Finally, a Space Opera that lives up to the title! Ages ago, when I first heard of the sub-genre, I was intrigued by the idea of mixing SF with soap operatic convention. Okay, while I wasn’t exactly expecting Love’s Laser’s Lost, I was looking forward to reading science fiction that focused on real people dealing with real problems against the backdrop of a potentially surreal environment. Presumably, in the far distant future, amidst the space battles, alien invasions, and recreational virtual reality generators run amok, such quaint concepts as love, marriage, and relationships would still prove of some significance. I certainly assumed as much, but the authors of most of the Space Opera I read felt otherwise. My initial enthusiasm for the sub-genre was immediately deflated by works that were heavy on the hard SF and light on plot and character. “What the hell were you expecting?”a fellow scifi buff once asked me. “Dallas in space?” Well…no. Not exactly. Although, in truth, I’d sooner read about J.R. 3000’s intergalactic machinations than re-read some of the technically accomplished but emotionally devoid novels I’d experienced to date.
The two books that make up Cordelia’s Honor, however, turned out to be a much more satisfying representation of what I’d imagined Space Opera could be. Grand, yes. Futuristic, of course. But at its heart, it‘s the personal interrelations of the various characters that drive the narrative. The SF is there (wormhole nexus, neural disruptors, uterine replicators) to serve the plot but doesn’t overwhelm. Bujold elects to focus on social and political aspects instead of excruciatingly detailed accounts of technological marvels, appealing to a reader’s sense of the familiar over fathomless narrative minutiae. In so doing, she fashions a future world that is as engaging and believable as the characters who people it.
Shards of Honor introduces us to Captain Cordelia Naismith, the seasoned commander of a survey team for the Betan Expeditionary Force who ends up stranded on planet with Captain Aral Vorkosigan, the legendary “Butcher of Komarr” (who, for some reason, I pictured as a young Robert Davi). Despite their differences, the two come together in order to survive a treacherous alien environment. As mutual suspicions thaw, the two former enemies develop a grudging respect for one another that, in turn, evolves into much, much more. The progression from distrust to love struck me as all too quick at first but, upon further reflection, I realized that I knew plenty of people who had “fallen in love” within weeks, hell, even days, of meeting their significant others. Also, I suppose being beholden to someone for saving your life would certainly go a long way toward cementing those affections.
From events on the planet, we head shipboard where Cordelia helps Vorkosigan head off a mutiny before escaping back to Beta Colony where she receives is welcomed back with a certain amount of suspicion. The story hits the ground running, delivering a thoroughly engaging narrative that never slackens its pace through its 250+ page run.
The second book, Barrayar, finds Cordelia on Vorkosigan’s home planet, married and expecting her first child. Whereas the first book centers on our protagonist as she is swept up in a galactic war, the second book shifts focus to the political machinations within the Barrayaran court. Crosses and double-crosses are the order of the day and, despite her pregnancy and struggles to adjust to her new life, Cordelia continues to display the spirit of fierce independence that made her such a fascinating character in her early adventures. The rules may have changed, but she proves that she can play the game with the best of them, leading a rescue op to head off a political coup.
While I enjoyed both books, I found the first structurally diffuse, hopping from events on the planet to the mutiny aboard the Barrayaran ship and back to Beta Colony before returning to Barrayaran clutches. It wasn’t so much the change in locations as the sense that the different scenarios were separate pieces brought together to create a greater whole. Barrayar, on the other hand, proved a more unified narrative and more satisfying in the intricacy of its plotting and the depth of its characterization particularly among the secondary players like Koudelka, Drou, Piotr Vorgasigan and, my favorite, Bothari.
Well, those are my initial thoughts to get the discussion started. I’d be interested to hear what others have to say, especially if they found the time to read both books.
Also, if you have any questions or comments for author Lois McMaster Bujold, now would be the time to post them.
58 thoughts on “August 11, 2008: Cordelia’s Honor”
Good on you Joe for totally ignoring the disgruntled Keller Hater’s!!!
Great Review of the Books from Lois McMaster Bujold.
My question for Lois McMaster Bujold:
How much planning do you do before you begin writing your novels? Do you know how it’s going to end before you begin writing, or does the story kind of take off on its own?
I apologize in advance for being so long winded. I’ve never mastered ‘short and to the point’.
Thank you for taking the time to field our questions. I had not had the pleasure of reading any of your books before — my “to be read” list has 1100+ titles on it and is still growing! — and am very glad Mr. M chose Cordelia’s Honor for this month’s discussion. I very much enjoyed it, especially Barrayar. You answered most of my questions in the Afterword but I still have a few.
1. We regulars here at Mr. M’s blog often complain about the network giving away surprises and twists in their previews for upcoming episodes. I’ve noticed the same sort of thing on book jackets and covers. Have you ever had a disagreement with your publishers about this? Do authors in general have any say about what’s written on the back covers and flyleaves of their books or is this something only “big name” writers can control?
2. As I understand it from the Afterword, you’ve been writing the Vorkosigan Saga out of storyline order. Was there a particular reason you chose to write out of timeline sequence? I would think writing the timeline randomly would make it harder on you because of the continuity issues. Did you start with a general timeline of events and randomly decide which part of Miles’s life to write about when or was there a method to your madness? Or did you maybe just fall in love with a hint of backstory you wrote into Book A and decided to elaborate it in Book B? Keeping straight all those little things fans would pounce on if you got them wrong — when ‘X’ died or when ‘Y’ got his scar — would drive me insane. Have you made those kinds of errors?
3. Why did you choose to make your protagonist physically handicapped? Was it simply the inherent story potential of Miles living in a militaristic society or was there some other deciding factor? Did you speak to people with similar disabilities to help you portray Miles’s personal struggles and private thoughts about them?
4. I’m way too OCD for the random reading of a series. If I decide to read one, I research it and create a reading list in storyline order so I don’t make a mistake. Do you really read a series out of order? Doesn’t it lessen your enjoyment by taking the suspense out when you know before you start reading Book #3 that ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ will live through Dangerous Situation Beta because they were in Book #4 which you’ve already read?
Thanks again for giving us your time and thank you, Mr. M, for inviting her.
P.S. Thanks to skgraff for once again providing me the BotMC selections.
When oh when will WordPress get a preview function?
To anneteldy: When WordPress follows a ‘wiki’ style. 😛 Man, that preview button is amazing.
