Shards of Honor is the novel in which Lois McMaster Bujold introduced the science-fiction world to Barrayar and Aral Vorkosigan, Beta Colony and Cordelia Naismith. From this beginning the author has created a multigenerational saga spanning time as well as space.
Bujold is generally recognized as the current exemplar of the character-based science-fiction adventure story.
©1986 Lois McMaster Bujold; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"[Bujold] gives [her] characters enough emotional depth, and enough sense, to raise their story beyond cliché." (Locus)
I became hooked on LMB when I first read this book many years ago. It is just as good on audiobook and the narrator does a great job. Now if Audible would only do the sequel, Barayarar
Anyone who has enjoyed reading about Miles and Ivan and their adventures will love this book. Each story about Miles has told bits and pieces of his parent's story - enough to support whatever Miles is doing at the moment but never enough to get to know Arl and Cordelia. This story delves deeper into their characters and how they met. We also get to know a little about the Sargent and understand better why he was the way he was. Coming into this series backward, it's nice to see that Miles is a composite of his parents. Had I encountered this story before any of the stories about Miles, it would have been less interesting. Part of the fun is to look for people who you know are in future books (like Arty Mayhew!).
Being a fan of LMB's later fantasy work I was keen to listen to some earlier sci-fi. The reviews were all good for this audio book but I can't agree. The dialog was stilted, you couldn't get into the characters the story was all over the place and didn't flow - I can't see how a long series was started from this. I love sci-fi but this was only average.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
As Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor (1986) gets going, leader Commander Cordelia Naismith of Beta Colony is hiking with her survey team botanist Ensign Dubauer on a supposedly uninhabited new planet when their camp is attacked and destroyed. Luckily, most of the other members of her team escape on their spaceship, but the stranded Cordelia and Dubauer are attacked by Barrayaran soldiers, leaving Cordelia concussed and Dubauer nerve damaged, and both of them prisoners of none other than Captain Aral Vorkosigan, the Butcher of Komarr, the Barrayaran boogey man. It soon develops that Aral's reputation as a sadistic war criminal is inaccurate, that he hasn't been trying to kill Betan scientists, and that one of his bitter political and personal enemies has led a group of mutineers from his ship to attack him and leave him for dead to blame his death on Cordelia's survey team.
After Cordelia gives Aral her parole (one of the many examples of honor in the novel) that she won't try to escape in return for his agreeing to help her bring along the barely functioning Dubauer, they set off on a grueling 200-km trek through forests teaming with dangerous wildlife, their destination being Aral's supply cache, where, he believes, he can get in touch with his spaceship. There follows a riveting and funny cross-cultural odd-couple castaway-survival story sequence as Cordelia and Aral power their dangerous forced march with scavenged powdered blue cheese salad dressing and oatmeal and are forced by proximity and begin sharing each other's cultures (Betan Colony being more gender equal, pacifist, liberal, and democratic, Barrayara being more patriarchal, warlike, traditional, and imperial) and backgrounds (both have suffered from a disastrous romantic relationship). The novel is told completely from Cordelia's third person point of view, as, despite seeing Barrayarans as "barbarians, scoundrels, and assassins," the 33-year old woman starts to feel bothered by the eyes, smile, and kindness of her stocky, powerful, and charismatic 40-something captor and to realize that she's less afraid of him than for him.
Bujold fudges a bit of the inter-cultural interaction by having the people from different cultures and different worlds and different alphabets speak the same language without apparent accent or linguistic problems, though she does some neat things with their "English" like naming the Betan survey ship the Rene Magritte and the Barrayaran Imperial war cruiser the General Vorkraft.
While spending an intense time together Cordelia and Aral duly start falling in love, which gives rise to some of Bujold's trademark witty dialogue and lines, like "Cordelia decided that if Vorkosigan, full of military curtness, was formidable, Vorkosigan trying to make himself pleasant was truly terrifying," and to some potent romantic lines, like "His skin was warm and dry, and it scorched her," or "You're water in the desert."
Standing in the way of their international romance is the small problem of the Barrayaran tradition of expansionist aggression and Machiavellian intrigue, leading Cordelia to say, "Barrayar eats its children." So that when Aral compliments Cordelia by saying she has "the confidence of a mother of warriors," she says she wouldn't want her sons going off to war due to the failure of politics (which Aral himself calls "sewage running downhill").
But Bujold complicates her story by depicting Betan Colony as no rosy civilized utopia relative to a "barbaric" Barrayaran dystopia. Although instead of an emperor Betan Colony has an elected president, for example, at different points several Betans say, "I didn't vote for him!" and at one point Cordelia is in at least as much psychological danger from her own psych doctors wanting to "de-program" her than she was from the sadistic Admiral Vorrutyer trying to have her raped. And Barrayar has begun to change.
