Saturday, June 05, 2021

35. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

These Baen editions are really
not to my liking
A while ago, I decided to look for one fantasy and one sci-fi epic series of books into whose world I could dive deeply.  For fantasy, I went with Robin Hobb's Elderings series and that has worked out quite well.  For sci-fi, I am tentatively going with the Vorkosigan saga.  I am a bit put off by the publication nature of the books (they are physically huge in America and there isn't a clear correct order of reading nor a single narrative through line).  I found Cordelia's Honor which contains two of the earliest books (both in terms of in-world chronology and publication).  I feel a bit cheap considering this as two books, but I'll take my numbers where I can get them.

After finishing this, which I mostly enjoyed, I am still feeling somewhat tentative.  Bujold has a slightly breezy way of writing where she doesn't always explicitly say what is going on or what her character is thinking, but it is strongly implied by the absence of a phrase.  The book itself also starts in medias res and the overall effect is to make me feel like I have jumped into the middle of a world that I don't know very well.  I felt like I was expected to "get" it and enjoy it before I really understand how it all works and what the characters were like.  There is a romance here, but it is oddly matter-of-fact and removed in how it unfolds. Is this because of these two very unique characters who are inherently heroes and thus make huge decisions about their future with just a sentence or two?  Or is this the culture of this future space world?    There are also some political sub-text that I wasn't quite comfortable with.  The military society which seems a bit like a less extreme Nazi Germany (the conformist aggressive hierarchy, the internal power battles, the bucolic rural officers residences on their home planet) is contrasted favourably with the more chaotic and hypocritical liberal democracy of the Betans.  It is early and I suspect I will get a more nuanced presentation going forward, but just felt a little sci-fi consnerdativism there.  There is some casual rape-as-narrative that I don't think would fly today in the way it is presented here.

On the other hand, I do feel a rich and interesting galaxy of intrigue and politics, which is what I want in my sci-fi epic and the characters were very cool.  It's also very enjoyable reading once you get her style.  I will continue onward with the Vorkosigan saga.

This is the one I am reading, which
contains Shards of Honor and Barrayar


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