Mar 31 2009 4:52pm

Weeping for her enemies: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor

Kate Nepveu mentioned Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga as a series where the quality increased as they went on, and the more I thought about that the more I felt like reading them, and as today is a “mostly horizontal” day, I spent the morning with Shards of Honor. As Shards of Honor is now published as the first half of a book called Cordelia’s Honor, with Barrayar as the second half, and as plotwise Barrayar is the second half of the story, even if it was written a lot later when Bujold had become much more accomplished, I had intended to spend this afternoon reading that and then do one post on the whole story. But as I put Shards of Honor down and realised I had to get out of bed anyway, I thought it might be interesting to consider it alone, and as a very unusual beginning for the series. And then it occurred to me that it might be interesting to re-read the books in publication order, which I don’t think I have ever done.

Shards of Honor was Bujold’s first published novel. It introduces the universe in which all the books in the series take place. Otherwise, it couldn’t be less like a standard first novel in a series. The main character (of the series) isn’t even born and this is about how his parents met. Major events happen which do cast their shadow a long way, but here they are mostly interesting in the context of Aral and Cordelia, who are minor characters in most of the subsequent books. This totally isn’t a case of writing something and following it with more of the same.

What’s really good about Shards of Honor, what totally grabbed me about it on first reading and on every subsequent read, is the character of Cordelia. The book is written in a very tight third person in Cordelia’s point of view, and Cordelia is a wonderful character. She’s empathic and practical and she’s from no-nonsense egalitarian Beta colony. She is the commander of the exploration starship Rene Magritte, when on a newly discovered planet she encounters the aggressive forces of Barrayar. The universe is just sketched in compared to the way it is developed later, but it’s already interesting. The plot provides enough events to get from one end of the book to the other. The writing is nothing like as good as Bujold has got since, but it’s very absorbing. The other thing that’s notable is the emotional depth she manages to get in to this space opera plot. It’s not so much the romance (though the romance is actually very sweet) as the genuine ethical dilemmas. Again, this is something where Bujold improved by orders of magnitude, but even here in this first novel she had enough to hook me completely.

I said that the background of the universe is only sketched in, and that’s true. Everything she says later is reasonably implicit in what’s mentioned here, but an awful lot isn’t mentioned. The phrase “the Wormhole Nexus” isn’t used. Jackson’s Whole is mentioned as a name, and the Cetagandan war, but no other planets except Escobar, Beta, Barrayar and Earth. There’s nothing—and there should be nothing—about how the ships are powered, but the pilot we see does have implants.

Shards of Honor is about the specific contrast between Beta and Barrayar, and Beta and Barrayar a generation before we mostly know them. For Beta we have Cordelia, female, a theist, competent and practical, an explorer, whose weapon is a stunner. For Barrayar we have Aral, male, an atheist, a militarist, a romantic, who has seen someone killed because he only has a stunner. (“How did they kill him with a stunner?” “They didn’t. They kicked him to death after they’d taken it away from him.”) Aral is practical too, but with a completely different kind of practicality. Of course they fall in love—and Bujold does it rather well by not dwelling on it. Beta here is democratic—except that nobody admits to having voted for the president. Malefactors are treated with therapy, which seems very enlightened until Cordelia is threatened with therapy that will peel her brain like an onion looking for the seeds. Barrayar is feudal and militaristic and has been having a problem with political officers and a Ministry of Political Education. Ezar, the dying emperor, gets rid of that but at a terrible cost.

The immediate contrast between Barrayar and Beta is one of the things that does prefigure the rest of the series. But it’s surprising how little of what I know about Barrayar is mentioned here—there’s no mention of the Time of Isolation, no mention of the poisonous native vegetation, or the radioactivity of Vorkosigan Vashnoi. Also, we barely see Piotr. All of those things are clearly there, to an eye who knows to expect them, but they’re not explicit. Bujold has always said she reserves the right to have a better idea, but there’s remarkably little retconning or contradiction—just more information, as things become fractally more complicated as you get closer to them. When Cordelia mentions interrogation drugs, I’m pretty sure Bujold had not yet thought up fast penta, but when she has her allergic reaction to Dr. Mehta’s drug it prefigures Miles’s idiosyncratic reactions to fast penta even so. Similarly, Jackson’s Whole may just have been a name when she wrote it, but what I know about it from the later books fits in without a twitch.

