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A collection of particularly memorable quotes from the Vorkosigan Saga.

Alys Vorpatril[]

  • Dresses are weapons, my dear, in sufficiently skilled hands. ("Winterfair Gifts")
  • It's as much my job to prevent domestic disasters for Gregor as it is Simon's to prevent security ones or as it was your father's—it's Minister Racozy's job now, I suppose—to prevent political ones. (Memory)
  • There were two principal possibilities on the table.... First, was that you were an adventuress who had somehow succeeded in entrapping Ivan, and he should be rescued from you as expeditiously as possible. Maybe. After I’d found out how you did it, for future reference.  (To Tej regarding her marriage to Ivan Vorpatril. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)

Aral Vorkosigan[]

  • I could take over the universe with this army if I could ever get all their weapons pointed in the same direction. (Shards of Honor)
  • Leadership is mostly a power over imagination, and never more so than in combat. The bravest man alone can only be an armed lunatic. The real strength lies in the ability to get others to do your work. (Shards of Honor)
  • The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in that future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present — they are real. (Shards of Honor)
  • Why shouldn't a madman dream of being sane? (Shards of Honor)
  • Exile, for no other motive than ease, would be the last defeat, with no seed of future victory in it. (Shards of Honor)
  • A Caligula, or a Yuri Vorbarra, can rule a long time, while the best men hesitate to do what is necessary to stop him, and the worst ones take advantage. (Shards of Honor)
  • I told him ... that you poured out honor like a fountain, all around you.
    • That's weird. I don't feel full of honor, or anything else, except maybe confusion.
    • Naturally not. Fountains keep nothing for themselves. (Aral and Cordelia, in Shards of Honor)
  • My home is not a place, it is people. (Barrayar)
  • One step at a time, I can walk around the world. (Barrayar)
  • Meaning is what you bring to things, not what you take from them. (The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • The Vor system at work [is] streams of experience, all flowing together, combining at last in a river of great power. Yours [Gregor's] is the final confluence. (The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • A weapon is a device for making your enemy change his mind. (The Vor Game)
  • Between justice and genocide [for Komarrans] there is, in the long run, no middle ground. (Brothers in Arms)
  • All true wealth is biological. (Mirror Dance)
  • People give themselves to you, in their talking, and in other ways, if you are quiet and patient and let them, and not in such a damned rush to give yourself to them you go bat-blind and deaf. (Mirror Dance)
  • Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself. Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.(A Civil Campaign)
  • There is no more hollow feeling than to stand with your honor shattered at your feet while soaring public reputation wraps you in rewards. That's soul-destroying. The other way around is merely very, very irritating. (A Civil Campaign)
  • Acquiring a reputation as a slick and dangerous man, who would kill without compunction to obtain and protect his own, is not all bad. In fact, you might even find it useful. (A Civil Campaign)
  • Honesty is the only way with anyone, when you’ll be so close as to be living inside each other’s skins. (A Civil Campaign)
  • A higher honor must underlie ours... We can't ever obey unthinkingly. ("Winterfair Gifts")

Arde Mayhew[]

  • "My God... you mean he's like that all the time?" (regarding Miles on stimulants, The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • Your forward momentum is going to lead all your followers over a cliff someday.... On the way down, you'll convince 'em all they can fly.... Lead on, my lord. I'm flapping as hard as I can. (in response to Miles's encouraging him with the "Forward momentum" line - The Warrior's Apprentice)

Bel Thorne[]

  • You know, your sense of humor is going to get you into deep trouble someday. (To Miles, "Labyrinth")
  • "Do you remember the first time we ever saw each other?" (To Miles, Mirror Dance)
    • "Yes. I stunned you."
    • "You surely did."
  • I see. They were trying to re-invent the enlisted man. (regarding a super-soldier project, "Labyrinth")

Bruce Van Atta[]

  • Cover-your-ass was a fundamental rule for survival even of the fittest. (Falling Free)


  • The key of strategy... is not to choose a path to victory, but to choose so that all paths lead to a victory. (The Vor Game)

Cordelia Vorkosigan[]

