- Alternative 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.
- 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 70 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. He was also instrumental in helping Prince Serg become The Caligula, though Aral also notes Serg was a quick study and surpassing Ges.
- Crazy Is Cool:
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)
- Miles at his most manic and inspired arguably slips into this. Perhaps the defining example is the moment where he resolved a hostage situation by threatening to shoot the hostage himself. With a plasma cannon.
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
- There's his verbal sparring with Cavilo earlier as well:
- Critical Research Failure: Some fans hate Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, stating Aral would never cheat on Cordelia. Except, they forget that Aral cheated on his fiancee with Ges Vorrutyer, so it was just an example of History Repeats. Fortunately, Cordelia is Betan and a Yaoi Fangirl, so not only did she encourage it, she took part, too.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: 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 was raised to be 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".
- Harsher in Hindsight or Hilarious in Hindsight (YMMV as to which): As said in Ethan of Athos: Admiral Naismith "has unprofessional moments himself. Terribly impractical, it's going to kill him one of these days." That's more or less exactly how Miles does die. (His cryorevival works pretty well, but the side effects end his covert ops career, after which Admiral Naismith is no more.)
- Hilarious in Hindsight: The Barrayan Power at a Price stimulant is a little blue pill that makes your soldier stand at attention. Pity the book was published 12 years before Viagra became commercially available.
- It's just a coincidence. Real-life military amphetamines have come in little blue pills since at least World War II. In fact, the description of the effects and side effects of Barrayaran military stimulants closely matches the military-issue methamphetamine tablets that the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe used to use (and abuse, and become addicted to, which is why they don't use those pills anymore).
- 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.
[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.
- 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. Having his brother die to the disease made him even more jumpy. Word of God says that the character was intended to be a portrait of an undiagnosed and untreated individual with borderline personality disorder.
- The 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 their way, to say nothing of trying to make a scapegoat out of Barrayar and create war between the Barrayaran Empire 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."
- Moral Event Horizon: What shocked Aral most was General Metzov trying to use partially trained young recruits as a death squad.
- One could also make a good case that he passed this when he tried to order a squad of Barrayaran soldiers to clean up a mutagen with inadequate protective gear when the mutagen could easily be destroyed by heating the bunker.
- One-Scene Wonder: The medtech looking for her daughter at the end of Shards of Honor. She really stands out in the entire series.
Miles: It looks like a cross between a cockroach, a termite, and a... and a... and a pustule.
- Butter bugs before Ekaterin's cosmetic improvements.
- Cetagandan Kitten Trees. For the love of all that's holy, do not pick one before they're RIPE.
- The once-human things in Baron Ryoval's research/torture labs.
- Maree in Mirror Dance. A mentally ten year old clone girl with the body of a twenty year woman, who additionally endured extensive body modification to increase her breasts and hips. Even though she's rescued from being harvested for a brain transplant, she's still trapped in a wholly unfamiliar body.
- Then there's Lily Jr., a clone of Baroness Bharaputra, who was Lotus Durona, the first daughter of Lily Durona. Not only was she brainwashed into thinking having her brain replaced by Lotus' was her "duty" — her being named "Lily" is a not-so-subtle Take That revenge aimed at the original — but the Baron had already been "sampling" her; she's good at oral sex (she's underage, mind), indicating the Baron wanted to keep her a virgin til after the operation. Jackson's Whole really is a cesspit.
- What an Idiot!:
- No, not Ivan. The Komarran conspirators in Komarr chained Tien up outside, assuming he'd made sure his breather had a full tank of oxygen, because no idiot who's lived in the planet's domes for more than five minutes would ever not check before going out on the surface, especially when there's an automatated message stating "Check your air tank!" This is the reaction everyone gives, including the conspirators, Miles and Ektarerin, who, by the way, warned Tien to check but got shouted down by him.
- Padma gets this from Alys. In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, she reveals Padma left their secure hiding hole to look for help because he was frightened of having to help his wife's labor alone.Alys: But I knew, then and forever after, that it wasn't his bravery that killed him — it was his cowardice.
- 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. (cue understanding nod from Drou)
- 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:
- Woobie: Poor, poor Russo Gupta. His Back Story is just pathetic. A refugee from a minor Jackson's Whole house who was gengineered to be amphibian but had no job and was a homely mutant without house protection. He finds True Companions with a group of similarly outcast smugglers. They have the bad luck to do a job with a Cetagandan agent with access to horrific bioweapons who wants to Leave No Witnesses. His friends are melted into piles of goo and now he has nothing to live for save a Roaring Rampage of Revenge which results in him almost killing a high ranking Barrayaran officer which under most circumstances would have gotten him executed. His good luck was his accidental target was Miles, a "mutant" himself with sympathy toward his plight. He is, however, one of the unresolved plot threads. Some Fanon interpret Miles' attitude as hinting that Guppy would have a place with the Dendarii mercenaries. Hopefully.
YMMV / Vorkosigan Saga