Wow Joe, I don’t know how you can read all these books, between working on Atlantis, keeping an eye on your dogs, keeping well when ill, and eating strange, but edible foods. You do it some how, and for that, I tip my hat to you. 😉
Will be heading to the library in a week or so, will see if they have any of the BOTMC books available.
Thanks as always!
– Enzo Aquarius
Das, thanks for the chocolate recs! I’ll definitely be making a stop by the store tomorrow! I’m actually thinking about getting up a little early to see if I can get by the store on my way to work.
You’ve heard the expression “terrible twos”? Imagine a stubborn, headstrong 2-year-old who’s going through narcotics withdrawal–Emma is terrorizing the stem cell unit! She’s yelling at the nurses, stomping her foot and telling the doctor to stay out, demanding pizza…sometimes I’m glad I’m 250 miles away! I send her stickers and fingerpaint through the mail, and she thinks I’m great. They are talking about sending her home in about 10 days. That’s weeks ahead of schedule! Go, Emma!
Comment for Ms. Bujold: I just want to say that I read the two books that make up Cordelia’s Honor separately waaaaayy back when (we won’t go into just how far back when) and thoroughly enjoyed them.
I do wonder, though, why the focus was shifted from Aral and Cordelia to Miles in subsequent books, with them on the periphery if they were there at all. Did you feel that their story had been told with these two books and it was time to move on to another protagonist or did you just run out of ideas for them after they began to “live happily ever after” or as much as they could, anyway, in a militaristic society?
For Joe: Have you read any of C.J. Cherryh’s books or Jack L. Chalker’s Well World or Quintaro Marathon books?
Strangely, I remember wandering on to a WordPress blog with editing function sometime back. Wonder if Mr. M didn’t forget to select something when he set this blog.
Also people should check if their Adobe flash player needs updating. In case Mr. M’s video freeze on you. Click on link below to check if you have outdated version of Flash.
I read somewhere that you enjoyed writing the Vorkosigan novels almost as much as I enjoyed reading them, because you didn’t know what the characters were going to do next even while writing the stories. Having read all of the Vorkosigan novels, I have to applaud the creativity they show especially, as Mr. Malozzi states, they focus more on the characters and less on the technical details.
My question, as an very-amateur writer and editor, is to ask how much of your rough drafts make it into the final storylines? And since I’m sure that not everything makes it to the final story, which aspects of the story or character do you review (primarily) in the editing stages?
Also, out of curiousity and without any pressure (I tried not to ask but my willpower failed me), can we expect to see additional novels in the Vorkosigan universe someday?
I’ve had the pleasure of reading the Vorkosikan series over the last several years, and Ms. Bujold is one of about a half dozen authors whose books I will purchase automatically, so confident I am of their quality. A few comments on Cordelia’s Honor before asking some questions.
It was a pleasure to reread these two novels. Strong women characters are more common now than when I first started reading sci fi, but its still rare to find such a well rounded character as Cordelia. She is not superhumanly fast, or strong. While certainly above average in intellegence, she doesn’t have the genius her son would go on to display. I enjoy that her greatest strengths are that of character. From her loyalty to her injured crewman, to her self-honesty in recognising that Aral is not the monster created by propoganda, all the way to her drastic means of ending the civil war on Barrayar, she is a character that conquers because of her beliefs.
While I found the relationship between Aral and Cordelia to be somewhat hasty, it didn’t deter me from the plot. Cordelia’s escape, then return to Barrayaran hands flowed smoothly by. Light reading, but pleasant. My favorite part of Shards was Cordelia’s struggle back home to simply go about her life. Watching her recognise that her old life was lost, that people would not, could not accept her feelings for Aral as anything but brain washing, brought home an emotional attachment to the character for me. I found her flight to Barrayar to be somewhat anti-climatic, but after the intensity of the encounters with Vorruttur and Bothari, a “simple” escape seemed to work well.
I think in Barrayar Cordelia’s true strengths came out. In a hostile, alien envirement, where all the normal rules of conduct seem turned around, she successfully manages to adapt. Not only adapt, but works to protect her child, her husband, and ultimately Bothari and the others bound to her service. Her interactions with Piotr in particular stand out to me, especially once he’s made his attempt to kill the unborn Miles. I believe in this second volume that the balance of characterization and action is achieved. Cordelia’s unintentional solution to the threat to her family and adopted planet was in particular satisfying. She may not be as strong physically as a Barrayarn man, but she proved conclusively she could be as ruthless. Even having read the book before, I ended up losing sleep in order to finish it off again. My only regret in having re-read these is that I’m now going to have to find the time to go through the rest of the Vorkosigan novels.
I see a couple of my questions have already been asked by others. So my own list will be unusually short. First, does any of the cover art to your Vorkosigan books capture what you picture the characters to be, in your mind’s eye? I noticed Mr. M. says Aral reminds him of a young Robert Davi. Myself, I picture more of a Gregory Peck. And somehow I’ve never been able to match my own mental picture of Miles to any of the cover art I’ve seen. As the creator of the characters, I wonder how you view it? You have produced a number of fantasy works, including the excellent Curse of Chalion. Do you have a preference of genres, and is there a genre you have wanted try that you have not yet written for? Thank you very much for your time and participation here, Ms. Bujold, and thanks to Mr. Mallozzi for hosting your visit.
Joe M – Thanks for choosing Cordelia’s Honor for the BOTM club. I enjoyed it and am excited to have a new series to explore.
Ms. Bujold – Thank you for taking our questions! I was surprised to find out that you have a Midwest background, considering the choice of names in CH. The names (Piotr, Aral, Kareen, Gregor…) have an Eastern European or Russian feel to them. Was this intentional? From where do you get your people and place names?
I also wanted to comment on how realistic Alys’ birth scene was. I appreciated the little details. Much better than the over-dramatic, exaggerated births with crazy, hysterical, out of control women that are too often found in books or on TV.
CH was a pleasure to read. The characters are honest and believable. I was impressed with how effortlessly you convey so much action in just a few pages without sacrificing dialogue or detail. Thank you!
Your presence on Joe’s blog has encouraged me to stop lurking and post a comment. Thank you for coming!
1) I really enjoy your Vorkosigan books and was wondering, since that storyline has slowed down, whether you would consider starting a more action-oriented space opera/sci-fi series?