  • Anything worth doing is worth doing well. (catch phrase)
  • So the unknown breeds dragons in map margins, she reflected.... (Shards of Honor)
  • How we imagine our civilization is in ourselves, when it’s really in our things. (Shards of Honor)
  • If it ever came down to exerting power by force, it would mean I'd already lost it. (Shards of Honor)
  • War is the failure of politics. (Shards of Honor; Miles recalls it in The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • In the physics of the heart, distance is relative; it's time that is absolute. (Shards of Honor)
  • I believe," she said slowly at last, "that the tormented are very close to God. I'm sorry, Sergeant. (Shards of Honor)
  • I thought you saw meaning in that sort of thing.
    • In the abstract. Most days it's just stumbling around in the dark with the rest of creation, smashing into things and wondering why it hurts. - Aral and Cordelia (Shards of Honor)
  • I can love you. I can grieve for you, or with you. I can share your pain. But I cannot judge you. (Shards of Honor)
  • It must be quite a shock to suddenly find out you're pregnant, seventeen times over—at your age, too. (Shards of Honor)
  • But when he’s cut, I bleed. (Shards of Honor)
  • A price is something you get. A cost is something you lose. (Shards of Honor)
  • Tests are a gift. And great tests are a great gift. To fail the test is a misfortune. But to refuse the test is to refuse the gift, and something worse, more irrevocable, than misfortune. (Shards of Honor, said to Aral about taking the Regency. Miles recalls a similar statement in The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • Check your assumptions. In fact, check your assumptions at the door. (Barrayar)
  • Experience suggests it doesn't matter so much how you got here, as what you do after you arrive. (Barrayar)
  • You can't choose between evil and evil, in the dark, by logic. You can only cling to some safety line of principle. (Barrayar)
  • It’s not that I’m not upset; it’s just that I’m too tired to run up and down the corridor screaming. (Barrayar)
  • It’s a ... transcendental act. Making life.... ‘By this act, I bring one death into the world.’ One birth, one death, and all the pain and acts of will between.... Our children change us ... whether they live or not. (Barrayar)
  • But pain... seems to me an insufficient reason not to embrace life. Being dead is quite painless. Pain, like time, is going to come on regardless. Question is, what glorious moments can you win from life in addition to the pain? (Barrayar)
  • Children might or might not be a blessing, but to create them and then fail them was surely damnation. (Barrayar)
  • I have no right to risk. No, that's not quite correct. I have no right to failure. And I don't trust myself anymore. I don't know what's happened to my edge. Lost it in a strange land. (Barrayar)
  • Good soldiers never pass up a chance to eat or sleep. They never know how much they'll be called on to do, before the next chance. (Barrayar)
  • Any community's arm of force — military, police, security — needs people in it who can do necessary evil, and yet not be made evil by it. To do only the necessary and no more. To constantly question the assumptions, to stop the slide into atrocity. (Barrayar)
  • You can say a lot in a little time, if you stick to words of one syllable. (Barrayar)
  • Suicidal glory is the luxury of the irresponsible. (Barrayar)
  • I don't want power. I just object to idiots having power over me. (Barrayar)
  • It was hell to be so tired, and still care. (Barrayar)
  • Let me help. Rhymes with I love you, right? (Barrayar)
  • There's all of us adults, and one of him. We ought to be able to keep up. Why do I feel like he has us outnumbered and surrounded? (Barrayar)
  • Endure pain, find joy, and make your own meaning, because the universe certainly isn't going to supply it. Always be a moving target. Live. Live. Live. (Barrayar)
  • Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. (originally by Robert Frost; The Vor Game)
  • Egalitarians adjust to aristocracies just fine, as long as they get to be the aristocrats. (recalled by Miles Vorkosigan in Cetaganda)
  • Since no one is perfect, it follows that all great deeds have been accomplished out of imperfection. Yet they were accomplished, somehow, all the same. (Mirror Dance)
  • I don't confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is…the higher achievement. (Mirror Dance)
  • What you are is a question only you can answer. (Mirror Dance)
  • People are the only mirror we have to see ourselves in. The domain of all meaning. All virtue, all evil, are contained only in people. There is none in the universe at large. Solitary confinement is a punishment in every human culture. (Mirror Dance)
  • Mother Nature gives a sense of romance to young people, in place of prudence, to advance the species. It's a trick—that makes us grow. (Mirror Dance)
  • When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. When you [desire] a consequence you had damned well better take the action that would create it.(recalled by Miles in Memory)
  • When you give each other everything, it becomes an even trade. Each wins all. (A Civil Campaign)
  • The debt you owe [your parents] gets collected by your children, who hand it down in turn. It's a sort of entailment. Or if you don't have children of the body, it's left as a debt to your common humanity. Or to your God, if you possess or are possessed by one. (A Civil Campaign)
  • All things done well for the glory of God. (A Civil Campaign)
  • [Trusting beyond reason is] how I get results beyond hope. (A Civil Campaign)
  • Everyone has their folding-point.... Their mortal vulnerability. Some just keep it in a nonstandard location. (A Civil Campaign)
  • When everything is a priority, nothing is. (Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)
  • What is love but delight in another human being? He delights me daily. (Regarding Jole, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)
  • When your young life offered its first disaster, naturally it loomed large. After you’d survived dozens, you basically just told the next one to take a number and get in line. (Regarding young Ghem Soren, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)

