Cetaganda, written by Lois McMaster Bujold and published by Baen Books in 1996, is the tenth published novel in the universe of the Vorkosigan Saga. It was published first by Analog as a four-part serial from October to mid-December of 1995, then by Baen Books in hardcover January 1996, and in paperback October 1996. Within the universe, it chronologically follows The Vor Game and is followed by Ethan of Athos. It was later collected in the omnibus edition Miles, Mystery and Mayhem. For audio versions: The Reader's Chair published a version in 1998 read by Michael Hanson and Carol Cowan; and Blackstone Audio published in 2006, read by Grover Gardner.
Cetaganda came in fourth place for a Locus Award for best Science Fiction Novel in 1997, and was a nominee for the HOMer Award for Best Novel in 1996.
Library Journal named The Reader's Chair audio edition one of "Best Audiobooks of 1999" in its 15 Feb 2000 issue.
It was also a nominee for the Seiun Award (Japanese Hugo) for best translation of a foreign novel in 2002.
Cetaganda is the latest installment of the Hugo-award winning adventures of Miles Vorkosigan, in which Miles and Cousin Ivan go to Cetaganda to play the part of sprigs of the nobility doing their diplomatic duty by good old Barrayar. The idea is that they will gain diplomatic polish on this simple mission, but when the Cetagandan empress dies naturally and her lifelong attendant dies unnaturally – apparently a suicide, but there are rumors – Miles and Ivan find themselves in the thick of it.
Miles tries to play detective in a strange, complicated, and deceptively alien culture, while handsome and lascivious Ivan managaes to get himself involved with several noble females at the same time – a diplomatic no-no of the first order. As the plot thickens, it becomes clear that to fulfill a boyhood fantasy and save the Empire, it's up to Miles to do the job. He doesn't mind exactly, but ... the Cetagandan empire?
At the start of the tale, the haut-empress of Cetaganda Lisbet Degtiar had died of old age, and Miles Vorkosigan and Ivan Vorpatril were sent to represent Barrayar at her funeral.
On the very first day, at the Eta Ceta orbital transfer station, Miles and Ivan's shuttle arrived at a service port and a person later identified as the Ba Lura entered. A fight immediately broke out and Miles and Ivan acquired a nerve disruptor and a strange rod with a patterned end. Shortly afterwards, they met Ambassador Vorob'yev, who took them to the embassy and suggested that they attend a party at the Marilacan embassy, where a ghem lord named Yenaro had provided a gift of a particularly magnificent walk-through sculpture. There, Miles was introduced to Mia Maz, a Vervani expert on women's affairs on Cetaganda; he showed her a drawing of the pattern on the rod and she promised to investigate it. Soon after, Miles's legs were burned in a strange accident; he believed ghem Lord Yenaro was at fault.
- "This could shape up into a nice little exercise in intelligence/counter-intelligence, better than maneuvers because it was real. No proctor with a list of answers lurked on the fringes recording all his mistakes for later analysis in excruciating detail. A practice-piece. At some stage of development an officer had to stop following orders and start generating them. And Miles wanted that promotion to ImpSec captain, oh yes."
- ―Miles planning to involve himself[src]
On the second day on Eta Ceta, they attended a ceremony at the Celestial Garden. While there, Miles met the custodian of the rod, haut Rian Degtiar, who very much wanted it back. Much more troublingly, their intruder, Ba Lura, was dead, apparently from cutting its throat at its Celestial Lady's bier. After the ceremony and back at the embassy, Mia Maz met with Miles and Ivan and explained Cetaganda's strange aristocracy; they also learned that the rod was part of the Empress's regalia and was called the Great Key, of unknown function.
On the third day, Miles and Ivan attended a party at Lord Yenaro's home. Miles was called away to meet Rian Degtiar; he returned the rod only to learn that it was a fake; the real one was still missing. Further, the Great Key was extremely important and irreplaceable to the operations of the haut gene bank, where all future haut babies were created. Further, the haut governors had all been given keyless copies of that gene bank. Miles concluded from what he learned that one of the haut governors was trying to break away from or take over the empire. He decided to take on the mission of searching for the Key. Back at the party, Ivan was given a drink that functioned as an anti-aphrodisiac, after which he was led into a situation where a failure to perform would be highly, and publicly, embarrassing. He managed to conceal his difficulties, leaving his young female companions happily asleep.
- "On one level, Miles was growing extremely sorry he had not taken the local ImpSec subordinates into his confidence on the very first day. But if he had, he would no longer be in charge of this little problem; the decisions would all have been hiked to higher levels, out of his control. The ice is thin. I don't want anyone heavier than me walking on it just yet."