2) Is there a novel/short story you have written that you are particularly happy with in terms of narrative and execution?
3) And the reverse of that. Do you have a published novel/short story that you kept fiddling with and then submitted without feeling satisfied with the structure?
I read all the Vor books a couple of years ago and dug up ‘Cordelia’s Honor’ when I saw it was going to be a BotM. Obviously Miles becomes the star of the show later on, but this is a very solid ‘origin’ story and yes, I can very easily see Robert Davi playing an older Aral. 😀
I don’t really have a question pertaining to this book. However, I wanted to mention that I am currently reading The Sharing Knife: Legacy (I love the magic system — it feels very unique) but that my favorite will probably always be Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls. I always reach for those when I need some ‘comfort’ reading and they always make me smile when I reach the end 🙂
I had “Cordelia’s Honor” recommended to me by a friend who shares a common taste with me for “capable female heroines” (only one of the reasons for my love for Teyla, although I’m still waiting a Season Five episode where she unequivocally saves the day, kicks ass, and doesn’t have to apologise for anything), and was thoroughly pleased by it.
I agree that the first book is structurally diffuse – a lot of setup, a lot of character development, and a lot of background politics that don’t become really obvious until the second book; it really reads better as the first half of the overall duology.
One thing that impressed me was that both Cordelia and Aral made their feelings and affection and respect for each other arrantly clear without having to get soppy or romantic. I’m more impressed by writers who can make me believe that, yes, eminently practical – even emotionally repressed – characters can fall in love and don’t have to suddenly become people out of the pages of a tawdry romance novel.
And, yes, I love that while Aral is the man of honour, and Cordelia is careful and respectful of his honour, in return, he also recognises her honour and her worth and is careful and respectful of that.
Okay, and I love that Cordelia gets to play the heroine twice – destroying the rebellion on Aral’s ship in ‘Shards of Honor’, saving her son and killing the bad guy in ‘Barrayar’.
Possibly the most amazing ’emotional fight’ scene I’ve ever read is the one between Aral and Cordelia when she talks to him about going after Miles’ uterine replicator: she more or less implies that if he’s not going to make the move on the capital, she’ll go in herself. He says something to the effect of, “you’re killing me.” And she replies more or less the same. It’s a beautiful moment: one in which both characters recognise the inexorability of the others’ decision – that they each have to do what’s right according to their own personal sense of honour. And that nobody’s wrong. NOBODY’S WRONG. That is incredibly rare, and huge kudos to LMB for getting that situation across.
I haven’t read the series on Miles yet – the friend who loaned me the books is packing to move. I think she might have given me ‘Chalion’s Curse’, though, so that should probably be next on my ‘to read’ list!
No questions I’m afraid, Ms. Bujold. Just a lot of love and awe and admiration for your story! (Mitigated by the fact that I, as an Australian, must always hesitate over whether I’m going to spell it ‘honour’ or ‘honor’.) Thank you!
Not to worry about public transit in Atlanta – it’s quite good actually. The Metro line will take you straight from the airport baggage area to right downtown under the hotels where the Con is at. There’s a big food court between the hotels – seriously, you can spend the whole weekend without ever being exposed to the outside world! Just be prepared for trying to walk through the over crowded mass of Humanity! Oh, and being poked in the eyes by fairy wings… Way too many people ‘dress’ up for this thing and considering the pressing crowds at times, it can be a tad dangerous! It’s also very hot and humid, so always carry water, munchies and watch your wallet!
And while I’m at it – for those who like the ‘Space Opera’ genre – I rather enjoyed Elizabeth Moon’s “Serrano Legacy”
The first three stories ‘Hunting Party’, ‘Sporting Chance’, an ‘Winning Colours’ are…okay. A little dry in some parts, perhaps, but good solid writing with a neat little engineering bent that my programmer’s mind enjoyed. Heris Serrano is also a kickass female character – and a mature one to boot: in her forties at least, at the time of ‘Hunting Party’.
However, I think that Ms. Moon found her stride in the last four books – when she introduces us to Esmay Suiza, a once-mentioned character in ‘Winning Colours’ and starts taking us through her story.
I really like Esmay: farmgirl goes into the space navy, discovers that what she believed about herself isn’t the whole of who she can be, and falls in love with (and is fallen for by) the scion of a space navy family with high social and military connections. Now that I think about it, that sounds quite a bit like Teyla.
‘Once A Hero’ is the first Esmay book and it and the sequels start looking not only at the military but at a broader sociopolitical structure and the consequences of it.
I don’t know if JoeM’s already tried the Serrano Legacy, but I wholeheartedly recommend it.)
Joe, thank you for choosing Cordelia’s Honor as a BOTM selection. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve read the rest of the series. Bothari is one of my favorite characters. I also loved Taura, especially in the “Winterfair Gifts” story. I won’t ask any spoilerish questions for those that haven’t read the complete series, but just say thank you to Lois McMaster Bujold for creating such a great cast of characters in a believable universe. More, please! 🙂
Sel, I agree with you on the Serrano books. I recently read the series and really liked it. Another set of believable characters and universes, including fleshed out bad guys. The New Texas God-Fearing Militia was exceptionally creepy.
Another recommended space opera series is the Honor Harrington books by David Weber.
I have some good operas for you.
Heres a star wars opera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJ2BlzMSlcc&feature=related
And an opera about Nixon in China:
Alas, once again I am devoid of words for your wordy endeavors. Hope the rest of the gang here have a good time with the book!
Meanwhile, after reading Carl Binder’s newest Gateworld interview, and his elaboration on his “The Red Shirt Diaries”, I gotta say, I thought it was a great idea! If handled correctly, it could be a damn dramatic episode with some great comedic moments. Is there a chance that it can show up in Season 6, or is it DOA like Hexed?
Also, I agree with Carl and Martin that that feeling in the first season when we were all cut off was great, and though you’ve said that that’s hard to recreate due to the ZPM and the ships, I think there are ways around that. It’s a story; I’m sure you can create a way to isolate Atlantis without destroying the ships, or making it a space station instead of a grounded city.
Like, say…a massive shield around the Pegasus galaxy powered by the supermassive blackhole at its center that blocks both normal space and subspace travel. No hyperdrives or wormholes can penetrate it. Isolation achieved through UberTech. It’s just one of many methods to recreate that feeling of desperation that made Season 1 unique.