I mentioned the emotional depth. The depravity of Vorrutyer and Prince Serg, and the explicit minimizing of that evil compared to Ezar’s plan is very impressive. But most interesting of all is Bothari, who is a monster, but an entirely three-dimensional one even here.

There are a number of things that are quite intentionally set-up for later books. What they are setting up is not Barrayar but The Warrior’s Apprentice, which takes place eighteen years later but is what she wrote immediately next. Arde Mayhew is the pilot who takes Cordelia to Escobar, Vordarian is mentioned, Aral’s Regency, and Aral and Cordelia’s hope for children. Shards of Honor has a happy ending, I suppose. Aral and Cordelia are married, Aral is Regent, nothing bad has happened yet. Very few people would turn from that to poor Miles breaking his legs again as he fails to get over the obstacle course. But that’s why Bujold is such a terrific writer, and was, even at the beginning of her career.

Lisa Costello
1. radiantlisa
Cordelia is one of my favorite characters of all time, as is Miles. I'm always astonished, when I go back and re-read this series, how much of Bujold's later writing style is present in this first novel, even though it is clearly a first novel. I love the contrasts Bujold draws between Aral and Cordelia, and between their worlds, and how nothing is quite how you might think it is at first.
Todd McInroy
2. TMcInroy
To say that the books get better as the series goes on while true, doesn't capture how good it is at the start.

I see Cordelia as the lynch pin of the series, she may not have many scenes in later books but things seem to turn around her influence. Which makes me think of the scene at the end of Barrayar where she is stunned in disbelief that the Prime Minister whould put her in charge of Gregor's education, But tells her that she will have no power. And of course I will never forget the scene where she comes to the negotation table with the Vordarian's head in a shopping bag.
Bruce Cohen
3. SpeakerToManagers
You've inspired me to re-read Shards of Honor, which I haven't done in quite a long while. On the other hand, I re-read Barrayar only a couple of months ago, and was as delighted with it as I was the first (and second) time.

Bothari is a fascinating character; he adds depth to all the stories he's in because of his complexity and darkness. Here's a man as mad as the culture he comes from (at least from Cordelia's point of view), and yet who shows the spark of her kind of honor that makes him more than a monster. But where Aral is the person who gives Cordelia a reason to make Barrayar her home, I think Bothari is the one who gives her a reason to think that it can become a place where her children and grandchildren can survive and prosper.
cassandra chan
4. cassandra chan
One thing you didn't mention, but which has always Impressed me about Shards of Honor is the immaculate plotting. I won't spoil anything, but who saw Ezar's plot (as revealed at the end) coming? And it all matches up beautifully, even after several re-readings. The plot is also an intricate part of the emotional depth of the story.
Liza .
5. aedifica
Yes. Maybe I'll re-read these again soon. :-)
Kate Nepveu
6. katenepveu
Oh, good, I'd been honestly kind of worried that the early books wouldn't hold up, especially since I've been less enamoured of some of the later ones as time goes by. (And in a separate category there's _Memory_, the opening of which I'm not sure I can force myself to re-read, I could barely force myself to read it once.)

I have too much on my plate now to re-read (really, she tells herself sternly) but I will be following these with great attention.
cassandra chan
7. R. Emrys
This is probably my favorite series. I always read it in either chronological order or I-need-a-comfort-read order; I'll be curious to see your reactions to publication order.

I was never sure whether there was something fishy about the president's election, or whether Cordelia's home was just the equivalent of a blue state--or whether he'd been doing such a bad job that no one would admit to having voted for him.
Madeline Ferwerda
8. MadelineF
I also hadn't considered that there might have been some illegitimacy about Steady Freddie's ascension. My impression was that he was kind of embarassing: Beta Colony probably has radical parties we wouldn't believe, and the attitude that sure, it's great to march in favor of inanimate object rights... So a guy who just wanted to rework the pension system, would that be the kind of thing that was interesting enough to admit to supporting?

Anyway. I love Shards of Honor. One of the great books of the Vorkosigan series. Love the way Cordelia does what is right despite the whole love thing, and the choices she makes are hard. Love the middle-aged sensible people romance.

There are careful lines laid through the whole thing to later books in the series. Jumping into action with nothing but a grin? Miles didn't get that from Aral.

I'd say it's quite a better book than Barrayar; there's an emotional thread that holds it all together, where Barrayar seems to me like "here's a thing, and here's another thing".
Leigh Butler
9. leighdb
I adore the Vorkosigan books. My friend Noell had to practically hold me under water to get me to read Shards of Honor, but once I did I zoomed through the entire series in less than a month.

