Tag Archives: Val Con yos’Phelium’s hunches

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.

I Dare – Chapter 55


In which the Captain acts for the safety of the passengers.

The mode of Ultimate Authority, which is referred to twice in this chapter, has, perhaps unsurprisingly, not come up much before: three times in the series up to this point. Priscilla adopts it briefly when putting Sav Rid Olanek in his place at the end of Conflict of Honors; Commander of Agents is said in Carpe Diem to use it when dealing with his underlings; and Val Con, greeting the Tree in Plan B, places the Tree in the position of ultimate authority.

The fact that it’s used twice in this chapter, and by whom, is the central conflict in a nutshell: the first is Commander of Agents again, and the second is Miri when she takes on the melant’i of Liad’s Captain. And I think it says something that, whereas Miri adopts the mode temporarily and in a situation where she is in fact the duly-appointed ultimate authority until the emergency is resolved, the Commander is not only self-appointed but apparently expects to be regarded as the ultimate authority all the time.

There’s a leap near the end of the chapter that I’ve never been able to follow. After the doomsday weapons are activated, ter’Fendil says he can deactivate them if Val Con gives him the control device, and Val Con does. Then it cuts to another scene, and when it cuts back everybody’s running for their lives and talking about the urgent need to do something before the weapons break out and start killing everybody. Is there something missing, or is it just me missing something?

Carpe Diem – Chapter 68


In which Val Con meets Tyl Von sig’Alda, Clan Rugare.

Given that it’s been suggested that Cloud targets the user’s most traumatic memories, it’s interesting that its effect on Tyl Von sig’Alda seems to have been to make him forget basically everything about being an Agent of Change.

(Also interesting: that although he is confused when Val Con mentions his ship, he doesn’t hesitate when Val Con asks for his first aid kit. Presumably carrying one of those is a basic pilot thing that he was doing even before he fell into the hands of the Department.)

sig’Alda’s recollection of his occupation suggests he’s not a former Scout, unless he left the Scouts for some reason to become a pilot-for-hire. I was going to say that it seems unlikely a Scout would choose such a course, but then I remembered that we know of a Scout who did very nearly that, and choice didn’t come into it: Val Con’s own father was called home from the Scouts to serve the necessity of his Clan, and later became a courier pilot at least partly because it was the closest he could get, while still serving the necessity of his Clan, to being a Scout again. And it could also happen more directly, that a Scout might be called home to serve the Clan’s necessity by being a pilot-for-hire, if the Clan’s necessity were that all its children be supporting it with paid occupations. (I think I’ve just argued myself out of believing that we’ve learned anything definite about whether sig’Alda was a Scout.)

Carpe Diem – Chapter 33

Springbreeze Farm

In which there is danger and Miri is home alone.

Things are heating up, with two hazardous situations developing in parallel. Although I don’t think they’re actually occurring simultaneously; I have a feeling the Edger subplot might be getting stretched out through the book instead of occurring at a consistent pace.

The radio news report Miri doesn’t listen to is presumably connected to the Bassilan rebels that were mentioned in passing the first time Zhena Trelu took Val Con and Miri in to Gylles.

Carpe Diem – Chapter 26

Springbreeze Farm

In which Jerry’s piano returns to life.

Time’s moving strangely again. There’s mention of a tune Hakan was playing on his guitar “three days ago”, which might be on the day Val Con and Miri met him and he persuaded Zhena Trelu to let Val Con use the piano; three days seems a reasonable period for them to find time to line their schedules up so he can come and tune the piano. But Zhena Trelu says it’s been “three weeks” since Miri and Val Con showed up, and the day before they met Hakan Miri said it was “barely a week”. That would suggest that it’s been over a week since they met Hakan, and while that’s possible and it’s also possible that the occasion three days ago was not the first time they heard Hakan playing his guitar, it seems less likely that Hakan would let a whole week go by before seeing to the piano.

In other, less ambiguous, time-related news, it’s three years since Zhena Trelu’s zamir died, which makes this local year 1478. Whatever that might mean in comparison to the Standard Calendar.

The conversation between Miri and Zhena Trelu outside the locked door is another of my favourite moments in this novel.

Carpe Diem – Chapter 12

Springbreeze Farm

In which Meri and Corvill stay for the night.

Sometimes it seems like every time I choose to make a general observation not specifically inspired by the particular chapter at hand, it turns out I’d have done better to wait until the next chapter, either because it invalidates the observation or because it turns out to be an even better occasion to have made it.

(In other words, no eloquence will be forthcoming regarding the emotional and character aspects of this chapter either.)

And now it’s time for another general observation that hopefully I won’t regret when I get to the next chapter:

Because this is a re-read, I know already that it will eventually be established that the so-called Department of the Interior is a rogue organization with friends in high places but no official standing. So it’s been interesting, re-reading Agent of Change and now Carpe Diem, that so far there’s been no indication that the Department is not an office of the Liaden government, carrying out that government’s policies. (The one hint in that direction, perhaps, is Shan mentioning that he’s never heard of the Department — but then, to be unheard of is only what one might expect from a covert organization.) Val Con’s recollection here, in particular, definitely gives the impression that the Department was an authority that could require obedience — or at least that it had succeeded in convincing Val Con that that was what it was.