I only was able to read Barrayar as I couldn’t find my copy of Shards of Honor. It was nice to return to an old favourite that hadn’t made it to the top of the re-reading rotation in awhile.
I’ve always enjoyed the strength of Bujold’s characters, especially the women. It’s great to read about capable, intelligent women who also struggle with uncertainties, and overcome those struggles through their own efforts. I also find her characters easy to connect to….. even Bothari, who was also my favourite.
Looking forward to re-reading the rest of the series again… thanks for reminding me of it.
Your reasons for liking these two books is very similar to mine, Joe. I love the space opera theme. To date, I haven’t read any in the genre that have disappointed. Obviously I haven’t read all possible, but in general, I love the genre because it does focus typically on the people, character realtionships, and sociopolitical aspects–simply mixing in sci-fi aspects. I find such stories seem more realistic and flow better. It’s never quite as hard of a leap to imagine it being possible, either. When the subject matter focuses on things we’ve seen throughout all history, it doesn’t jar to read about ray guns and the like.
Bujold’s writing was gripping, not overly detailed or descriptive, and fast-paced. I love sci-fi that focuses on politics or military strategy; this book had both. It was a fascinating mix of societies: one like America (democracy, free choice, lots of red tape), another very similar to feudal England (honor, military, an emperor you swear fealty to). There was a brilliant juxtaposition of swords and daggers and plasma beams. I found the two main characters to be brilliant, sympathetic, despite past grievances. The relationship that develops between the two key characters is easy (as in you believe it, it’s smooth) and unique. And it doesn’t follow the strict us vs them or Romeo and Juliet formulas. While the two are from the competing societies, they love each other, and yet, neither gives up their morals or obligations to their own worlds for the other person. They don’t join together to fight evil in the universe, but rather go about it separately. Cordelia is not a weak damsel, but neither is she Wonder Woman. Vorkosignan is not power hungry, but nor is he entirely humble. He’s done some bad things and he owns up to them. He disagrees with some things he’s told to do, but he follows orders, though not blindly. A truly great read.
I didn’t have the chance to read the second book in the series, but I have read the third and enjoyed it just as much. I think LMB is a brilliant writer who focuses on the characters, plot, and the sci-fi aspects equally and fairly.
Questions for Lois:
1). What is your favorite part of writing? Is it the characters? Planning the plot? Or something different? The fans, accolades..;)
2). What started you writing? A teacher in high school, the need to tell stories you imagined, etc. Was it always a career you had in mind?
3). You write both fantasy and sci-fi. Which was your first? Do you have a preference? Which is easier to write? How do you keep the two from blending together (or do you let them? I admit, I haven’t had a chance to read your fantasy novels.)?
4). What kind of advice would you give someone keen on writing/publishing fantasy and sci-fi works?
5). What drew you to the space opera genre? Is it your own personal reading preference, something you just had to tell, or something else?
6). Who are some of your favorite fantasy/sci-fi authors and books? Any you’re meaning to read shortly, here?
Thanks to you both, Joe and Lois, for taking the time!!
Bothari: your favorite character, my favorite character, EVERYONE’s favorite character.
My question to Ms. Bujold: if YOU were to cast these books, who would you like to see in the roles? (Way back when I first read them, I saw Glenn Close as Cordelia. Robert Davi is not who I saw as Aral, but I think he’s a good choice.)
Joe, if you liked these, and want to read something that has a similar vibe but cranks the comedy to 11, find Walter Jon Williams “Crown Jewels” trilogy. If P.G. Wodehouse had written a space opera, that would have been it – down to the long-suffering manservant. They’re quick reads, and well worth your time.
Thanks for choosing the wonderful Shards of Honor/Barrayar compendium Cordelia’s Honor for the BOTM. SoH has been one of my favorite books since I first read it back in the 80’s when it was first published. And when LMB continued the story of Cordelia and Aral in Barrayar, it was an immediate must have.
It’s hard for me to talk about these books because I love them both so dearly. LMB etches her characters on both the brain and the heart of the reader. These two books are so clearly Codelia’s story, but Aral is so vital and alive on the page, I’ve never felt that he got shorter shrift.
It is the depth of emotion found so quickly between the two emotionally damaged people that makes SoH so intense for me. The spareness of the writing and the occasional choppyness of the plotting, I find, increases this effect rather than diminishing it. Almost as though the author was so swept up in delivering these two people to me, that she couldn’t stop from carrying it through to the end. LMB has written more accomplished books than SoH, but never one that has affected me more deeply. It’s one of those books I reread cover to cover every couple of years.
Coucou Joseph =)
Sa va ??
C’est livres ont l’air cool =)
Moi je ne lis plus vraiment depuis que j’ai internet, de plus mes parent de voyent pas l’utilité d’acheter un livre…peut être pour caler un meuble ??
Mais sinon mon livre préféré c’est chronique de san francisco, vous connaissez?
Aller! Gros bisou!! je vous adore♥
Strangely, I remember wandering on to a WordPress blog with editing function sometime back. Wonder if Mr. M didn’t forget to select something when he set this blog.
Perhaps it was using WordPress software that you download and host elsewhere (http://wordpress.org). With that, you can download plug-ins and there are a couple for comment preview. As far as I am aware, WordPress.com does not have preview or edit comment features for the commenters.
I love Cordelia. She’s the kind of female character I love to see: a regular woman with a strong internal compass who will keep fighting.
Things do improve in the second book of this book (boy, does that terminology get confusing). I think this is when LMB really finds her stride as a writer to pull her wonderful character pieces into an intricate plot.
But I think what most intrigued me in these books was the reproductive storyline. I guess that’s my question for LMB:
Was it your intent to make any sort of statement about women with looking at this particular technology? I alternate between seeing this plotline as an indictment of reproductive assistance and a celebration of a woman’s control over her own body.
I truly adore the Vorkosigan saga. It’s such a vivid world with a wonderful array of characters. A true achievement for someone not quite expecting to “go back there” so many times.
Sawasdee from Thailand!
My thoughts are pretty basic at the moment. More basic than usual. So my synopsis (yes, be impressed at me using a multi-syllable word there) will be brief.
I agree with Joe in that it was a nice change to have the everyday human interactions being the primary focus of these books. I was not expecting that and along the way was expecting some giant alien bug creature to be on the next page turn and it once again be back in line with standard Sci Fi books. Now that I understand the direction of these books I will approach the next books in the collection with a different mentality.