I've always said the best thing about Bujold's universe is that the setting is truly the backdrop for the characters, rather than (as is so often the case in science fiction) the other way around. Of those characters, Miles and Cordelia are unquestionably some of the coolest ever.

Plus, how often do you get feudalism AND space flight all in one package? Whee!
cassandra chan
10. wsean
This definitely isn't my favorite Bujold book, but despite the problems I had with it, there was something about her style even then that captured me. I went on a massive Vorkosigan binge and read all the books that had been published in rapid succession.

This and her other two starter novels (Ethan of Athos and Warrior's Apprentice) are a lot weaker than the rest of the series... but man is this an awesome series.

And I have to agree with Leigh above-- feudalism + space flight = win.
- -
11. heresiarch
Bujold was the first author I introduced my (mostly non-sfnal) significant other to when we started dating. The second or third time I called up and got a "Um...actually, I'm kind of busy? Maybe tomorrow?", I asked suspiciously "You just want to stay home and read Vorkosigan, don't you?"


I knew we would work out.
cassandra chan
12. Dan Blum
There are a number of things that are quite intentionally set-up for later books. What they are setting up is not Barrayar but The Warrior’s Apprentice, which takes place eighteen years later but is what she wrote immediately next.

This is only partly true. Bujold has stated that when she wrote Shards, she wrote quite a ways past the published end of the book before she figured out where the end should be, and chopped the extra part off. The chapters she removed eventually became the first part of Barrayar, although she might well have tweaked them (if I could find my 1989 Philcon program book, which has the original version of the soltoxin attack chapter in it, I could compare it with the published version).
cassandra chan
13. Lois Bujold
Oh, and here's a question I ask often, trying to draw a bead on the answer/s --

Re:9. leighdb
"I adore the Vorkosigan books. My friend Noell had to practically hold me under water to get me to read Shards of Honor, but once I did I zoomed through the entire series in less than a month."

So... what was it about the books, their packaging, or what you *thought* the books were going to be, that put you off for so long?

I've been trying since forever to think what, if anything, I could do that would allow my books to connect more efficiently with their natural audiences. (Though given the large and sometimes non-overlapping ranges of tastes among my readers, it's possible this isn't possible. Because I suspect the folks who, ferex, love Ursula Le Guin and me, and the folks who love, say, John Ringo and me, aren't reading my books for the same reasons.)

Endlessly curious, L.
cassandra chan
14. CorrinaL
To answer the question...the covers put me off the books. They looked too much like David Weber's galactic books, and those weren't to my taste at all.

But once a friend recommended Cordelia's Honor, I couldn't get enough of the Vorkosigan saga.
CD Covington
15. ccovington
Hi, Lois -
I'm not sure this will help any, but here's why my husband hasn't read any of your books, despite my telling him they're awesome and he totally should: He reads very slowly, and the prospect of getting into a series with 14 books in it (though there's only going to be 1 more for quite some time, if I understand what you've said correctly) is rather daunting. He's also concerned that he'll lose a week or more of evenings after being sucked in ;)

He did enjoy MoM when I read it out loud to him last week, but it hasn't sparked a reading frenzy yet.
Jo Walton
16. bluejo
Lois: Oh the covers. They have had uniformly awful covers, by which I mean the whole series has no cover, hardback, softback, British or US, that says to me "I bet you'd like this, Jo!"

I read _Falling Free_ because it won the Nebula, and _Brothers in Arms_ because I liked _Falling Free_ and _Shards_ because it was 95p and I'd quite liked the others, and then all the rest. Looking along my shelf it charts my rising interest -- it starts with second hand British paperbacks, then new British paperbacks, then new US paperbacks because I couldn't wait for the British paperback (from _Barrayar_) then new US hardbacks because I couldn't wait for the US paperback (from _Memory_).

The only one of your books I can imagine picking up randomly and looking at would be _Paladin of Souls_. Up to that point I was wondering if maybe you'd done that fairytale trade thing where you got to be able to write brilliantly but the catch was you'd always have awful covers.
Nicholas Alcock
17. NullNix
Jo, wasn't there something else? There was for me. What put me off for years was not just the covers but that everyone else who ever talked about it in my hearing dwelled on Admiral Naismith and 'ooh, mercenaries' with perhaps an occasional mention that Miles gets bones broken a lot. It was as if Miles Vorkosigan, the Vorkosigan/Naismith tensions which drive the Naismith novels, the horrendously complex political maneuverings, and the completely different tone which takes over after _Memory_ didn't exist.

