on 2 December 2002
I write this primarily to note to others browsing for an excellent read (which this book most certainly is!) that it is NOT, however, a Star Trek novel of any sort. _Shards of Honor_ is Lois McMaster Bujold's first published novel, and the stage-setter for the rest of her extraordinary Vorkosigan series. It's a marvelous book from a master storyteller and will certainly whet the reader's appetite for more, more, more... though not to worry, there *are* (many more, that is!). The complete Vorkosigan saga is, to date, up to the fourteenth volume.
Also, the rather anemic-sounding synopsis doesn't begin to describe it, either accurately or with any real sense of the page-turning treat it truly is. Merely recommending that you "Read this book, it will delight you" isn't quite enough, in my opinion; the better phrase would be: "Meet these people, you will come to love them as among the best of fictional friends you will ever know."
Did you note that this edition is marked unavailable? Well, not to disappoint. Browse for _Cordelia's Honor_, which is an omnibus edition containing both _Shards_ and the novel which immediately follows it in the series timeline, _Barrayar_.
Do, really. Then make room in your bookshelves for all the others. In fact, clear that space as soon as you order--you're going to need it.... ;D
The book (without giving away too many spoilers): Commander Cordelia Naismith is working on an uninhabited planet for her Government's Survey Service. A sudden attack on her camp leads to a long trek through hostile territory; and eventually leads to captivity which - being a rather strong personality - she turns into something quite unexpected. Military strategy mixed with planetary politics mixed with romance, with strong personalities, weak politicians, and evil in various forms.
The author: Lois McMaster Bujold has written several series of books (including the Vorkosigan Saga, of which is the first part, and consisting of a series of full-length books as well as short stories) and several stand-alone novels. She has won the Hugo four times, as well as the Nebula twice, the Mythopoeic Award, the World Fantasy Award, and recently the Skylark Award.
My opinion: Bujold can write like a dream, and does so here. I am a sucker for her style, her imagination, and her personalities: vivid, fully three-dimensional, many things implied and not spelled out completely; humor, love, and a consistent Universe (well, kind of anyway). She writes with *feeling*, with soul; and manages to convey that so you feel a lot of the personalities' grief, fury, fear and joy. I love the whole of the Vorkosigan Saga, and this one is a brilliant start!
Note: this is, of course, the same as 'Cordelia's Honor' - don't know why publishers change these titles. Well, yes I do - it is to make more money on poor fools who think it is a different book. But You Have Been Warned!
on 2 January 2001
Well, obviously not as you're reading them now, but read on - this book is simply stunning. The depth of character development is amazing; Bujold's literary style allows the reader to sympathise with the main 'personae dramatis' effortlessly. It is also by turns dryly hilarious, heart-wrenchingly moving and cleverly thought-provoking. The best praise I can give this book is that when I first bought Shards Of Honour, it quite literally kept me up all night until I finished it! Verily, I say unto thee: do not allow doubts to sway your decision - buy this book NOW.
on 18 November 2005
Captain Cordelia Naismith of the Betan Survey found that the planet she and her crew were surveying was absolutely fine for colonisation. There was just one little catch; the planet was already occupied by Barrayaran forces. The brutal reputation the Barrayarans had gained ever since they had been reintroduced to the galaxy appeared to be nothing but the truth when Cordelia found her camp destroyed and a colleague hit by a nerve disrupter. Now all Cordelia had to do was survive a hike across a barely known planet with her badly wounded colleague. And the Barrayaran known as the Butcher of Komarr. In that strange trek, hatred became something else. Something that Cordelia refused to believe was love.
This is the first book in the Vorkosiganiverse and is effectively the first half of a story that is continued in 'Barrayar'(note, both books can be obtained in an omnibus edition 'Cordelia's Honor'). Despite this, it is an assured start with the changing relationship between Cordelia and Aral nicely delineated. The Betan society is not closely examined but the bits we see are nicely done. Most of the Barrayarans are rather stock characters in this book, largely due to the fact that this story and 'Barrayar' were originally conceived as a single book so you would see Barrayaran society over a longer period.