Admiral Desplains[]

  • Ophidian census today, Ivan? (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)
  • May I ask why, if Lady Alys Vorpatril wishes to know what is going on in her only son’s life, she applies to me and not to you? (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)
    • Ivan blinked. “Experience?”
    • The silence from across the room took on a curious frigid quality.

Duv Galeni[]

  • How fortunate that science hasn't cracked human immortality. It's a great blessing that we can outlive old wars. And old warriors. (Brothers in Arms)
  • I'm just dazzled by the glittering tinsel of neo-fascism. (Brothers in Arms)
  • Nobody appointed you God, Vorkosigan.... I'm sure it was an oversight. (Brothers in Arms)
  • The most interesting question of history is always, What were these people thinking? (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)

When asked, by his extremely-estranged father, what Duv could offer him:

  • He inspected his fingernails. He smiled. "Grandchildren?" (Brothers in Arms) (Duv did not, at this time, have romantic entanglements of any kind.)

Ekaterin Vorkosigan[]

  • Marriage was a lottery, and you drew your lot in late adolescence or early adulthood at a point of maximum idiocy and confusion. (Komarr)
  • Cynicism did not seem nearly so impressively daring to her now as it had when she was twenty. (Komarr)
  • If only you were willing to betray a trust, why, the most amazing range of possible actions opened up to you. (Komarr)
  • Nothing is more guaranteed to make one start acting like a child than to be treated like one. (A Civil Campaign)
  • Then time ran out—no. Time ran on. There was no end to time. But you come to the end of yourself, and time runs on, and leaves you. (A Civil Campaign)
  • Gardens were meant to be seen, smelled, walked through, grubbed in. A hundred objective measurements didn't sum the worth of a garden; only the delight of its users did that. (A Civil Campaign)
  • If power was an illusion, wasn't weakness necessarily one also? (A Civil Campaign)
  • Adulthood isn't an award they'll give you for being a good child. You can waste... years, trying to get someone to give that respect to you, as though it were a sort of promotion or raise in pay. If only you do enough, if only you are good enough. No. You have to just... take it. Give it to yourself, I suppose. Say, I'm sorry you feel like that and walk away. But that's hard. (A Civil Campaign)
  • I’d have worn them [poisoned pearl necklace] as a courtesy to your friend, I’ll wear them now as a defiance to our enemies. ("Winterfair Gifts")
  • If you make it plain you like people, it's hard for them to resist liking you back. (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • History does not so much repeat as echo, I suppose. (Cryoburn)
  • Trust Enrique to see opportunities where everyone else just saw impossibilities. ("The Flowers of Vashnoi")

Elena Bothari-Jesek[]

  • The histories of those times were all written by minstrels and poets. You try and think of a word that rhymes with 'bleeding ulcer.” (regarding why ulcers didn't happen to Vorthalia the Bold, in The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • Actual combat . . . is a lot stupider than I'd imagined. If two groups can cooperate to the incredible extent it takes to meet in battle, why not put in a tenth that effort to talk? (The Vor Game)

Elli Quinn[]

  • Change is a function of time and experience, and time is implacable. (Ethan of Athos)
  • I had to discover and teach myself all kinds of tricks to get people to respond to the inside of me, and not the outside. (Brothers in Arms)
  • I'm not panicking, I'm watching you panic. It's more entertaining. (Brothers in Arms)
  • Aim high. You may still miss the target but at least you won’t shoot your foot off. (recalled by Miles Vorkosigan in Komarr)
  • "I believe," her voice was edged with a peculiar dryness, "they call it women's work." (Ethan of Athos, regarding very high labor cost of raising children)

Ethan Urquhart[]

  • Some men just aren't cut out for paternity. Better they should realize it before and not after they become responsible for a son. (Ethan of Athos)
  • We all remain children of the Father, however we may otherwise be orphaned. You are my brother, of course. (Ethan of Athos)

Ezar Vorbarra[]

