YMMV: Vorkosigan Saga

  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Beta Colony, Utopia or Dystopia? Depends on where you stand on their more interesting social practices. Even the Betans themselves can't agree. A Utopia sustained by weapons R&D and sex tourism seems - odd.
  • Canon Sue: Cordelia and Aral seem to edge into this territory being almost unanimously admired by the rest of the characters and portrayed as unfailing sources of wisdom. Cordelia at least is still allowed to get things wrong - although nothing too great - as the series progresses, but Aral gets this is a lot. It may be an artifact of mostly seeing him through the viewpoints of his younger relatives, especially Miles, to whom he appears basically perfect.
  • Complete Monster:
    • Baron Ryoval stands out as one of the worst villains of the series, and is viewed as a monster even on the Wretched Hive of an Outlaw Town planet in which he lives. Ryoval started his evil early in life, murdering his father and then proceeding (with the exception of two siblings who escaped) to either murder the rest of his siblings or else subjecting them to torture/body modification before condemning them to a Fate Worse Than Death in brothels he runs catering to sadism and sexual perversion. Ryoval is obsessed with torture and sadism both as his primary business and as a hobby, and employees a large staff of Torture Technicians, who like the rest of his staff, don't like the work, but are too afraid of what he would do to them if caught to flee. Ryoval is actually seventy years old, but looks like a young man because like some other particularly depraved people on his planet, he has had clones of himself produced (who are normal, sapient individuals) and then when they've reached a certain age, he had their brain ripped out and his implanted. He has this "procedure" done several times.
    • Ges Vorrutyer gets about twenty pages of screen time, and is still a memorable skin-crawler. His creepy obsession with tormenting and torturing his ex-boyfriend Aral takes him from "academically interested in watching a psychologically destroyed Bothari raping Cordelia Naismith on his say-so" to "willing and eager to do the deed himself" in a way that leaves even the normally very calm and balanced Cordelia absolutely terrified. According to Aral, Ges broke Bothari in the first place, and did it twice: once before Bothari arrived at the Leper Colony, and again after only a few scant months when Bothari was reassigned.
  • Crazy Awesome:
    Miles had judged the hostage-problem logically insoluble; therefore, clearly the only thing to do was make it Cavilo's problem instead of his own. (from The Vor Game)
    • There's his verbal sparring with Cavilo earlier as well:
    Elena: Damn. If I didn't know you, I'd think you were Mad Yuri's understudy. The look on your face . . . am I reading too much into all that innuendo, or did you in fact just connive to assassinate Gregor in one breath, offer to cuckold him in the next, accuse your father of homosexuality, suggest a patricidal plot against him, and league yourself with Cavilo — what are you going to do for an encore?
    Note that Aral(Miles's Father) is canonically bisexual (though monogamous) with a distinct preference for soldiers and on Barayar the only soldiers are men. Cordelia, as a Betan officer, provided Aral with a societally approved heterosexual relationship and the soldier he always wanted. (His term of affection for her is "my dear captain.") They are happily married because Cordelia is open-minded and knows him better than he knows himself, at least in this regard, and is willing to accept the things he can't admit. Miles has not heard any of this except possibly as rumors from his father's political enemies which he would probably discount as slander.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Both "That Idiot" Ivan Vorpatril and Mark Vorkosigan have become intriguing characters due to Hidden Depths, and it doesn't hurt that both love to deflate Miles' ego, and know exactly what buttons to push - Mark even more so since he is Miles. Other popular bit players are Emperor Ezar and Emperor Fletchir Giaja, each of whom only appear in one book (Barrayar and Cetaganda respectively.) Both leave striking impressions of rulers who are cunning and a hint of what Gregor might become when he grows older. Miles is in awe of Fletchir's wisdom, deeming him a Worthy Opponent.
  • Fair for Its Day : Pondered in-universe: most of the jerkass aspects of Piotr's personality are due to the Values Dissonance between him and the "new generation", but in fact considering his background he's pretty progressive: he himself recognizes the need for Barrayar to go forward, and Miles, after having seen a glimpse of Barrayar's past on one of his missions, realize Piotr wasn't "the last of the old" but "the first of the new".
  • Jerkass Woobie : Ekatrin's first husband. The decay of his marriage is caused by his physical difficulties causing him a low self-esteem and depression that makes him withdraw into himself and neglect his wife. On another planet besides Barrayar he might have been a tolerable husband, but the odd Fantastic Racism slowly got to him.
    • Not only did he neglect her, he verbally and psychologically abused her constantly. And although he did have low self-esteem, he was also ridiculously proud and terrified of what he saw to be public embarrassment - enough to make things far more difficult, demoralizing and time-consuming then they needed to be when it came to treating his illness and his son's.
    • Don't underestimate the psychological impact of 'mutation' on a Barrayaran it almost destroyed Miles is it any wonder that a lesser man cracked and disintegrated under it? And Ekaterin's doormat enabling behavior didn't help - as she recognizes alas long after the fact.