There are a number of characters that we meet here that continue through the series.
on 22 June 2015
This was a brilliant read. I couldn't put it down. As someone who couldn't keep up the politics and science there's a lot of instances where you just have to go with it, but all of that is just a backdrop to the characters and their story. Brilliant book, would totally recommend to anyone.
on 17 November 2011
Captain Naismith and her team are part of scientific expedition studying the ecology of an alien world. Her and her companion Dubauer return to the camp to find the team massacred and the camp destroyed. Dubauer is then hit by a neuroweapon and they are later captured by the leader of the Barrayaran invaders, Aral Vorkosigan, the so-called Butcher of Komarr.
Things are not what they might seem, however, since Vorkosigan himself is the victim of a plot to kill him on the planet's surface by elements within the Barrayaran government.
Aral and Naismith have to rely on each other to survive as they transport Dubauer through a hostile ecosystem to reach a Barrayaran supply base. Inevitably, her feelings toward him begin to change as she learns the true details of his life.
Aral is a man of honour, trapped in a web of politics, spies, feudal government systems and military law.
On one level it's a military action novel with a romance laced through it but it's much more than that. Bujold has created marvellous characters in Aral and Naismith. Bothari is also a fascinating concept being a psychotic soldier with a mind held together by regulations and loyalty and later twisted to the breaking point by the sadistic Vortultyer.
It's a bit of a shame that there isn't one figure opposing Vorkosigan who runs through the narrative. Aral seems to dispose of rivals as soon as they start causing trouble, which is good for him, but it weakens the element of tension.
However, this is a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent debut.
on 19 April 2014
I started at the beginning having heard great things about the Vorkosigan saga.
This first tale isn't enthralling. It feels terribly by the numbers and lacking in depth.
The characters go from being opposing combatants to husband and wife within the space of this book with virtually no emotional buy in for the reader as to how this could happen.
On reputation I'll give the next episode a try, but this wasn't great.
on 3 April 2006
I was introduced to Lois McMaster Bujold's work through her fantasy novels "The Curse of Chalion" and "Paladin Of Souls", both of which deserve ten stars at least. Having devoured those books (not literally) I decided to read some other stuff by her - this time in the Science Fiction genre. My library kindly offered up "Shards of Honour" and what a brilliant read it was.
Most fortuitously, I now discover I happened upon the initial instalment of what has become a whole series of books (16 to date) in the Miles Vorkosigan series (I've bought the rest and am working my way through them. I liked this first one that much!) But don't worry that this book is incomplete on its own - it isn't. Although it's the scene-setter for a lot of other books it works on its own as a story of politics, war, human nature, personality and love.
Cordelia Naismith is the captain of a Survey ship that are checking out a new planet. She's off in the undergrowth with her botanist when her base camp is attacked and her colleagues flee in the shuttle. When going back to investigate Cordelia and her companion are attacked and she loses consciousness. When she wakes up, there is a soldier guarding her.
And from this point the story diverges from a basic "heroine rescues herself from tricky situation" type story. Cordelia and her 'captor', who says he is Captain Aral Vorkosigan, have to make a journey 200kms across this unknown and, as it turns out, rather dangerous planet in order to find a cache of stores and a way for Vorkosigan to communicate with his ship. It appears that there has been a mutiny in his command and he was knocked out and left on the surface of the planet. Cordelia has to accept his help in making their way to the cache and also with her botanist who was badly injured in the attack by Vorkosigan's colleagues, the Barrayarans. The Barrayarans are known as a warlike and rather uncivilised planet compared to Cordelia's Betans and she knows that Vorkosigan has the nickname "The Butcher of Komarr" from the story that he killed all the prisoners of another planet, Komarr, after they surrendered.