So I envisaged it as being, oh dear, David Weber come again, thanks, but one of those is quite enough, I've had enough infodumps for the next few centuries already. (The covers really did not help with this drastic misapprehension.)

And then of course I picked up _Komarr_, found it utterly unlike what I'd been expecting (it really isn't often you find writers of this calibre), sucked in _A Civil Campaign_ and spent an entire two-hour train journey grinning so fiercely people were edging away as if I was mad. After that I was hooked and there was nothing I could do but buy everything I could find with 'Bujold' on the spine.

Now if you'll excuse me, _Horizon_ is calling...
Jo Walton
18. bluejo
NullNix: I don't mind a good (emphasise good) MilSF now and again, so I wouldn't have found that particularly offputting.

I think I said this in my post on Pournelle's Janissaries, but when I have cramps there's nothing I like better than a good black and white space military adventure where the good guys win. I actually kept Shards of Honor lying around until I had a month like that, and boy was it better than I thought it would be!

Horizon is really good.
cassandra chan
19. Lois Bujold
bluejo @ 16 --

Oh, heavens, you've had that thought about my books *too*? I've often wondered if, somewhere in my writerly apprenticeship and unknown or forgotten by myself, I'd made some sort of deal with the Infernal Powers that my books would stay in print forever, but the covers would always be *dire*.

Induced amnesia about having made the deal being, of course, part of it...

Except I do have some good covers, which disproves the theory. Unless one is going for statistical trend-truth rather than mathematical-truth...

Ta, L.
cassandra chan
20. gollywog
Hi Lois, I confess that I buy books by their covers and frequently SciFi books have very good covers that are scenes from the book, especially the Cherryh books. I bought your first Miles book because of the cover and the description. Usually they are pictures of something/somebody a little bit different with perhaps a little humour or irony or something. When I started writing this message I went looking for The Warrior's Apprentice and found that it's missing from my/your shelf! I'll have to buy it again, I guess, and I hope the picture is the same. If it isn't I'll be looking for a used book with the original picture!

By the way, David Weber shares your shelf.
cassandra chan
21. wsean
I was initially put off by the series as well. But for me it wasn't the covers (thought they weren't exactly enticing), but the blurbs. I somehow got the impression it was one of these hard-core military sf series (in the vein of, yes, David Weber... bah). Very serious, focused on action and large-scale warfare, and featuring dull, boilerplate military characters.

What finally got me to read it was the Hugo awards. I saw that the series had won several, and decided to give it a shot, starting from the beginning. I was pleasantly surprised to find character-driven space opera with a fun style and a great sense of humor.
- -
22. heresiarch
In the sense that covers are supposed to encapsulate the book, the Vorkosigan series is just doomed. I mean, how? Each one would need like, twelve covers.

There's no excuse for A Civil Campaign, though. A blond woman! Blond! And the guards! Chests like peacocks!
cassandra chan
23. CorrinaL
I do love the covers on the Sharing Knife series. And on Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls as well.

But the covers I saw on the Vorkosigan books wasn't what I was looking for. Perhaps it's because I hadn't read much galactic SF in a long time.
Jo Walton
24. bluejo
Actually, having just started it, I quite like the cover of Mirror Dance. It isn't an inherently attractive cover, but it is actually a good cover for the book.

Heresiarch: They could have had symbolic covers, like those Harry Potter covers posted here a little while ago. That would have made me pick them up!
Nicholas Alcock
25. NullNix
wsean: I suspect that if only Bujold's own quote about (at least this) SF being 'fantasies of political agency' was put on the covers, she'd get a whole pile of new readers. I defy *any* fans of current affairs or politics not to get hooked on the Vorkosigan books, and nigh-obsessive trackers of politics columns are *everywhere*. (At least they are in the UK, which is famously quiet about this sort of thing but is blessed with some not-awful news sources.)

Heresiarch: my dogeared Earthlight edition of ACC has this cover. Note the way the guy in the chair looks almost but not quite entirely unlike both Miles and Mark. He looks quite calm and phlegmatic, just like Miles and Mark aren't. I'm not sure what he's wearing, but it's not brown and silver and IIRC it's not Vorbarra livery either, so that's not Gregor (who doesn't play a cover-worthy part in the book anyway). So it's a mystery man, or someone wearing dead-black casual clothes. Miles goes around 'like a black hole in motion' for part of the book, but this is *not* a picture of a man suffering the aftermath of the Great Dinner Party Disaster. He's a man who just took a six-month course in meditation techniques.