  • I am an atheist myself. A simple faith, but a great comfort to me in these last days. (Shards of Honor)
  • I've always felt that theists were more ruthless than atheists. (Shards of Honor)

Falco Ferrell[]

Father of Ethan Urquhart[]

Fyodor Haines[]

Georg Vorthys[]

  • All the geniuses I ever met were so just part of the time. To qualify, you only have to be great once, you know. Once when it matters. (Komarr)
  • There is a sad disconnectedness that overcomes a library when its owner is gone. (Komarr)
  • No artificial shortages. (usually in reference to desserts) (Komarr and A Civil Campaign)


  • That [brute-force tedious work] is why enlisted men were invented. (Komarr)

Gregor Vorbarra[]

  • Lady Peace is the first hostage taken when economic discomfort rises. (Mirror Dance)
  • Let's just… see what happens. (catch phrase, so well known that Ivan hears it coming and thinks Oh, no! He's going to say it! (A Civil Campaign))
  • The man has carried me since I was five years old. It's my turn. (Cryoburn)

Harra Csurik[]

  • You go on. You just go on. There's nothing more to it, and there's no trick to make it easier. You just go on. (Memory)

Ivan Vorpatril[]

  • I do not have a claustrophobia thing. I have a perfectly rational dislike of being locked up in small, dark, wet spaces by people trying to kill me. (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)
  • I think you're panicking post-maturely. In fact, if you were panicking any later it would be practically posthumously. (to Miles regarding his concern that panic may be premature, in Cetaganda)
  • You haven't let the lack of half-marks stop you. Or the rules. Or respect for reality, as far as I can tell.
    • I never let anything stop me. That's how you get what you want, Ivan. No one's going to just hand it to you. (Miles's response in Memory)
  • If there’s no game, isn't winning a pretty meaningless concept? (Memory)
  • Too late, he recalled Miles's dictum that the reward for a job well done was usually a harder job. (A Civil Campaign)
  • The Imperial Service could win a war without coffee, but would prefer not to have to. (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)
  • When ImpSec decides what I'm supposed to think, I'm sure they'll tell me. (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)
  • I am not a fate worse than death, dammit! (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)
  • Anything worth achieving is worth overachieving. (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance - Ivan's reflection on the Vorkosigan way of life.)
  • If she laughs, you live. (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)
  • I seem to have accidentally got married, but it’s only temporary. (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)
  • The daylight was the illusion, the scattering of light by the atmosphere, and the endless night was the permanent default behind it all. (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)
  • As the week wore on, Ivan contemplated the merits of inertia as a problem-solving technique with growing favor. (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)

Ivy Minchenko[]

  • There's nothing synthetic in what I do. I'm a registered historian-performer. I keep old skills alive—think of me as a live museum exhibit, somewhat in need of dusting—only a few spider webs clinging to my elbow. (Falling Free)
  • I could bring almost nothing—I scarcely knew what to choose. (to Warren Minchenko, regarding fleeing with the quaddies; Falling Free)
    • Think of the vast amounts of money we shall save on shipping charges, then. (in response)

Jin Sato[]

  • Cute-and-furry was always an easier sell than carapaced-and-multilegged, for some obscure reason. Grownups, so unreasonable... (Cryoburn)
  • Eggs come out of chickens' butts, you know. (Cryoburn)

Kareen Koudelka[]

  • Never... ever suggest they don't have to pay you. What they pay for, they'll value. What they get for free, they'll take for granted, and then demand as a right. Hold them up for all the market will bear. (A Civil Campaign)

Konstantine Bothari[]

Ky Tung[]

  • Your 'accidents,' I once noticed, have ways of entangling your enemies that are the green envy of mature and careful strategists. Far too consistent for chance, I concluded it had to be unconscious will. (to Miles Vorkosigan, The Vor Game)
  • All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means. (originally by Carl von Clausewitz, Cetaganda)
  • On hemmed-in ground, use subterfuge. On desperate ground, fight. (originally by Sun Tzu, "Labyrinth")

Leo Graf[]