But nothing is as it seems - for Cordelia, and especially not in Barrayaran politics. In their six day journey they come to understand something of each other, and the fact that they both have a sense of honour that, although different, is complementary. Cordelia is eventually rescued from her prisoner status on Vorkosigan's ship by some of her Betan colleagues, but the dividing line of "goodies" and "baddies" is no longer clear. Especially after Vorkosigan proposes marriage to her.
The story continues with them meeting again - in the middle of a war - and Cordelia's brush with the evil side of Barrayaran culture. Once again she is returned to Beta Colony, but now she no longer fits there, and in fact discovers the bad side of her planet that cannot understand the Barrayarans and cannot allow them redeeming features. Cordelia has to escape her own people to be reunited with Vorkosigan. The enemy has become her home.
What's so powerful about this book is that although the writing is light and the story moves on with pace, there is great depth to the characters. You feel like you really get to know them, understand them, understand what they see in each other, and understand why neither of them is at home with their planet because they are intelligent enough to see beyond the obvious to the disadvantages of both of their ways of life. The love affair side is understated but very well done at that, and the politics is explained in such a way that it works well in the story and is actually interesting. No mean feat!
Some of the characters in this story appear in the others, particularly Cordelia and Vorkosigan, and the book "Barrayar" is the direct sequel to this and deals further with Cordelia, Aral Vorkosigan and their son Miles (the rest of the books are mostly set 20-30 years after the events in this book).
It's a great start to an excellent series, and yet worth reading in its own right - over and over again.
Cordelia Naismith, commander of a survery ship from Beta Colony, is marooned on an uncharted planet when her vessel is attacked by Barryarans. Naismith is captured by Captain Aral Vorkosigan, the infamous Butcher of Komarr, and taken on a gruelling cross-country journey to his base camp. However, Vorkosigan himself is facing a prospective mutiny led by an ambitious junior officer and both Beta and Barrayar are about to find themselves on opposing sides of a bloody war.
The Vorkosigan Saga is one of the most famous ongoing works of science fiction in the United States. Comprising (so far) fifteen novels and numerous short stories and novellas, the series has won four Hugos (including three for Best Novel), been nominated for another six and has won an additional two Locus Awards and two Nebulas. The series has sold more than two million copies for Baen Books in the States, but is almost unknown in the UK. Repeated attempts to publish the series here have failed, usually due to low sales and indifferent reviews.
Reading Shards of Honour, I have to reluctantly adopt the traditional British stance of not seeing what all the fuss is about. The book starts off well enough, with an adventure storyline featuring two people (and a severely injured third) abandoned on a planet and having to work together to survive. These sequences, though indifferently written, are interesting enough and Bujold reveals an interesting amount of character through the actions of Cordelia and Aral. Unfortunately, what she doesn't do is provide them with any chemistry. When Cordelia realises she is attracted to Aral, and Aral reciprocates those feelings, it kind of comes out of nowhere. When (spoiler alert!) they are eventually rescued, the book descends into a montage of Cordelia being captured, released, re-captured, escaping, being almost-raped (the lazy go-to jeopardy trope for any female character in peril, naturally) and so on for a good hundred pages or so. Due to the stodgy prose, mechanical dialogue and somewhat stilted character reactions, none of this is particularly exciting.
Things perk up a little bit towards the end, with the revelations of the extent of a supporting character's psychological trauma and a subplot about a bunch of unborn babies in exowombs (the result of war rapes) having to be forcibly supported by the fathers who conceived them both being intriguing, but these are very minor elements that arrive rather late in the day.
Shards of Honour (**) has moments of interest, but overall is stodgily-written and unconvincingly-characterised. Still, it's a first novel and not one of the most well-regarded in the series, so I will press on with the (chronologically) second novel in the series and one of the most critically-acclaimed, Barrayar.
on 12 April 2016
Love it. I'm working my way through this series and will definitely go on to Bujold's other books/series.