No questions for Lois McMaster Bujold, that would involve me waking up my resting brain cells.
I finished next months selection Keeping It Real. While standing in line to get my towel from the pool boy this morning I was standing behind a gentleman with the same tattoo as that of Zal on his back! Even his persona was very Zal. A moment that brought a sneaky smile to my face.
Hope everyone is well. Haven’t had a chance to look at any other posts.
Before I go into the book I think that I ought to answer Joe’s earlier question about how many books I finish reading.
Honestly I finish probably 99% of the books I read. That 1% unfinished is largely a result of undergraduate literature courses, where it was physically impossible for me to read all of the books required. It was only then that I became capable of setting a book down and leaving it, no matter how bad it was.
I only bring this up because I tend to go in the opposite direction, i.e. if I find a book that I like in a series it becomes painful to walk away until I have finished the whole set. This happened when I read Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series (I thankfully was semi-convalescent and had nothing to do but read all day). I was chugging back two books a day, everyday for two and a half months. This also happened with Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe novels. Speaking of which, if you haven’t read them, they are definitely a sci-fi must and would make a spectacular BOTM selection one month (I know I would kill for a chance to talk with them).
Given this compulsion I have to say you are killing me man. First Kage Baker and now Lois McMaster Bujold,, both incredible series that I don’t have time to read, at least not if I want to eat too. I might have to stop watching television altogether to keep up with the BOTM and suck into these incredible series. I grrrr at you sir. Grrrrrr!
I really loved this book. It was a spectacular mix of romance, social commentary, and just enough exotic space locales to firmly plant it under the genre of sci-fi. What I found most interesting was the societal dichotomy between Betan colony and Barrayar. Betans were progressive socially and technologically. When you see it through Cordelia’s eyes it seems almost idyllic. However when we are confronted with the reality of her world she found that it was in fact deluded and manipulative. The converse is Barrayan culture was seen as savage, stuffy, and antiquated, but in reality was more honest and the people were more connected to one another. It is little wonder that Cordelia eventually made a home there.
The thing that really drove this story for me is the perfect balance of character driven plot versus action driven plot. I was able to feel for and love the characters as Cordelia had loved them. It may be a commentary on my inner psyche; Bothari was my favorite character. His struggle with himself was both sad and touching. In the end it is apparent that he is never going to be a whole person, but he finds a place anyway.
I found Aral, as a character, particularly well constructed. From a traditional “romance novel” viewpoint Aral Vorkosigan is perfect, a commanding personality who is loyal but not blindly so. He inspires people and draws them in. He is caring and protective of the people he believes in his care. He is also darkly handsome, a little brooding and slightly damaged which makes him touchable (and also a very classic romantic male lead). However the real deviation is that he has dimension. His conversations are thoughtful and insightful making him nearly sparkle off the page.
And if you’ve made it this far through my ramblings, I give a gold star to you.
For Lois McMaster Bujold…
Thank you so much for answering our questions. I look forward to reading the adventures of Miles.
I noticed as I read this book that while Cordelia changed dramatically in her attitude and behavior, Aral remained essentially and constantly Aral. Had the Cordelia at the beginning of the book seen the Cordelia at the end she would have been horrified, whereas Aral had to deviate within the bounds of what he considered right, but it seems as though he would have made the same decisions at the beginning as he did at the end. While you may say “well duh, that’s why the book is called CORDELIA’S honor,” I still have to ask was this conscious decision or did it just sort of happened as you were writing?
Also, in your end comments you mention that you did not write this series in chronological order. Did you always know the whole back story or did it develop in pieces as you were writing them?
I think what appeals to me most about the Vorkosigan novels is that the characters become more than just plot devices or vehicles for telling a story — they become almost friends. I have read these books over and over not for the wars and the political maneuvering — although I find all the machinations, especially once Miles gets involved, extremely interesting — but because of the characters who all seem so human. I love that these characters are generally good people, but that they are neither boring nor stuffy, and that they can and do make mistakes.
All too often in real life and in fiction, we are shown wars in which there is only one ‘right’ side. One side who is fighting on the side of the angels, for truth or justice or freedom or whatever, and the other side has to be overcome for the good of all mankind, blah blah blah. It has always struck me as somewhat shortsighted. Being at war does not automatically relegate one’s enemies to the status of faceless monsters. The people on the other side — they’re still people, with families and friends and loved ones. They’re still human.
In Shards of Honour, both Aral and Cordelia act with integrity and courtesy. They’re at war, and they remain loyal to their sides to the end of that war, no matter what the personal cost. It is only when the Betan military betrays Cordelia’s trust that she runs.
I love that Aral needs Cordelia almost more than she needs him. Without Cordelia, and without the military, Aral is purposeless, adrift. Cordelia and Aral are each other’s strength and refuge.
The other great thing about LMB’s books is the humour displayed. I like laughing, and LMB’s books make me laugh, a LOT. I can only wish I was half as witty as LMB’s characters. 🙂
Questions for LMB:
(1) Will there be more Vorkosigan books in the future (maybe looking at Ivan, or one of the younger Vorkosigans)?
(2) Did you have a specific country in mind when writing about Barrayar? I mean, mention is made that Barrayar has been isolated from the rest of the galaxy, left to fend for itself for a long time. Was that idea of galactic isolation based on, for example, the global shunning of South Africa or fear of the USSR at the height of its powers?
Also, Barrayar is both very militaristic and, at the same time, almost fuedal. They’re very odd political structures to mix together (‘might is right’ versus birth determining one’s station in life). Why this particular political structure for Barrayar?
(3) Not on Cordelia’s Honour, but have you ever found yourself written into a corner by Miles’ genius? Where Miles has to accomplish the impossible, and you just have no idea how he’s going to do it?
Thanks for your time, and for writing such amazingly awesome books! And for the butterbugs, because life just wouldn’t be life without a hefty helping of butterbugs. 🙂
Speaking of Operas, did you see Joss Whedons while-we-are-all-striking-anyway-lets-do-a-production-for-the-internet-oh-and-i-cant-pay-you-but-you-are-not-doing-anything-at-the-moment-anyway online musical? Dr. Horrible’s sing-along blog 🙂
Okay, now I’m thinking I ought to catch up with y’all and start trying some SF again. For years, I tried different scifi authors and novels, and while I found many of them interesting, only a very few resonated with me (David Brin’s “The Postman”, does that fall under the SciFi genre?). Yet, I found that I really did enjoy SciFi shows on television, the Stargate series among them. Why, what was the difference?
