Simon Illyan is a character in the
Vorkosigan Saga science fictionnovels by Lois McMaster Bujold. He first appears as a lieutenant in the Barrayaran Imperial Security Service, set to keep an eye on Aral Vorkosiganas he serves on the flagship of the invasion fleet sent to conquer the planet Escobar.
Illyan has had a bioelectronic device implanted in his head: an
eidetic memorychip which records everything he sees and hears, and allows him to recall that information instantly. This was done as a whim of the Emperor Ezar, who learned of the technology invented on the planet Illyrica. Since most such implants had produced schizophrenia or worse in their hosts, it is clear that Ezar regarded Illyan as expendable.
In later stories Illyan, with the formal rank of Captain, is the head of the dreaded Barrayaran Imperial Security Service, or "
ImpSec". In the novel "Barrayar", Illyan maintained this title of Captain as a tribute to his former superior Captain Negri, who was killed in the War of Vordarian's Pretendership. However, his retirement pay is reportedly equal to that of a Vice-admiral.
Illyan's biochip-aided memory added to his mystique as an administrator with ferocious attention to detail.
Miles Vorkosigan, who worked under Illyan as a special agent, surmised that Illyan's successful integration with the chip was due to an innate ability to suspend belief or disbelief in multiple, conflicting sets of facts - an ability also very useful to a spymaster.
Illyan rose to the job of leading Impsec by being Aral Vorkosigan's right-hand man when the previous incumbent, Captain Negri, was killed at the start of Vordarian's War. However with Barrayar at relative peace, Illyan was able to move Impsec towards a more benign role on Barrayar while extending its reach to Komarr and beyond, though he had to deal with more than a few harrowing domestic events, such as the "Yarrow Incident", in which ImpSec averted an assassination plot on Emperor
In appearance, Illyan is slight and extremely unimpressive. 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 makes him seem all the more menacing.
Miles Vorkosiganfirst became a special operative under Illyan after it became apparent that Miles would never be able to work within a strict chain of command. The initial reasoning was to bury Miles deep within ImpSecwhere he couldn't cause trouble, but Miles startling success on the most difficult cases made him Illyan's top agent (especially in his position as "Admiral Miles Naismith", head of the Dendarii Free Mercanaries, a Barrayaran Crown Troop covertly posing as a mercenary fleet), despite his unnervingly roundabout and inventive methods that would drive Illyan to distraction. He became Illyan's greatest annoyance and most powerful asset.
Illyan's career ended when his memory chip broke down, causing him to relive events from his past at random. Miles was able to get past the Impsec bureaucracy and order the chip's removal, then was assigned to discover the cause. Illyan made a good recovery but had to retire, since the sudden removal of the chip rendered his short-term memory severely damaged for a long time. First Miles, and then Miles' aunt, Lady Alys Vorpatril, cared for him during his convalescence ("Memory").
Illyan currently lives in a nondescript flat, not far from Alys, and maintains an informal relationship with ImpSec. One of his most important roles now is being a go-between between ImpSec and certain covert high-Vor informers ("A Civil Campaign").
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