  • This is the most important thing I will ever say to you. The human mind is the ultimate testing device. You can take all the notes you want on the technical data, anything you forget you can look up again, but this must be engraved on your hearts in letters of fire. There is nothing, nothing, nothing more important to me in the men and women I train than their absolute personal integrity. Whether you function as welders or inspectors, the laws of physics are implacable lie-detectors. You may fool men. You will never fool the metal. (Falling Free)
  • I don’t know whose judgement is worse, yours or the jerk’s who hired you. (Falling Free)
  • Were you BORN inhuman or did you grow so by degrees?! MS, MD, PHD? (Falling Free)
  • GalacTech’s not God, Claire. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your firstborn to it. (Falling Free)
  • There was no limit to what one man might do, if he gave all, and held back nothing. (Falling Free)
  • God's not here. Somebody's got to fill in. (Falling Free)
  • The trouble with you ...is that you lack teaching experience. If you had, you’d have faith that the most unlikely people can learn the most amazing things. (Falling Free)
  • There are weapons all around us here, we just don’t recognize them because we call them “tools.” (Falling Free)
  • We make our own luck. And it’s my responsibility to see it’s good and not bad. (Falling Free)
  • And what is the most important leg of a three-legged stool? The one that is missing, of course. (Falling Free)
  • If you ever have to make a choice between learning and inspiration, choose learning. It works more of the time. (Falling Free)
  • Just because we're adults doesn't automatically mean we can save you... (Falling Free)
  • Chance favors the prepared mind. (Falling Free)
  • It's an ancient and honorable term for the final step in any engineering project. Turn it on, see if it smokes. (Falling Free)
  • Don't be afraid of trouble, Silver. They're a sign of life. We'll deal with them together - tomorrow. (Falling Free)
  • He gave himself up to God and pressed the button. (Falling Free)

Lisa Sato[]

  • Hit them where they keep their hearts, in their wallets. (regarding local cryocorps, Cryoburn)
  • Decorative and functional. (regarding her cryodoctor, Raven Durona. Cryoburn)

Liz Villanova[]

  • I don't think you have the foggiest idea how labor-intensive this department is! (regarding day care, Falling Free)
  • Are you going to take this little girl to the bathroom, then? (Falling Free)
  • I'll stay and hold the fort, I guess. Got nobody waiting for this old body, after all. (Falling Free)

Mark Vorkosigan[]

  • He who plots revenge must dig two graves. (Mirror Dance - originally ascribed to Confucius)
  • Lives did not add as integers. They added as infinities. (Mirror Dance)
  • If anyone was sane here, he swore it was by accident. (Mirror Dance)
  • Half of what we call madness is just some poor slob dealing with pain by a strategy that annoys the people around him. (Mirror Dance)
  • He didn't think he was edging into dementia. He suspected he was edging into sanity, the long way around. The hard way. (Mirror Dance)
  • Integrity is a disease, and you can only catch it from someone who has it. ("Winterfair Gifts")
  • You have to be careful who you let define your good. (A Civil Campaign)

Martya Koudelka[]

  • Kareen had it from Mark. I had it from Ivan. Mama had it from Gregor. And Da had it from Pym. If you're trying to keep a secret, Miles, why are you going around telling everyone? (explaining to Miles about OpSec in A Civil Campaign)

Miles Vorkosigan[]

  • It's never too late while you're breathing. (The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • If you're trying to take a roomful of people by surprise, it's a lot easier to hit your targets if you don't yell going through the door. (The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • When the time came to leap in faith, whether you had your eyes open or closed or screamed all the way down or not made no practical difference. (The Warrior's Apprentice)

  • Heroes. They sprang up around him like weeds. A carrier, he was seemingly unable to catch the disease he spread. (The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • I've got forward momentum. There's no virtue in it. It's just a balancing act. I don't dare stop. (The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • There will be grace and forgiveness enough, old dog, even for you. I pray you will spare me a drink from that cup, when it overflows for you. (The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • Hunting hawks did not belong in cages, no matter how much a man coveted their grace, no matter how golden the bars. They were far more beautiful soaring free. Heartbreakingly beautiful. (The Warrior's Apprentice)
  • If you want to catch something, running after it isn't always the best way. ("The Mountains of Mourning")
  • Bleeding ulcers run in my family, we give them to each other. ("The Mountains of Mourning")
  • But I know you have courage, and I know you have will. The rest is just picking yourself up and ramming into the wall again and again until it falls down. You get a bloody forehead, so what? You can do it, I swear you can. ("The Mountains of Mourning")
  • Those who do not know their history are doomed to keep stepping in it. (modification of statement by George Santayana, The Life of Reason Vol 1, originally "... doomed to repeat it" - The Vor Game)