I think you’ve explained it, in your opening paragraphs. A lot of science fiction literature, in my experience anyway, is really heavy on the SF, and largely seems to ignore characters and relationships (and not necessarily ‘romantic’ relationships, but all kinds), the “human” aspect of it all. Without that “human” element, no matter the quality of the fiction, the story just feels flat to me.
Whereas in the scifi TV I’ve enjoyed (Stargate Atlantis as a prime example), you have the imagination and creativity involved in the SF aspect of it, but it’s also a story about the people, their lives, friendships, how they evolve and change.
And so, I’ll have to try out Cordelia’s Honor. Once I finish up my current book (“John Adams” by David McCullough…well-worth the read, by the way — it’s not only about the events of the period, but really explores the people, too).
Thanks for the recommendation!
Sitting here in my vacation flat far away from home and watching the rain fall…*G* It still is a nice place and I can use the peace and quiet… I have to thank Mr M for enlarging my reading pile…or should I rather curse you? *LOL* It isn’t as if I didn’t have already close to 100 to-read-books lying around. So many books, so little time.
While we’re recommending books… one author I buy without much checking is Mercedes Lackey. If those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the people of Valdemar yet, want/need another set of immensely enjoyable characters and entertaining and well-written (IMO) stories, go and check out Lackey’s Valdemar series. Though the timeline isn’t really hard to follow and one needn’t read them in series, I’d still recommend starting either with the “Gryphon” trilogy or with the “Storms” trilogy. All those books have been so …ahem well-read…in my house that I really need to replace them. As for genre, they are classified as fantasy, though I sometimes wonder how that can be a genre by itself. Isn’t every fiction a fantasy? 😉
Btw, Mr M. please pass my compliments along to everyone on and off set. As a long-time fan of both SG1 and SGA, I have to say I am enjoying the new season very much. Thanks for providing a little bit of fun and adventure.
Allie’s horror selections FINALLY came! I was getting nervous since one book is like 700 pages. Allie’s a quick reader but it’s still quite the undertaking. I think she doubts if I will actually make her discuss the book with all of you. Mwahahahaha! 👿 Even if I have to duct tape her to her chair!
BTW, I think I had the cutest monster icon yesterday! It was even pink! Soooo perfect for me. Maybe you weren’t lying when you said the monster generation isn’t random.
@tam_myst: Well, it’s good luck to both of us, then! I’m actually lucky in that I will have lots of experienced friends there; some with cars even! 😀 I hear Dragon*Con is MASSIVE! I’ve only been to a few other cons but I’m guessing the bigger they are, the more fun to be had. Maybe I’ll see ya there! If you stop by the My Little Pony panel I’ll be there helping out Wolfie.
DRAGON*CON OR BUST!!!
Hi Joe. I don’t have a question for your guest but I just wanted to say that I find your videos more entertaining then the Olympics or pretty much anything else that’s on tv at the moment…except for Scrapyard Challenge!! Keep em coming.
By the way, what breed is Lulu??
Thank you Joe…they say laughter is the best medicine and thus far your videos have worked wonders!!
Oh and I don’t read novels much but I found a book last Saturday called Callgirl by Jeannette Angell. It’s based on the real life experiences of “Tia” and it gives a wonderful insight into the life of a callgirl. (maybe not so wonderful but certainly intriguing and thought provoking). I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea but it’s actually quite good.
Just thought I’d mention it. 🙂
I’m a big sci-fi fan and am looking forward to reading these books!
BTW, love your dog.
I’m still in the middle of Barrayar, and I’m liking it so far.
My initial impression of both books is it’s like a historical romance, only set in the future instead of set in the past. And, no, I’m not talking about those cheesy romance novels that are a dime-a-dozen. I mean, a bona fide historical romance with actual plot and intrigue outside of the romance aspect of it.
I agree with you, in that I felt the whole falling in love thing between Cordelia and Vorkosigan was a little rushed, and the proposal seemed somewhat…not trite, but I did roll my eyes over it. However, I just let it go and kept reading, and I found it intriguing how Bujold glosses over – or, rather, kept to a lower key – the seemingly profound effect both Cordelia and Vorkosigan had on each other, as they each went their separate ways before the Escobar conflict.
I also found some of the narrative confusing, as if I was expected to be familiar with something I no idea about (mainly how things work politically in this particular ‘verse, as well as a few things related to the tech and geography and history), but I slogged on, as is my policy when such things arise, and found that it didn’t detract from the story, and over-all, it managed to work itself out in the end.
(Whew! Could I *get* any more commas into that sentence? I think not.)
Anyhow, I found “Shards of Honour” a refreshing book that takes a break from the hard core sci-fi, and I’m looking forward to how “Barrayar” plays out.
I didn’t make it to the store this morning, darn it! No chocolate for me today. However, AFTER work, I’m definitely buying a stash. DEFINITELY!
on August 11, 2008 at 7:31 pm1 Patricia Lee
Good on you Joe for totally ignoring the disgruntled Keller Hater’s!!!
There is really no need Patricia to label people haters just because they don’t share the same opinon as you.
If you are happy with Keller then other peoples opinons shouldn’t bother you, but they are entitled to their say.
Personally Keller isn’t a favourite character of mine and if she was gone tomorrow it wouldn’t bother me.
@crazymom and das: So I had to drive to my local Super Target to see what’s up with the choccie there. Yes, Choxie is the name of the Godiva-recipe chocolate. I got it right! Also, they sell Lindt chocolate and something I bought that gives 10% of the proceeds to endangered species. It’s called “Endangered Species Chocolate”. I picked the one with two wolves’ eyes on the front. It’s 70% cocoa content with cranberries and almonds. It’s YUUUUMMY! 😛 Also in the same aisle were Starbucks chocolates, Ghirardelli, and things I can’t remember. I have no clue about regular Target but I say, “CHECK OUT SUPER TARGET FOR CHOCOLATE!”
Happy hunting! 😀
@Narelle: HEY! How’s it goin’! Have fun in Thailand! I’m jealous! I’m stuck in hot, humid, and crowded Florida. 🙄 It must be the middle of August ‘cuz I so wish I was in Alaska.
