Read-along: Winter’s Orbit – week two

Welcome back to the SciFiMonth read-along of Everina Maxwell’s space opera Winter’s Orbit. Last week we met our heroes and attended a wedding; this week, we’re diving into palace intrigue and imperial politics. Let’s talk chapters seven through fifteen!

This week, the questions are all mine:

Now we have a better grasp of the political and diplomatic context, where do your sympathies lie? Any thoughts on Gairad or the Thean ‘intervention’ at the embassy do?

I was glad that Everina Maxwell took the time to set out some context this week: I was started to get myself in knots with assumptions and misunderstandings about the Iskaran Empire and its vassals and the Resolution. I feel on much firmer ground now, and on the one hand woah, Thean revolutionaries, no, you are not in any position to seize the link and even if you did that would void the treaty with the Resolution and then you’d be at the mercy of some other high-tech civilization swarming into your galaxy.

On the other hand, I am irritated by the incredibly, well, imperial attitude Iskat has to its vassal planets. They have read the book on colonialism and thought ‘yes, we shall have ourselves a piece of that’ – from sneering at their so-called allies to this increasingly suspicious and highly unpopular asset seizure mining operation.

Hell yes my sympathies are with the Theans, can’t help myself. I think Gairad is hilarious and clearly a foolish rebel sympathiser, and the intervention at the embassy was gold dust (the plastic chair. THE PLASTIC CHAIR).

However, those sympathies don’t go very far. I’d like to see a more equitable relationship between Iskat and the other planets – allies, not vassals! – but the military might is so very one-sided it seems unlikely.

Unless the Theans have something up their sleeves other than well-placed indignation.

The only thing I can think of is remnants. But let’s talk about those later.

Having got to know Jainan – and Taam – better, how successful do you think his first marriage was? What do you make of his chances at happiness with Kiem? 

I am 100% still thinking Taam was a terrible husband, and that someone needs to give Jainan a hug. Preferably Kiem. They still seem like they’ll make a brilliant couple to me, if they live long enough for Kiem to get his head around the fact that the answer to ‘tell me what you want me to do’ isn’t to withdraw thinking ‘WTF’ and ‘welp, I must not foist myself on this poor grieving man’ and instead to GIVE JAINAN THAT HUG and tell him ‘I want you to do whatever will make you happy and stop worrying about me. I am here for you and your bull wrestling and stunt flying and I find it SUPER HOT when you get lost in data’.

Ahem. Romance grinch, remember? Doesn’t mean I can’t want what’s best for them. Also, there’s been quite enough of the miscommunication tropes now, let’s move things along.

Any ideas why Jainan’s security access was flagged? What do you make of his response to it?

Okay, let’s get to the good stuff: conspiracies and secrets. I can’t decide whether Jainan’s access was flagged purely because Taam was working on such a Sekrit Projekt that the Internal Security team decided to keep a beady eye on his foreign husband’s comms. This seems like the sort of absurdly intrusive thing they would just do and that Taam was enough of an asshat to consider perfectly reasonable.

On the other hand, Taam had all that data on Jainan‘s wristband. So it’s not a stretch to think that there were some highly suspect comms being routed through it that might have set bells a-ringing in Internal Security…

I’m still a little baffled by Jainan’s response. Not in the sense that he just put up with it for two years – I put that at Taam’s door – but that even now he’s still taking the line of “I was encouraged not to contact my family”. That passive voice. That lack of an actor. Who is he not pointing fingers at? Taam? Internal Security? Or is this a supremely passive aggressive way of saying “if I can’t talk to my family without a security wonk listening in I must assume you don’t want me to talk to my family therefore I shall not talk to my family and this is absolutely not on anybody look at me not rocking the boat”.

That boat is rocking, Jainan. And you can do something about it.

Of course, this whole thing may be an act and he may in fact be a massive Thean agitator who is rocking that boat in every deniable way he can. I’ll be happy either way, to be honest.