  • Rule 27B: Never make key tactical decisions while having electro-convulsive seizures. (The Vor Game)
  • War is not its own end, except in some catastrophic slide into absolute damnation. It's peace that's wanted. Some better peace than the one you started with. (The Vor Game)
  • I may be small, but I screw up big because I'm standing on the shoulders of GIANTS. (modification of statement by Isaac Newton, "If I have seen further, it is by standing..." (The Vor Game)
  • Rule 1: Only overrule the tactical computer if you know something it doesn't. Rule 2: The tac comp always knows more than you do. (The Vor Game)
  • The fourth approved approach for the problem of frontally attacking a guarded wormhole was to shoot the officer who suggested it. (The Vor Game)
  • The cream pie of justice flies one way. (The Vor Game)
  • Hands are integral with brains, almost another lobe for intelligence. What one does not know through one's hands, one does not truly know. (Cetaganda)
  • In my experience, milady, we can never get back to exactly where we started, no matter how hard we try. (Cetaganda)
  • You can't give power away and keep it simultaneously. Except posthumously. (Cetaganda)
  • Luck is something you make for yourself, if you want it. (Cetaganda)
  • Never do yourself what you can con an expert into doing for you. (quoted by Elli Quinn in Ethan of Athos)
  • "Human is as human does.... Animals don't weep, Nine." ("Labyrinth")
    • "Animals don't lie. Humans do. All the time." (in response)
  • If you can't be seven feet tall, be seven feet smart. ("Labyrinth")
  • Don't wish to be normal... You'll only waste your precious time in futile frustration. Wish to be great! That at least you have a fighting chance for. Great at whatever you are. (advice to Taura in "Labyrinth")
  • It's not how much force you use. It's where you apply it. (a tactical lesson for Taura in "Labyrinth")
  • Chance favors the prepared mind. (Memory and A Civil Campaign)
  • Biology is Destiny. ("The Borders of Infinity")
  • The wounded want power, nothing else; they think it will keep them from being hurt again. ("The Borders of Infinity")
  • Power is better than revenge. Power is a live thing, by which you reach out to grasp the future. Revenge is a dead thing, reaching out from the past to grasp you. ("The Borders of Infinity")
  • Men may move mountains, but ideas move men. ("The Borders of Infinity")
  • There is a subtle difference between being a prisoner and being a slave. I don't mistake either for being free. ("The Borders of Infinity")
  • When you can see the colors of the feathers, you'll also understand how you can expand your borders to infinity. ("The Borders of Infinity")
  • Now, there's this about cynicism, Sergeant. It's the universe's most supine moral position. Real comfortable. If nothing can be done, then you're not some kind of shit for not doing it, and you can lie there and stink to yourself in perfect peace. ("The Borders of Infinity")
  • No one knows their limits till they've gone beyond them. (in response to Elli's statement of "I know my limits", Brothers in Arms)
  • Never send interim reports. Only final ones. Interim reports tend to elicit orders. Which you must then either obey, or spend valuable time and energy evading, which you could be using to solve the problem. (Brothers in Arms)
  • People do get hypnotized by the hard choices. And stop looking for alternatives. (Brothers in Arms)
  • The will to be stupid is a very powerful force, but there are always alternatives. (Brothers in Arms)
  • The man who assumes everything is a lie is at least as mistaken as the one who assumes everything is true. (Brothers in Arms)
  • Total strangers trying to kill me make me feel right at home. (Brothers in Arms)
  • There is no safety. Only varying states of risk. And failure. (Brothers in Arms)
  • You are what you do. Choose again, and change. (Brothers in Arms)
  • "I am not schizoid. A little manic-depressive, maybe."
  • When you can't get what you want, you take what you can get. (Brothers in Arms)
    • If you can't do what you want, do what you can. (Memory)
  • You see, some people have an evil twin. I am not so lucky. What I have is an idiot twin. (regarding Mark, Mirror Dance)
  • Like integrity, love of life was not a subject to be studied, it was a contagion to be caught. And you had to catch it from someone who had it. (Mirror Dance)
  • Real destiny takes everything-the last drop of blood, and strip out your veins to be sure-and gives it back doubled. Quadrupled. A thousand-fold! But you can't give halves. You have to give it all. I know. I swear. I've come back from the dead to speak the truth to you. Real destiny gives you a mountain of life, and puts you on top of it. (Mirror Dance)
  • Do it for yourself. The universe will be around to collect its cut later. (to Lilly Durona Jr, on destiny and living - Mirror Dance)
  • What? What? What? (Miles learns what he missed while he was dead. (Mirror Dance)
  • Well, one couldn't help one's thoughts. One could help opening one's mouth and saying something really stupid, though. (Memory)
  • Successes are secret and thankless, failures are splashy and gain you only blame. (Memory)