Vorrutyer is another example of Bujold's ability to do more than by the numbers genre work, for the potentially one-dimensional Barrayaran villain, who happens to be fan of the Marquis de Sade, gets a back story that explains his hatred of Vorkosigan, as well as a bit of a context by which the worst evil is exercised behind the scenes by men of power who come up with schemes by which thousands of young men are sent to their deaths.
Bujold also elevates her novel from usual space opera in the epilogue called "Aftermaths," in which two Escobarans, a squeamish rookie man and a calm veteran woman, clean up after an arguably unnecessary space battle, which involves finding frozen corpses, and then identifying, cleaning, thawing, and arranging them in more dignified poses. When they tend to the bodies of a Barrayaran officer and of an Escobaran woman, Bujold gives a poignant mirror image of the intercultural romance between Cordelia and Aral. . . and shows us what usual space opera doesn't: caring for the post-war dead, sympathizing with both sides, bringing home the folly and loss of war.
All the Vorkosigan books can be read in any order, but reading Shards of Honor after the later books is fun because many familiar old characters (e.g., bodyguard Bothari, his daughter Elena, Simon Ilion, Commander Koudelka) appear here in their younger days just as they are starting their careers or roles in the series. Even veteran Vorkosigan readers who know what will happen between Aral and Cordelia will feel plenty of suspense here, because Bujold is so good at writing appealing characters, making them exceptionally brave and humanly vulnerable, and putting them into stressful situations.
Grover Gardner gives his usual professional reading of a Vorkosigan book, though I was surprised when Cordelia says "Naismith here" in the same voice that Gardner has Miles say it with the Dendarii mercenaries.
In conclusion, this novel is a great read (even though Miles doesn't appear).
I love to read, but I am time-limited. Audible allows me to keep up with all my favorite authors while on the hiking trail. Thanks, Audible!
How do any two people meet and decide to spend the rest of their lives together? Lois McMaster Bujold provides a cross-cultural version that is both familiar and new. In Shards of Honor, Aral Vorkosigan and Cordelia Naismith become star-crossed lovers in the middle of interstellar disputes. This story has it all-intrigue, betrayal, compassion, honor, hope, and love. It is brilliant writing for astute readers. Enjoy.
Once in a while I buy a book because I have a credit, not because I have a desire to read it. So this book stayed on my shelf for more than a year. And lucky me! If I would have started it earlier, I would have been hooked to the series much earlier and would have read all 16 of them in the past months! And had read no other books...
This is the start of the Vorkosigan series, and together with its successor Barrayar outlines the details of how Miles' parents met and came together. I will not spoil anything by saying this. The story is believable and entertaining at the same time. Cordelia and Aral are slowly showing their own character in the various actions that fill this first volume. And some other characters are introduced which become more important in the next episode. Although I rate Barrayar a bit higher due to suspense and story, Shards of Honor does not disappoint and it is a worthwhile introduction to the series.
If you don't like this book, than you can skip the rest too.
By the way, the start of the story of Miles Vorkosigan himself is with 'The Warrior's Apprentice'. Some reviewers feel it is better to start with that one.
Grover Gardner is great as always.
This book sets the stage for everything to follow. As such, if you're just being introduced to the series it's a good place to start. The characters introduced here aren't in every following book, but the things you learn about them personally and their cultures are invaluable.
This whole series is well-written and engaging. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
If you are a fan of traditional hard science fiction and space opera by the likes of Peter Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds and Iain Banks, then you probably won't like this book. It is basically a love story that happens to be set in a futuristic setting. Not a bad story (if you like this genre), but few if any new ideas were presented and this book could have just as easily be set in modern times.
Lacks the humor of Miles Vorkosigan (who comes in later books), but has the strong will and courage of his mother - must read for better understanding of future events. I listened to it after already reading and listening few books about Miles. The narrator (Grover Gardner) performance makes these excellent books even better.
Just Read Baby!
I liked Vorkosigian...I have great empathy for honorable men who have to make tough decisions. But I throughly enjoyed Cordelia.
I particularly enjoyed the dialogue between Cordelia and Vorkosigan
This is the second book I have read by the author,having read the 4th book in this story arc. This story was much more enjoyable and seemed better written and more believeable. I like books from this genre and Ms.Bujold does a decent job.
Sometimes it seems as though there is a different writer doing the dialogue...one of them very good and the other one boring, predictabe and pedantic. I particularly enjoyed the interplay between Vorkosigian and Cordelia, especially early in the
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