Moving away from the mysterious central figure, note the space shuttle in the background, the ridiculously close moon, and the echoed picture of said shuttle: obviously that shuttle plays a *really important part* in the story, only we never hear of it. There are floaty glowy things, and tables that seem able to float unsupported, since as we know there is no real difference between Barrayar and Banks's Culture. (I fully expect to see Skaffen-Amtiskaw popping up on the next cover, wreaking havoc in a cheery fashion.)

It also appears that Vorbarr Sultana has replaced its Time-of-Isolation/modern hodgepodge architecture with something that looks like a bastard crossbreed between Diaspar and Trantor.

(Take the shuttle out and replace it with something hanging in the air, and this would be a bloody good cover for a Culture novel. But this *isn't* a Culture novel. Bujold Getting Banks Castoff Covers Through 'Alphabetic Trickle-Down Effect' Shock.)
cassandra chan
26. Elizabeth McCoy
The comment threads make me wist that somehow, somewhere, there'd be a Bujold book with a Michael Whelan cover.
cassandra chan
27. JeffShultz

Oh man.... that would be incredible. I still can visualize his "Audrey on Zarathustra" (I think his wife's name is Audrey... this is from 25-odd years ago) without much effort.

He's one artist that, reading though a book of his art, got me to read the books that he had created the covers for - because he'd created them.

That might have been my introduction to Anne McCaffrey...
cassandra chan
28. annatoinette
It was definitely the covers. Shards of Honor was my first real intro to anything contemporary in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, and it was only via much coaxing by my boyfriend (now fiance) that I agreed to read it. I don't think I ever took it out of the house, though, due to its shiny metallic cover. After reading it, though, I couldn't get enough and quickly devoured any Bujold I could find. I always have to give a defense of the books to my friends when they see me reading them, but I've slowly been able to win a few over. Really, if the covers were a bit more...hm...reputable looking? generally attractive? I think more people would be open to them. The honors reading group at my university is currently reading Miles in Love right, so the word is spreading...
cassandra chan
29. Shakatany
He's one artist that, reading though a book of his art, got me to read the books that he had created the covers for - because he'd created them.

I try not to judge a book by its cover having been burned a few times but I recall buying H. Beam Piper's "Little Fuzzy" on the strength of Whelan's cover and can't help regretting that if they had published that book with a similar cover while the author was alive, the book would've soared in popularity and he wouldn't have been driven to kill himself. Years later I saw the original cover and it was dreadful and did not do justice to the wonderful story *sigh*

I've been reading LMB's books since "Shards of Honor". I fell in love with her work then and I would buy her books no matter what dreadful covers the PTB chose.
cassandra chan
30. ElementalBlue
Me too! The covers and blurbs put me off for YEARS, because I had no interest in characterless military tactical hardware-focused war extravaganzas in the blackness of space.

Then I was on vacation far from any bookstore or newspaper stand, without internet access or neighbors to talk to. I finished the books I had brought early, and had NOTHING ELSE to read. Out of desperation, I turned to my boyfriend-of-the-time's dog-eared copy of The Warrior's Apprentice...

... and feverishly read anything else Bujold I could get my hands on afterward. But while I could find elements from within the book on the covers, they never really captured the essence of the book. And other friends are very reluctant converts.
- -
31. heresiarch
NullNix @ 25: I have the Baen Mass market paperback. Blergh.

Elizabeth McCoy @ 26: A Whelan cover would be amazing.

Jeff Schultz @ 27, I've got that same "Gee, a lot of books I own happen to have a Whelan cover" thing too.
cassandra chan
32. Lat 18
ON book covers: When carrying a sci-fi book around in public, I often turn the front cover next to my body so it's not easily seen because I'm embarrassed to be seen reading something so weird. Why are sci-fi covers so bad?
And who did the cover for the "Vorkosigan Companion"? He (or she) is the worst and seems to be doing covers for Robert Jordan and some other really bad fantasy books. Not a recommendation for the Vor Comp.
cassandra chan
33. SF_Fangirl
I am exceptionally fond of this book. It's the first Vorkosigan book I purchased. I first read LMB in Asimov's - The Mountains of Mourning, The Weatherman, and then Barrayar. I had to read more after Barrayar. This was before I was on the Internet and I was led to believe there was nothing more until I ran across Shards of Honor in Waldenbooks.