  • Perfect preservation isn't life, it’s death. (Memory)
  • They may also serve who only stand and wait, but life is short enough already. (reference to similar quote by Milton - Memory)
  • Never argue with a pedant over nomenclature. It wastes your time and annoys the pedant. (Memory)
  • Stupidity can be just as bad as malice. (Memory)
  • It was never what I wanted to buy that held my heart's hope. It was what I wanted to be. (Memory)
  • How could you be a Great Man if history brought you no Great Events, or brought you to them at the wrong time, too young, too old? (Memory)
  • I am who I choose to be. I have always been what I chose, though not always what I pleased. (Memory)
  • Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart. (Memory)
  • Once you had delegated the best people to do a job for you, you had to trust both them and your judgment. (Memory)
  • Eloquence consists of persuading people of things they desperately want to believe. Demagoguery, I suppose, is eloquence sliding to some least moral energy level. (Komarr)
  • Some people grow into their dreams, instead of out of them. (Komarr)
  • We have advanced to new and surprising levels of bafflement. (Komarr)
  • Like swatting flies with a laser cannon. The aim's a bit tricky, but it sure takes care of the flies. (Komarr)
  • Forward momentum only worked as a strategy if one had correctly identified which way was forward. (Komarr)
  • I miss it every minute, and I have no wish at all to go back. (A Civil Campaign)
  • Not that I haven't leaped up into the blinding light of competence now and then. It's sustaining the altitude that defeats me. (A Civil Campaign)
  • I wanted to give you a victory. But by their essential nature triumphs can’t be given. (Miles in letter to Ekaterin in A Civil Campaign)
  • A tactical retreat is not a bad response to a surprise assault, you know. First you survive. Then you choose your own ground. Then you counterattack. (A Civil Campaign)
  • The trouble with oaths of the form, death before dishonor, is that eventually, given enough time and abrasion, they separate the world into two sorts of people: the dead, and the forsworn. (A Civil Campaign)
  • I smell diplomacy. (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • Military intelligence was as nothing to military stupidity. (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • To slide halfway to stupid and stop was rare indeed. (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • If the truth doesn't save us, what does that say about us? (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is a duty of the living to do so for them. (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • Are we not all called on to yield our children back to the world, in the end? (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • We should have taken our chances back then, when we were young and beautiful and didn't even know it. (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • Why didn't anybody stop us? Why aren't there more regulations about this sort of thing? What fool in their right mind would put me in charge of a baby? Two babies? (Diplomatic Immunity)
  • Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake. (recalled by Ivan in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)
  • One foot in front of the other, wasn't that the grownup way of solving problems? Surely he ought to be a grownup at his age. (Cryoburn)
  • Where I come from, someone's head in a bag is generally considered the best revenge. (Cryoburn)
  • The world is made by the people who show up for the job. (Cryoburn)
  • Never underestimate the human capacity for wishful thinking and willful blindness.... Such as a whole society of people who became so wrapped up in avoiding death, they forgot to be alive? (Cryoburn)
  • I wonder if we should add a box to tick off -- Reason for travel: creepy planetary conquest... no, I suppose not. (Cryoburn)
  • If only one didn't know that at the secret heart of all such organizations, corporations and governments alike, it still came down to a finite number of fallible people talking to each other. (Cryoburn)
  • All the worry people expend over not existing after they die, yet nary a one ever seems to spare a moment to worry about not having existed before they were conceived. Or at all. After all, one sperm over and we would have been our sisters, and we'd never have been missed. (Cryoburn)
  • I just want you to know, Gregor, that if the planet melts down over all this, it wasn't my fault. (Cryoburn)
  • 'S funny. Piotr, toward the end of his life, looked at our district and only saw how much better it was. All the backbreaking, heartbreaking work he did cleaning up the messes after the war is taken for granted now, or mostly just forgotten. Instead, we look around and only see how much better it could be. And neither of us is wrong, exactly. ("The Flowers of Vashnoi")
  • Everybody has it wrong way round. Parents don't make children--children make parents. They shape our behavior from the first wail. Mold us into what they need. It can be a pretty rough process, too. (Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)


