Monday, 11 July 2011

Cordelia's Honor (Vorkosigan Saga Books 1 & 2) - Lois McMaster Bujold



Title: Cordelia's Honor (Vorkosigan Saga Books 1 & 2)
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 1996
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
Barnes & Nobel
Baen Books (Ebook Here)

Cordelia's Honor is the first of the Vorkosigan Omnibus books which includes books 1 & 2 of the Vorkosigan Saga which are titled "Shards of Honor" & "Barrayar". It was chosen as the July read for the Women of Science Fiction Book Club and is a Sci-Fi novel that I had never heard of prior to taking part in the book club.

The first thing I am going to say here is that the book cover is terrible, I would probably put it face down on a table in shame if I was reading it in public and someone walked past. In all honesty, the publisher Baen Books seem to have some pretty diabolical covers but this one has to be one of the worst I have seen. It would probably have put me off picking up the book if it wasn't for the book club which would have been a shame as I found it really enjoyable to read. I just wish that Baen would stop making their books look like some form of space-themed pulpy unsophisticated read.

The plot basically follows the relationship the occurs between Cordelia, hailing from the progressive Beta Colony, who is a scientist in command of a survey expedition and Aral from the Imperial and rather militarial planet of Barrayar who is an aristocrat and a soldier in command of a starship. A huge amount happens thoughout the novel around this relationship including mutiny, interplanetary wars, assasination attemps & civil wars. It would be insane of me to try and summarise this rather large story beyond this but I will just add that it is superb Space Opera that I think any Sci-Fi fan would love to read.

The two books that make up this omnibus do come across as being slighly different from each other in style which is probably due to the period of time that passed between Bujold writing each of them. "Shards of Honor" was written in quite a slow pace and seemed to concentrate on the romance and character development side of things. There was some adventure and excitement still but overall I think the book was more about the two main characters and understanding their actions and desires.

"Barrayar" on the other hand is told at a much faster pace and is tightly plotted with adventure, intrigue and political scheming throughout. Cordelia and Aral are still just as interesting to read about, but I think Bujold also expands the secondary characters well and creates new ones that are much more detailed and interesting that what I saw in "Shards of Honor". The book also provides much more information and detail about the society and culture that exists in the Universe Bujold has created which I was happy to see.

In the end though, the best aspect of the novel has to be the two main characters as they are well developed and the relationship formed between them is more realistic than many others I have read about. Cordelia is smart, determined, brave and a fundamentally likeable heroine whilst Aral is a man whose honour, strength and courage help him fight for what he believes in. Neither of them are perfect, but they both strive to do what is right and the dry sense of humour they have adds to the overall enjoyment of the story.

I now have to highlight the one annoying feature that I found in both parts of this omnibus. Basically, the naming of characters from the planet Barrayer at times caused me no end of problems. A lot of the higher ranked military personnel from Barrayer have the pre-fix "Vor" in their names. I had to keep trying to refer back to work out which Vor..... was which, especially when they were being discussed by a third party and there was no personality on display to help me remember. Not a major issue and I understand that it was part of the culture Bujold had created but it still bugged me. All I can do is say that you should stick to the written novel and avoid any audiobooks as I suspect they would be even more difficult to follow.

In summary, I think the best way to describe this book is that it is a superbly enjoyable character driven space opera sci-fi. The Sci-fi elements are used to create the plot and background, but it is the characters that really make this book appeal. I suspect it could have been set in a fantasy world, historical world or many others and it would still be a very enjoyable read. I therefore have to recommend this to any Sci-Fi reader out there who likes to read a story full of well developed and interesting characters. Personally, I enjoyed it so much that I have now actually picked up most of the novels in the overall Vorkosigan Saga and look forward to reading them in the near future.