmament

In which Bon Vit Onida makes his choice.

Another one, different again.

We were about due for something to go wrong. I’m not sure what actually did, though: some kind of trap laid by the Department? But if they knew enough to lay a trap for this situation, why only trap one agent in three? Perhaps it was a sign of some flaw of Bon Vit Onida’s own, maybe deepened by the Department’s tampering or maybe not; and if so, it’ll be interesting to see how Bon Vit Onida manifests in the mundane world.

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 22

Boss Nova’s House
Blair Road

In which there is a nice dinner followed by serious conversation.

I find it interesting that Kezzi’s triumph at school is reported by Syl Vor, and vice versa.

The phrase “something so trivial as an apparent breach of contract” has an edge to it, coming after Val Con’s lecture on the importance to Liadens of the making and keeping of contracts. One might suppose that in the general way, the Liaden attitude about self-reliance being what it is, a breach of contract would be resolved between the parties to the contract without bringing in any outsiders, so a breach of contract wouldn’t normally be taken to the Council of Clans unless it developed into a major situation. This is not the general case, however – for one thing, the Council of Clans is one of the parties to the contract in question.

The mention of Quin in this context makes me belatedly wonder whether his current project – which is, you will recall, to gain piloting experience by flying off somewhere for several weeks – was already planned, or if it was invented as a way to keep him out of reach of any more Balance-seekers while his family determined whether any more are to be expected.

Val Con’s aunt Mizel would be his mother’s sister Sinit, who was appointed Nadelm Mizel in Mouse and Dragon and presumably has succeeded to the Delm by now. (She also formed an alliance with yo’Lanna in that book, so that mention is another pointer.) Seeing her mentioned now as still in contact with Korval, with Aelliana’s return in prospect, makes me wonder how she is going to react to having her sister come back from the dead.

Dragon in Exile – Interlude 6

The Firmament

In which Vazineth ser’Trishan makes her choice.

After this there are three more Agents with their futures unresolved, and the next three Interludes are spaced out at consistent intervals, so I think I can see where that’s going.

I like how each of the Agents so far has been individual in their circumstances, even those who made the same choice as each other. This one in particular is like the whole situation in miniature.

(I’m still worried about the possibility that one of Korval’s guests, given the choice, will choose to remain aligned with the Department.)

Dragon in Exile – Chapter 21

Riley’s Back Room
Fortunato’s Turf

In which Miri talks about the past, and Droi thinks about the future.

And one way in which things immediately become more interesting is that Rys’s role as leader of the freed Agents, with all its responsibilities and risks, has ceased to be merely hypothetical now that there is at least one freed Agent to lead.

It’s an interesting point about Droi perhaps not having a place on the ship of the Bedel when it returns. This chapter seems to be gesturing toward the possibility that she might by then discover that she has a place on Surebleak with Rys, which would not be quite the same as being left alone among gadje. The problem I see with this as a solution is that it revives the issue of the kompani needing to have a particular number of members at the end of chafurma, which was the necessity that drove Droi to start interacting with Rys in the first place: if both Rys and Droi leave, the kompani will be short, even if the kompani keeps their daughter, which I could see being a Balance demanded of them.

(Unless, it occurred to me as I composed the previous sentence, the newly freed Agents follow Rys’s path, and enough of them join the kompani to balance the loss. I’m suspicious of this idea, though: it seems a bit too neat, the kind of prediction that I’ve usually been wrong about before with Liaden novels.)

I was right about the nosy crews being connected; good to know my intuitions aren’t entirely off. Having some kind of underground-space-detecting technology explains how they knew where to look without necessarily knowing what was in the spaces they were looking for. The mention of an Insurance Committee suggests they might also be connected to the shakedowns Pat Rin has been dealing with. It says something about their ideas of neighbourliness (or at least of the behaviour of Bosses) that they assume they can nobble the Road Boss’s nearest neighbour without anybody noticing or caring.

It occurs to me that the kompani, who have been on Surebleak many generations “to learn what there was to know”, might well have learned things that would be relevant and useful to Kareen’s project, even if they weren’t interested in the social constructs of gadje particularly. Whether anybody in the story is likely to have this occur to them, and whether the Bedel would agree to share such knowledge, who knows?