    • The unnamed villain of Diplomatic Immunity poisoned the crew of a whole spaceship, and went on to cause the extremely horrible deaths of four people who had the bad luck to get in its way, to say nothing of trying to make a scapegoat out of Barrayar and create war between it and the Cetagandan Empire - plus that little business with the bomb in the concert hall, the last of which was purely out of spite at having been caused so much trouble by the Quaddies. But their backstory is rather tragic; as a genderless, genetically engineered servant, the ba had to spend its whole life witnessing all that was denied it - power, wealth, the right to breed - in the form of its younger, perfected sibling, the Emperor of Cetaganda. Then the late Empress, who actually did treat the ba somewhat like a 'real' child, died with her final plans unfulfilled. And, although it tried to start a new empire with itself as both Emperor and Empress, in order to bizarrely fulfill its late Empress' (and mother's) wishes, Miles also rather poignantly has the right of it: "In other words...the ba wanted children. In the only way it could...conceive."
    [Miles] had slain men's bodies, and bore the mark, and knew it. He did not think he'd ever before slain a soul, yet left the body breathing, bereft and accusing.
  • Memetic Sex God: Ivan; on Cetaganda at least. Especially impressive in light of the fact that Ivan's Cetagandan competition has been being genetically engineered toward perfection for centuries. It's probably not just his good looks. And this reputation withstands him being dosed with a drug to ensure The Loins Sleep Tonight. Let's just say Ivan is a Cunning Linguist.
    • More accurately, the drug causes the reputation. The attempt to satisfy Cetagandan ghem-ladies while, er, disabled, along with some convenient lies about the Barrayaran Art of Love, make Ivan's name on Cetaganda.
  • Moral Event Horizon: What shocked Aral most was General Metzov trying to use partially trained young recruits as a death squad.
  • Nightmare Fuel / Nausea Fuel: In Diplomatic Immunity, Ker Dubauer's lovely selection of Cetagandan bioweapons will leave you begging for a Mercy Kill before you literally boil into a steaming puddle of melted entrails. Oh, and they leave the brain intact so you're conscious up till the last minute.
    • Padma Vorpatril's last minutes of life, both before and after he was drugged up to the gills on fast-penta. Much more before, though, since he surely knew his captors would get him to tell them where his beloved wife and unborn son were, and kill them all - and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
    • The Warrior's Apprentice. When Miles tells Bothari to make a jump pilot talk, he instantly regrets it, as Bothari becames a Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant who finds a particularly nasty way to torture the pilot into talking. To make things worse, the pilot dies of shock not long after.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The medtech looking for her daughter at the end of Shards of Honor. She really stands out in the entire series.
  • Squick:
    • Butter bugs before Ekaterin's cosmetic improvements.
    Miles: It looks like a cross between a cockroach, a termite, and a... and a... and a pustule.
    • Cetagandan Kitten Trees. For the love of all that's holy, do not pick one before they're RIPE.
      • Leads Miles to snark that with Ivan leaving his DNA all over the place on Cetaganda, they might find interesting uses for it. To be blunt, Miles is hinting at them creating Ivan's Penis Trees.
    • The once-human things in Baron Ryoval's research/torture labs.
  • Stop Helping Me!: Duv to Miles after Miles, having accidentally sabotages his chances with Laisa Toscane by introducing her to Gregor, offers to assist Duv in his courtship of Delia Koudelka.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Badass?: Ekaterin comes off as this compared to the rest of Miles's soldier/badass girlfriends, mostly because she's had a quieter, more domestic life. She has a brief Adrenaline Makeover at the end of Komarr that impresses the hell out of Miles, though, so maybe she just has that potential and never used it.
    • Ekaterin acquits herself pretty well toward the end of Diplomatic Immunity while Miles is incapacitated. It's also made clear in the series that there's more than one kind of badassery, and once out from under Tien and in Miles' orbit Ekaterin starts displaying hers, from proposing to Miles in front of the entire Council of Counts to fox Richars Vorrutyer in Civil Campaign to working behind the scenes on both a personal and diplomatic level to make contacting the Cetagandans about the rogue ba easier in Diplomatic Immunity. She's also super-classy towards Miles' various paramours and would-be paramours, even having his old flame Taura stand as second during her wedding. And finally, as of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, her artistic talents - already well established by her previous appearances - are shown to be both impressive (Tej's jaw drops when presented with an example of her work) and very much in demand (Lady Alys Vorpatril mentions with pride that her rooftop garden was designed by Lady Vorkosigan.)
    • In-universe, this trope makes Cordelia extremely angry at the end of Barrayar:
      All Kareen's courage of endurance had bought her nothing, Lady Vorpatril's brave and bloody birth-giving was taken for granted, but whack off some idiot's head and you were really somebody, by God—!
      • During an earlier scene in the same book, Cordelia shuts down an officer who criticizes Kareen for appearing to comply with Vordarian's attempted takeover:
        Staff Officer: But she's Vor. She should have defied him.
        Cordelia: Oh, but you never know what any Barrayaran woman thinks by what she says in front of Barrayaran men. Honesty is not exactly rewarded, you know.
  • Woobie: Poor, poor Russo Gupta. His Back Story is just pathetic.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Contemplate Miles' medical nightmare of a childhood and recognize that there was an element of Mercy Kill in Count Piotr's murder attempts.