  • I'm afraid even ImpSec has no explanation for women's tastes in men. - Captain Morozov explains Shiv Arqua to Ivan Vorpatril (Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)


  • Permitting private judgments to turn [one's] duty in the smallest matter would be just like getting a little bit pregnant ... the consequences would very soon get beyond [one]. (quoted by Illyan in Shards of Honor)

Oliver Jole[]

  • Although upon reflection, Jole wasn't sure of the advisabliilty of introducing a keen young officer to Vorkosigan notions of initiative. Metaphors about fighting fire with gasoline rose to his mind. (regarding suggesting to a young officer that she ask Cordelia for some of her own war stories) (Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)
  • He’d almost wished for some clever evil plot, which they could then engage to out-clever. It could be surprisingly hard to counter Plain Stupid. Even by heroic measures. (Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)
  • If you think safety is expensive, try pricing an accident, as the sign says. (Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)
  • One expected the advent of children to rearrange one’s future. No one had told Jole that they could also rearrange one’s past. (Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)
  • In fifteen years, all those disturbing biological blobs would be out on Kareenburg’s streets, wearing strange fashions, listening to annoying music, and disagreeing politically with their beleaguered parents. (Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)
  • Inside every senior tech officer was a junior tech officer who’d been on a short leash for a long time. (Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)
  • Truth is always War’s first victim, the old saying went. (Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)

Piotr Vorkosigan[]

  • With all this manure around, there's got to be a pony someplace. (remembered by Cordelia in Barrayar)
  • Damned technocrats. Nothing but horse doctors with a more expensive set of toys. (remembered by Miles in "The Mountains of Mourning")
  • We're Vorkosigans. If the charge isn't at least murder or treason, it's not worth rolling over in bed for... Treason, anyway.... And sometimes not even then. (remembered by Miles in Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen)

Professora Vorthys[]

  • Ah. I see. So the difference between a criminal and a hero is the order in which their vile crimes are committed. And justice comes with a sell-by date. In that case, you'd better hurry. You wouldn't want your heroism to spoil. (Komarr)

René Vorbretten[]


  • Roic said nothing, firmly. (an important skill for an armsman to have - Cryoburn)
  • That too, but you would not believe all the forms that have to be filled out afterward. (regarding a license to kill versus a license to stun, Cryoburn)


  • Clearly, you could die while waiting for other people to start your life for you. (Falling Free)
  • Shooting people was such a stupid activity, why should everybody—anybody!—be so impressed? ... You would think she had done something truly great, like discover a new treatment for black stem-rot. (Falling Free)

Simon Illyan[]

  • Damn the boy for making a fucking farce out of his own funeral! (Mirror Dance)
  • God save me from another such victory. (Memory)
  • Money, power, sex... and elephants. (on human desire, Memory)
  • Anything done twice on Barrayar is a tradition. (Memory)
  • The principle difference between heaven and hell is the company you keep there. (A Civil Campaign)

Stefin Vorlynkin[]

  • Then I wish you'd buy some (In response to Miles' claim that his case-budget allows for a lot of discretion, Cryoburn)

Susan Suzuki[]

  • Old age is slower than a grenade, but a lot more thorough. (Cryoburn)
  • We just try to go from day to day. Surprising where you can end up, that way. (Cryoburn)


  • I say, grab the ones [chances] you're issued, run with them, and don't look back. ("Winterfair Gifts")
  • Every day is a gift. Me, I rip open the package and wolf it down on the spot. ("Winterfair Gifts")
  • You try to give away what you want yourself. (Memory, said to and about Miles, and remembered by Miles)

Tejaswini Vorpatril[]

  • For all his silences, the man was about as self-effacing as a neutron star; light itself seemed to bend around him. (regarding Illyan, in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance)

Tersa Boni[]

  • An honor is not diminished for being shared. (Shards of Honor)
  • Don't be afraid. The dead cannot hurt you. They give you no pain, except that of seeing your own death in their faces. And one can face that, I find. (Shards of Honor)


  • Well, well, well. If it isn't Sergeant Bothari of Barrayar. And what did you bring me this time, Sergeant? A few nuclear antipersonnel mines, overlooked in your back pocket? A maser cannon or two, accidentally mixed up with your shaving kit? A gravitic imploder, slipped somehow into your boot? (The Warrior's Apprentice)


  • Vorkosigan! You mutinous little mutant, I'm going to have you court-martialed, skinned, stuffed, and mounted for this— (The Vor Game)

Count Vortala[]

  • And is this your Betan Penthesileia? (to Aral, regarding Cordelia, Shards of Honor)

Warren Minchenko[]