Agent of Change – Chapter 19

In which a Turtle on urgent business is no trifling thing.

Edger demonstrates that, while the Clutch are not inclined to rush into anything, they’re capable of acting rapidly and decisively when the situation calls for it. And that, if they’re slow to come to a conclusion, that just means that they’ve given it a lot of thought, not that they’re stupid.

Every time we get a mention of Val Con’s minor telekinetic ability, I go back and check the chapter near the end of Mouse and Dragon, and every time the chapter stubbornly continues to be about young Pat Rin being discovered to possess a minor telekinetic ability. I don’t see how that could be the result of a confusion, so I suppose we must take it that they both possess a minor telekinetic ability. I still wonder what happened to Pat Rin’s.

I don’t believe a word of the stuff about electron substitution as a basis for Val Con’s enhanced psychic abilities, by the way, but it’s part of a grand tradition in space opera of using post-Newtonian physics as a handwave for all kinds of entertaining nonsense and I’m prepared to run with it. (Since I’ve raised the subject, though, I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend the essay on What Quantum Physics Is Not from Chad Orzel’s book How to Explain Physics to Your Dog, which is educational, clearly written, and features an evil mirror-universe squirrel with a goatee.)

Agent of Change – Chapter 9

In which Val Con and Miri discuss their chances.

This chapter is mostly taken up with an explanation and demonstration of the capabilities and limitations of the Loop, the mental gadget Val Con has that estimates probabilities of success and survival for him. (It still has at least one trick up whatever mental gadgets have instead of sleeves, though, which we will learn about later.)

Miri is worried about Val Con because he’s just calculated and recited the odds of her dying at his hand without showing any emotion or personal investment. I don’t think she’s right about him not comprehending what he’s been saying, though; the narration notes that he had to make an effort to keep his voice emotionless. It would be interesting to know what the emotion was that he was trying not to show.

Agent of Change – Chapter 2

In which Miri Robertson meets Val Con yos’Phelium, and he invites her to join him for dinner.

If this is Val Con yos’Phelium, much has changed for him since we last heard of him, two or three months ago for us and six or seven years for him. Back then, he was a Liaden Scout, and a First-In Scout at that — not an occupation much given to assassinating Terran supremacists. Nor is he himself a person one would have expected to take up that line of work, despite what happened to his parents (if anything, the way he and his family reacted then supports the idea that it’s uncharacteristic for him now).

And then there’s Miri, who we haven’t heard from in about twice as long. Back then, she was a girl just embarking on a career as a mercenary soldier. How that led, a decade and a bit later, to packs of gunmen laying for her in alleys… we shall have to wait and see.

(An aside: Miri’s use of arbitrary numbers tends toward multiples of seven, while Val Con’s tends toward multiples of twelve, a Liaden attribute I’ve noticed in other novels but hadn’t realised was established so early.)

Is it just me, or does the picture of Miri on the cover of the Meisha Merlin edition look an awful lot like Jamie Lee Curtis? This is not, mind you, a complaint, because either way it succeeds in looking a great deal like Miri, an achievement by no means to be taken for granted when it comes to characters on the covers of Liaden Universe novels.

Intelligent Design

In which Trealla Fantrol gets a new butler.

This is another story where I wonder how it comes over to a reader who hadn’t read any of the later-set novels featuring yos’Galan’s robot butler, and who therefore didn’t know where it was going from the moment Roderick Spode appeared. (I’m not sure what we’re supposed to make of Roderick Spode. The story gives us no cause to suppose that that wasn’t actually his name, but it seems like a bit of a tidy coincidence if it was.)

Incidentally, I notice Jeeves is not the only inhabitant of Trealla Fantrol mentioned here with a name from a Terran story: the cat Merlin, mentioned as an earlier beneficiary of Val Con’s hunches, is another. Presumably that means he’s a more recent arrival than Anne.

It’s interesting that Val Con’s sense for a person in danger responds just as much to a machine person as to a living creature, but it cuts in both directions. There’s the obvious implication that the retired unit is a real person despite being composed of wires and code. But there’s a complication introduced in the fact that he was sending out a distress signal at the time Val Con got his hunch: assuming for the sake of discussion that it’s not just a coincidence, the idea that the distress signal might have actually been what triggered the hunch suggests that on some level technological signals and psychic communication might be the same thing. And after some of the sufficiently-advanced-technology shenanigans that went on the prequel duology, I definitely suspect the authors of doing this deliberately.

This is one of the stories that doesn’t have a definite position in the chronological order. Shan is not yet 20 Standard Years old, which is about the most solid indicator in the story. It’s set approximately around the same time as “Heirloom”, and I take it to be somewhat after, since there’s mention of Nova serving an apprenticeship with Luken and she didn’t seem in “Heirloom” to have had much previous involvement with Luken’s trade.

Tomorrow: “A Matter of Dreams”