I have yet to get my book, I have been insanely busy!
I was wondering however… If Atlantis were to run through without the long hiatus that it normal takes, does this mean that the season 5 DVD set might come out sooner as well? (She asks with big pleading hopeful eyes!) For us poor saps that are not fortunate enough to be able to watch it in ‘real’ time, that sure would be an incredible bounce! (She adds batting eyelashes as sweetly as humanly possible!)
Info for listees of this blog. Lois McMaster Bujold is currently writing the next VorKosigan novel. It’s centers on the Miles character set after the last VorKosigan novel (Diplomatic Immunity). Lois preview the first couple of chapters from the upcoming novel at the Denver Worldcon with a reading in a small room over the last weekend.
Bujold is one of my all time favorite writers. She’s adept at world building and at crafting rich and interesting characters and then combining those two strengths into great storytelling. I rarely feel like Bujold stops a story cold to have to ‘explain’ her world to the reader. She allows the characters and her story ‘explain’ the world instead. Her books are far more ‘fun’ than say an Alastair Reynolds space opera (I remember being surprised when he described his books as space opera. So much hard SF in them and while interesting to read, not as fun as someone like Bujold or Cherryh.)
I read Cordelia and Aral’s stories years ago after having first read some of the Miles Vorkosigan saga. I admire that as you move between books, these characters remain consistent in voice, and as they grow and change, the voice and actions shift with them. In other words, they are internally consistent. She clearly respects her characters and doesn’t sacrifice them for a cheap laugh (though she has a good ear for humor) or for an easy shock.
The other great thing Bujold does is gives you flawed characters and then puts them through their paces. The most unlikely people end up doing the most heroic things. The end result may not always be ideal, but they cope and they change from the experience.
In some ways, I suppose, the Miles books have been like a TV series with characters you look forward to seeing who have relationships you are curious about and who people a world that is fascinating to observe and learn about.
About the books: While I liked both books, I enjoyed “Barrayar” more. “Shards of Honor” is deeply focused on the two primary characters and though Bujold does an outstanding job at world building, I think she doesn’t as deftly meld the grander scope of the politics with the personal stories being told. I enjoy the characters and their weaknesses and struggles immensely but felt the plot to be a bit jerky as we shifted between locations and events.
The second book benefits from having had readers already introduced to the primary characters, from the primary characters already having an established relationship and possibly from Lois Bujold being more confident in the world that she has created. The reader is already invested in Aral and Cordelia and company and Bujold has to do less work setting them in place. Instead, she can delve deeply into the machniations of the deeply political Barrayar and set her characters free in those workings. I adore Cordelia’s strength and her role to question the ‘norm’ on Barrayar. She’s one of the best female characters in SF. I love Aral’s iron will and his ability to shift and adapt where required. His willingess to think outside the box.
Most of all, I like the relationships. Such a delight to have a good story with a strong husband/wife at the center without ever dropping off into sentimentallity.
I think, too, the more intricate plot pulls me into the story more than did the planetary scale story in the first. The tighter stage in Barrayar allows Bujold to create more twists and turns and to utilize her secondary characters more fully, which fills out the world more deeply. (Bujold is one of the few writers who can create a richly realized secondary character with minimal words. I remember when I first read these books how much I liked Simon Illyan and hoped that I would keep encountering him).
Joe, have you read any of the Miles novels?
Questions for Lois: Do you treat each sequel as distinct from the previous ones when you think about how to introduce characters in the plot? By that I mean, How do you balance between writing for long-standing readers and new readers when writing a sequel?
Are you surprised by the popularity of some of your secondary characters like Simon and Ivan?
Did you ever consider writing more about Aral and Cordelia or do you think that once characters marry that the range of story you can tell is limited?
P.S. : I received “The Art of John Picacio.” Thank you very much! I love the pictures and I was surprised to find that he did art work for a short story by someone I know. Cool.
@ Trish – yeah, I had to stop at the market last night, too! I came away with Dagoba, Lindt, Ghirardelli and Scharffen Berger – the latter I did NOT know my store carried! Oh, yum!! I grabbed the Scharffen Berger 70% & 82% bars, and had a couple squares with fresh bing cherries (again!) – it was to die for!
Ah, yes – I love the Endangered Species Chocolate, too…I usually grab the extreme dark – the one with the black panther eyes. Yummy!
Joe – I know you may have said it before, but my memory is sucky…so, will ask again: do you have a preferred brand of chocolate, or do you just go with whatever entices you at the moment?
I was watching my series 4 DVDs – and during the clip or “making Trio” I noticed a nice black doggie on the set. He/she didn’t have a ‘visitor’ badge so I guess that it works at the studio. Is the hound part of your PR team (a meeter and greeter) or your security team? Or, taking the breed into account, the eater or left-overs from lunch
I really miss having a dog – alas the feline gods that I work for are not keen on having a puppy around. I continue with my negotiations in hope.
The Vorkosigan has to be my most reread series of all time. I love how the books don’t depend so much on the cleverness of the plot, which is very clever, or the detailed worldbuilding, which is very detailed, but on the characters. Since I can’t think of any questions right now, I’ll end with saying that I love the books.
*makes note for next big-box bookstore trip*
OK, Bujold–“Cordelia”. I’ll see if Steve is up to a bookstore-and-dinner-out evening.
I am almost done with the book, and I really am enjoying it, trying not to read too much about the story here, so as not to spoil it. Maybe a question later, just wanted to chime in and say thanks for a great read.. 😎 back to reading..
I really enjoyed Cordelia’s Honor. Since I recently picked it up, I read it as one book, with two different sections. The first part read as a science fiction novel. Part two was more historical fantasy. This is due to the settings, clothing, and primary technology in each part.
I didn’t think of this as a space soap, like Starcrossed, because there wasn’t the torrid, wildly-unrealistic yearnings I find ever-so-annoying. Although the attraction between Cordelia and Aral was set up rather quickly, I was glad to not find the inappropriately-timed sex scene.
The characters were interesting and realistic, except maybe for the exceptionally crazy Bothari and exceptionally sadistic Vorrutyer. Cordelia, Aral, and most of the other main characters were normal people, trying to make their way in a crazy world.