Lunver is awfully keen not to share the textbook perfect crash data, and insists the issue with the Auditor is the speed of Kiem’s appointment. She wants him to step down and let someone else marry Jainan. Thoughts? Who do you think is responsible for all these mysterious malfunctions? Who do you trust?

Okay, I’m taking these two together.

If it were me – and yes, I used to run horribly overcomplicated roleplaying games – there would be multiple factions in play here. Whoever killed Taam presumably arranged Kiem and Jainan’s accident, which means they have direct access to a military base on Iskat itself (so probably not the space raiders) – that narrows the field significantly.

However, I actually hope Lunver has nothing to do with it – she’s been cast as deliberately unlikeable, and I would rather our villain not be one of the only unlikeable characters on page. She does look awfully suspicious, but I can sell myself on her being a military careerist who takes a dim view of letting civilians – let alone foreigners and playboy princes – anywhere near classified data.

I’m way more suspicious of Mr Terribly Helpful From Helpful Town who was So Happy to see Jainan and being all best buddies and You Must Pop Round More Often. Who didn’t really hesitate to share classified data – then fed them doctored data – and who was willing to wangle them access onto that military base to follow up. Sure, he just wants to know who killed his buddy Taam. Mmm. I’d like to see his bank account.

Still, Lunver wanting Kiem to divorce Jainan and let someone from the military become the treaty partner instead rings all sorts of other alarm bells. Why does she want that level of access to – or control over – Jainan? Jainan, who has a doctorate in regolith extraction, but who – allegedly – wasn’t allowed anywhere near Operation Kingfisher.

I’m going with her (faction) wanting to ensure he’s nowhere near what they’re up to – which they can’t guarantee when he’s married to an imperial prince who doesn’t think twice about sassing his way into Internal Security and trying to talk everybody he meets into doing whatever he needs.

All of which begs the question of just what is Operation Kingfisher up to? Because I’m pretty sure the Theans are right to be unhappy about it.

How about those mysterious remnants? Why do you think the Resolution wants them back? What do you make of the timing of the Empire returning the remnant that powered the notorious Tau field device?

I am so curious about the remnants. So the galaxies are scattered with ancient tech from other civilisations, and the cost of entry to intergalactic travel is to turn it in? Sure, that doesn’t sound problematic at all. Especially when you can use it to make weapons. Someone has quite a stash – and I don’t think it’s just the Galactics.

I’ve been assuming this would be the source of our conspiracy since it first came up, to be honest. I will be entirely unsurprised if Operation Kingfisher is actually digging up technology that the military is desperate to keep off the radar and out of Galactic hands.

…but coming back to what those Thean radicals have up their sleeves, have they got a lead on some remnants that they think can help swing the balance of power?

And are they all going to get held to ransom by those raiders?

I have no answers, only conspiracy theories, which is my favourite way to approach this sort of read. Pass the popcorn, will you?

Thoughts from around the Empire

But wait, this is a read-along – what did everybody else have to say?

Links will be added once they go live.

Don’t see your blog here? I may have missed you are joining us – add your post to the SciFiMonth master schedule and I’ll pick it up and include you here!

Reading Schedule

Everyone is free to read at their own pace, but we have set chapters to discuss each week. If you don’t have a blog, you can join the discussion via the comments on the week’s host blog or the Goodreads topic (always use spoiler tags), or start a Twitter thread and tag us in. Wherever you post, please avoid spoilers for future weeks if you read ahead (or have read it before).

  • Week 1: Beginning through Chapter Six – hosted by Lisa @ Dear Geek Place
  • Week 2: Chapter Seven – Fifteen – hosted here @ There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week 3: Chapter Sixteen – Twenty-two – hosted by Ariana @ The Quaint Book Nook
  • Week 4: Chapter Twenty-three to the end – hosted by Lisa @ Dear Geek Place

Discussion prompts will be posted by the host midweek each week. I’ll be posting on Sundays, but you can post any day that suits you – just add your link to the SciFiMonth master schedule.

Want to join us in the read-along? Jump on in!