- ―Miles rationalizes why not to confess[src]
On the fourth day, he met ghem-colonel Dag Benin, whose job was to not investigate the death of Ba Lura (i.e. he was to close the investigation quickly with a verdict of suicide); Benin interviewed Miles and Miles used the occasion to question Benin and to point him to the governors as best possible. At this point, Miles believed the governor who was plotting against Cetaganda and Barrayar both was either Slyke Giaja of Xi Ceta, Ilsum Kety of Sigma Ceta, or maybe Este Rond of Rho Ceta.
On the fifth day, Miles and Vorob'yev went to a poetry reading at which the governors were to perform. None of them gave away any useful information, though Miles managed to indicate to each of his three candidates that he knew of Lord Yenaro's involvement. Soon afterwards, Rian Degtiar met with Miles to tell him that Slyke Giaja had taken a great deal of interest in the Great Key earlier in the day. Miles made plans with her to arrange for him to sneak aboard Giaja's ship to try to steal it back.
On the sixth day, Miles and Ivan visited the ghem-ladies' Botanical Exhibit; Miles was planning to sneak away while there. Lord Yenaro attempted a third prank, but Miles and Ivan caught him in the act and stopped him. This prank would have been lethal to themselves and Yenaro both if it had been carried out properly (and to many others nearby as a bonus); Yenaro was shocked to learn that detail. As it turned out, the governor who was trying to kill them all was Ilsum Kety, not Slyke. Miles called off the operation with a message to Rian indicating Ilsum; meanwhile, Yenaro went into hiding. Back at the embassy, a conversation with the embassy's local chief of ImpSec, Colonel Vorreedi, and another with ghem-colonel Dag Benin left Miles painfully aware that people were noticing – and suspicious of – his activities. The evening had another party to attend; this time, Rian had Miles brought to the Star Crèche so he could tell his tale to her colleagues, the eight planetary consorts. They decided to recall the gene banks, which would serve to derail the governor's plot.
- "Vorreedi stated dangerously, 'I am not a mushroom, Lieutenant Vorkosigan.'
To be kept in the dark and fed on horseshit, right. Miles sighed inwardly. 'Sir, apply to my commander,' meaning Illyan—Vorreedi's commander too, in point of fact—'be cleared, and I'm yours. Until then, my best judgment is to continue exactly as I have been.'"
- ―Vorreedi wants to know what's going on[src]
On the seventh day, Miles spent a quiet day in the embassy while the haut ladies performed their retrieval.
On the eighth day, during yet another event at the Celestial Garden, Ivan was kidnapped. Miles saw it happen and contacted Rian; she arranged the capture of the haut woman who had performed the kidnapping. Miles then learned that one consort, Nadina from Sigma Ceta, had not returned with her gene bank and the others believed her kidnapped. Miles and the Eta Ceta consort, Pel Navarr, then snuck aboard Ilsum Kety's ship intending to rescue both Nadina and the Great Key. After finding both, however, they were captured. Miles and Pel arranged for the true Key to transmit its information across all of Eta Ceta space, thus destroying Kety's plot. Soon after, they were rescued by ghem-colonel Benin and taken back to Eta Ceta to meet the emperor.
- "Why don't you sign up for Cetagandan Imperial Security, then, coz," suggested Ivan in exasperation. "Maybe ghem-Colonel Benin would promote you."
- ―Ivan's opinion on Miles' activities[src]
On the ninth day came the funeral ceremony itself. Emperor Fletchir Giaja awarded Miles the Cetagandan Order of Merit and "suggested" that he and Ivan leave the planet immediately after the ceremony. They did as requested.
- "Ivan." Miles let his voice grow unexpectedly chill. "Why should the haut Fletchir Giaja decide he needed to be polite to me? Do you really think this is just for my father's sake?" He ticked the medallion and set it spinning, and locked eyes with his cousin. "It's not a trivial trinket. Think again about all the things this means. Bribery, sabotage, and real respect, all in one strange packet . . . we're not done with each other yet, Giaja and I."
- ―Miles thinks about his adventure[src]
Behind the scenes
- The Cetagandan funeral ceremony of "Singing Open The Great Gates" bears a strong resemblance to the modern-day Wiccan ceremony "Singing Open the Western Gates" performed at Samhain.
- Cetagandan society was at least partly modeled on Japan from the time period of Tale of Genji and Imperial China of the late Manchu period.