I liked, as others here have said, that one side of the war wasn’t the “bad guys,” and both sides made mistakes. During Cordelia’s “rescue” by her men from Aral’s ship in the first part, I liked how her crew really thought they were rescuing her from a fate worse than death and even though they kinda screwed up, it wasn’t because they were bad; they just didn’t have all of the facts.
I also liked how when Cordelia was locked in her cell on Vorrutyer’s ship, she wasn’t told anything by a “gossipy guard” or “caring technician,” a plot device used too often. It was more realistic that she wouldn’t know what was going on, and that if the ship was hit, she’d be thrown around like a rag doll.
It interested me how by Cordelia not being hurt by the Barrayarans that she was emotionally and almost physically hurt by her own people. The mental weardown of having to keep Aral’s secrets and trying to prove a negative (that she wasn’t raped) had a real effect on her, which also showed me her normalcy – and strength because she didn’t go totally crazy.
I wish we had more of her escape to Barrayar, but that wasn’t a key part of the story. Her view of Barrayar’s culture and technology was interesting. She had a “you’re so primitive” view on so many things, but especially on sex, relationships, and childbirth. It makes me think a bit of Brave New World and modern Western culture. We sometimes think we’re so much better than a less technologically-advanced society, when that’s not necessarily true.
Sex, relationships, and childbirth were all sterilized, packaged, and regulated on Beta Colony. It sounded to me like they may have had to limit progeny due to limited natural resources, but also it was an offshoot of their technological advancement. When Cordelia goes to Barrayar, she sees another version of how people meet, fall in love, and make babies. Neither is ideal, since strict social structures can be just as restrictive as laws.
I thought it was interesting how she was a bit disgusted by the thought of natural piercing of the hymen, natural pregnancy (in utero), and natural birth (vaginal). Even though she still felt connected to Miles because she is his mother, there seemed to be a weird disconnect from my POV because he was growing in his little pod. I suppose it’s similar to when in vitro fertilization, cesarean sections, bottle-feeding, etc. started. The fears and creep-outs people have felt from those methods I’m sure are similar to the feelings I got from reading about the uterine-replacment pods.
The political intrigue was good and I thought the entire book was well written. I teared up when Cordelia and Aral were attacked and they almost lost the baby.
The chapter, Aftermaths, about the two people in space retrieving bodies, was cool and original, but since they didn’t appear in the rest of the book, I was a bit confused. I kept wondering when they would show up on Beta Colony and Barrayar.
The one part that bothered me was all of the talk of rape. I think it had to be mentioned at least once because since time immemorial women have suffered from assault, especially during times of war. (It’s like, soldiers can’t just pillage?) Also, it let the PFD uterine-replacement pods be introduced. But after almost every woman mentioned was either assaulted or threatened with rape, it was getting to be too much. I was especially grossed out when the asshole soldier talked about raping Alys Vorpatril, when she was practically giving birth right then. Vorrutyer’s den of sadistic hell was over the top for me. It isn’t that that shit doesn’t happen, but I read sci-fi and fantasy to escape the darker side of reality. (This is why I stopped reading Mercedes Lackey – great author, but her heroes suffer too much.)
I kind of thought I’d go out and get these books after reading most of the reviews, but after hearing that there is quite a bit of talk of rape, I am glad I never did. I just hate that in stories, as I do go to my SF and fantasy books for escape, not for graphic evil. And I suspect that many of the male readers get off on it anyway, even if they say they don’t. In my definitely not provable Opinion.
Working on my Q’s for LMcMB, but wanted to give my congratulations to Martin Wood on his nomination for the Director’s Guild of Canada for Atlantis. Woohoo! Maybe you can pass along the kudos?
do you think the chinese will ever truly be our allies in the stargate program. will we ever see some chinese troops on atlantis? Will earth ever have a flagship?
Shards of Honor & Barrayar (Cordelia’s Honor)
It’s been quite a long time since I read any Bujold or Vorkosigan books, so I was more than happy to pull Miles’ mom & pop books off my shelf for a re-read. I was originally attracted to all these stories for 2 reasons: I wanted to know how Miles got his “deformity” and the fact that their family name was Naismith (which I pronounce as “Nesmith” for a very good reason but more on that some other time) I really like these books, the stories have plenty of action and character moments especially female; in fact, they read like extended versions of my favorite sci-fi television shows, and by the time I was reading these the first time I’d seen enough TV and movies and actors that I could pretty easily imagine what everything looked like and it was cool.
On this re-read, I’d have to pick Barrayar as my fave of the two, the constantly compared contrast between the “emerging from prejudice” high society and Beta Colony became my biggest interest, as well as Cordelia’s pregnancy. I guess when I was younger I was more focused on the action and characters than the social & political commentary and also, I had no reference for the experience of being pregnant and now I do. A very enjoyable read, I’m glad I made the time for it.
Question for Ms. Bujold: how did you come up with the idea of Miles’ physical deficiency? The fact that he wasn’t a “perfect space hero” made him one of my fave sci-fi characters.
Thanks for the memories
I really loved CORDELIA’S HONOR. As soon as I finished, I wanted to start reading it over again. I loved the intensity, the high stakes, the romance, the politics–everything.
Ms. Bujold, thanks for your art!
“There is really no need Patricia to label people haters just because they don’t share the same opinon as you.”
Yes there is when they are just inventing things which are not in evidence on the show, and make up stuff around the world which they can’t prove. I would label them with considerably stronger pejoratives than what i suspect Joe will allow in this blog.
“If you are happy with Keller then other peoples opinons shouldn’t bother you, but they are entitled to their say.”
No, they are not. Not when they make up stuff – then they are entitled to be quiet.
[…]Joseph Mallozzi facilitates a discussion about Lois McMaster Bujold’s CORDELIA’S HONOR.[…]
Hey man! What the heck happened on Continuum for the Goa’uld firepower to suck so much? How could shots like that make a dent on shields capable of warding off the radiation of a blue giant? If this is the case then subkiloton weaponry would be all that the Tauri needed to defeat them instead of the MK-I and IIs they developed.
I just heard the news that Sci-Fi has canceled Atlantis. Could we get at least a half of season 6 to tie up loose ends? I was planning on coming to Vancouver for the Creations Stargate Convention in April. Now my question is will any of you be there? I hate this for you and all the others who produce this show. I am protesting, signing petitions, emailing TPTB if that helps. I am so sorry and wish everyone well.