Alice Hong's sadistic practices. I accept, of course, first that Hong is a fictitious character and secondly that the reader is not meant either to enjoy or to approve of these activities. Nevertheless, they remain unpleasant. On the other hand, fiction reflects reality which unfortunately includes people who are as unpleasant as Hong or as the same author's horrific Draka. Walker, Hong's companion, and the Draka bring up children to accept unspeakable cruelty as normal. This has to be one of their worst crimes against humanity.
SM Stirling goes a bit further than Poul Anderson or many others in spelling out what would happen if there were no constraints on someone like Hong. However, the spelling out of sometimes distasteful consequences is precisely the job of a science fiction writer. This post is brief because I want to acknowledge the issue without dwelling on it.