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"I worked with Simon. He damned well was unnerving. And it wasn't just the memory chip, or Negri's lingering ghost."
―Miles Naismith Vorkosigan[src]

Simon Illyan (SAI-mn EEL-yn) was a captain in the Barrayaran Imperial Service and Chief of Imperial Security. Chosen as a young lieutenant by Emperor Ezar Vorbarra to receive a memory chip implant on Illyrica[1], he ran Barrayaran Imperial Security after the death of his predecessor Captain Negri for thirty years.[2]


"I've had my twice-twenty-years in the Emperor's service," Illyan said. "Started when I was eighteen, in officer's training for old Ezar . . . not the Imperial Service Academy; you needed more points and money and syllables in front of your name to get in back then. I went to one of the regional schools. I never thought to make it to a three-times-twenty-years man. I knew I'd stop sometime before that, I just didn't know when. I've been serving Gregor since he was five years old. He's full-adult now, God knows."
―Simon Illyan looks over his career[src]

Simon Illyan became an Imperial officer in a time where his non-Vor status barred him from the Imperial Service Academy. He was assigned to ImpSec after his commission[3]; soon afterwards, he was chosen for a special duty, namely having an Illyrican memory chip implanted in his head that recorded everything he saw and heard, giving him a parallel artificial memory. This was done as a whim of Ezar Vorbarra. Most such implants produced schizophrenia or worse in their hosts, but Illyan survived with his sanity intact.[1]

As a lieutenant in Imperial Security, Illyan was assigned to keep watch on Commodore Aral Vorkosigan during the Barrayaran invasion of Escobar.[4] Afterwards, he was promoted to commander and became Captain Negri's assistant. He was again assigned directly to Aral Vorkosigan by Ezar Vorbarra upon his death.[5] After Negri's violent death, Illyan inherited the post of Chief of Imperial Security.[2]

"Illyan ... was always a little shy of promoting himself over the rank of his former boss, I guess. He's paid a vice-admiral's salary, though."
―Elena's thoughts on Illyan[src]

Illyan refused to accept a promotion above captain, reluctant to promote himself above Captain Negri (though according to Miles, his pay grade was the equivalent of a Vice Admiral at the end of his career). In the last decade of his career, he was Lieutenant Miles Vorkosigan's immediate superior officer, and sent him on numerous missions for ImpSec. Illyan was the one to fire Lieutenant Vorkosigan when Vorkosigan falsified a mission report.

Simon Illyan's military career ended when his memory chip was sabotaged by his subordinate Lucas Haroche. Illyan had a complete breakdown and relived events from his past at random while his chip dissolved in his head. His former subordinate Miles Vorkosigan gained an Imperial Auditor appointment to oversee his case, and ordered Illyan's chip removed. Illyan made a good recovery but never recovered his former edge and took a medical retirement. Afterwards, he began a relationship with Lady Alys Vorpatril. By the time of his retirement, Illyan had no surviving family members.[6]

Personality and traits[]

"He smiled slightly, bad for his image, with his snub features it made him look puppyish."
―Cordelia's impression of Illyan's looks[src]

Illyan's biochip-aided memory added to his mystique as the head of Barrayar's secret police. Miles Vorkosigan, who worked under Illyan as a special agent, supposed that Illyan's successful integration with the chip was due to a judge-like innate ability to suspend belief or disbelief in multiple, conflicting sets of facts - an ability also very useful to a spymaster.[7]

Post-chip, Illyan tended to worry about his memories fading - Lady Alys constantly reminded him that that was a normal biological function. He also tended to express his opinions openly, sometimes in an unintentionally tactless manner, a holdover from his brutally honest demeanor while acting Chief of ImpSec.

However, his post-chip personality quirks had their uses. A rumor that Illyan was "addled" from the loss of his eidetic chip was spread to prevent his old enemies from attacking or even assassinating him.[8]

In appearance, Illyan was slight, brown-haired and extremely unimpressive.[9][10] As ImpSec chief, he amplified this lack of presence to the point of virtual invisibility, the better to observe others. In his own domain, however, his air of blandness made him seem all the more menacing.

He wore extremely conservative clothing which was not particularly well-fitted until Lady Alys convinced him to go to a tailor.[11]

Behind the scenes[]

Illyan is named partly for Illya Kuryakin, a character in the television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and partly for Simon Butcher, from the television series The Wackiest Ship in the Army.


Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Memory chapter 5
  2. 2.0 2.1 Barrayar chapter 14
  3. A Civil Campaign chapter 13
  4. Shards of Honor chapter 8
  5. Shards of Honor chapter 15
  6. Memory chapter 14
  7. Memory chapter 17
  8. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance chapter 9
  9. Barrayar chapter 1
  10. Mirror Dance chapter 16
  11. Memory chapter 24