It's obviously an early book, but I love it despite or perhaps because it is so reminensant of 'ship fanfic. I already loved Cordella of course.

I prefer Shards and Barrayar to all of Miles's Dendari stuff. He's far too lucky - too unrealistically lucky. Shards and Barrayar (and Mountains) have a dark side which shows the price people pay. It seemed for a long time Miles never paid the price.

I have picked up Miles' Dendararii adventures for a second read; I have reread Shards, Barrayar, Memory, and A Civil Campaign.
cassandra chan
34. RPF
I know this thread looks pretty dead and there's little chance of LMB seeing further comments, but I'd still like to add an agreement with the posts above that the Vorkosigan books have generally had dreadful cover art.

I don't think this is some curse afflicting just her, however, as much as a characteristic of the publisher. Baen has always had awful covers. Gaudy, garish, loud and just plain tacky are par for the course for them--exceptions exist, but are few and far between. It took my boss months of lobbying to get me past the "Conquistadors and Rednecks" cover of 1632.

When I read that Jim Baen often personally selected covers for some of his house's books, I can only shake my head in wonder. Maybe it's a generational thing--they might actually appeal to someone who grew up reading scifi stories in magazines with similar covers...
cassandra chan
35. Anne Zanoni
Lat18 @32: Robert Jordan covers used to be by Darrell K. Sweet. I don't know who does the Baen covers.

I never understood why DKS did covers. Very distinctive. Typically DKS creates flashy outfits when the characters are bedraggled, that sort of thing.

'Course, I have heard that artists do not read the book... and imagine how you'd draw something if someone said "Here, I need these people doing this" out of context. :>

Maiane Bakroeva
36. Isilel
This thread is deader than dead, but I have to empathetically agree with this:

I prefer Shards and Barrayar to all of Miles's Dendari stuff. He's far too lucky - too unrealistically lucky. Shards and Barrayar (and Mountains) have a dark side which shows the price people pay.

I love Miles novels, but after WA and BOI they became far too self-indulgent. There is always the very best, bloodless option available to Miles. Even if it does cost him personally something, he never has to make realistic sacrifices and compromises and always gets to save the day.

It seemed for a long time Miles never paid the price.

And even when he did, it was on personal level and largely transitionally until Memory. And even then he landed on his feet very quickly. Not painlessly, but still it felt too facile.
cassandra chan
37. Allyson in Boston
I started reading the Vorkosigan series almost 20 years ago, and pick them up again and again and again. In the re-read department, Elizabeth Moon's Serrano and Suiza series and universe are a distant (but also-cherished) second.

I relished Bujold's Paladin and the wonderfully quirky and inventive Sharing series, but Cordelia, Miles, et al, resonate across time. The politics and the struggles of the individual characters, cultures, and the often bizarre societal imperatives of her different planets, are incredibly compelling.

I'd love to see Miles in his 30's and 40's -- and what's next. I'd like to see Ekaterin rock the house -- and not let Miles suck the air out of every room. I'd like to see Cordelia's next stage as a long-lived Betan, and how Mark, Kareen, and the Gang, make out.

Bujold is such a apectacular speculative-fiction writer on cloning, genetic slavery, human rights, the perfectability of the human (and the Cetangandan post-human) genomes, the dangerous power of totally unfettered corporations, etc.

RE Miles: "He's far too lucky - too unrealistically lucky."

I do know what you mean, but...hmmm, in utero mega-damage, a childhood of medical hell, failing his physical for the military academy, Piotr dying immediately after, losing Bothari......then croaking from a blown-apart chest, etc. Seems to me that between manic achievement runs -- he always ends up paying.

For a character with so much to prove, that only a handful of his planet's public officials understand what Miles's accomplished between ages 17 and 30, borders on fiendish.

I understand the need of a terrific author to grow, experiment, change the channel, take a break -- but Dear Lois, keep 'em coming. Please.

I wish the SciFi Channel or some brilliant cable
programmer, would turn these often very-cinematic books into a multiyear TV series. With the right crazy-brilliant and charismatic 4' 9" - 5'2" actor, it could be fabulous. Imagine Russell Crowe and Janet McTeer as Aral and Cordelia at Ezar's deathbed? "She pours out honor like a fountain all around her." Oh well, I can dream.
cassandra chan
38. jshaw
Well, not much to add to this except that I recently reread Shards of Honor and Barrayar together after finding a second hand copy of Cordelia's Honor. Originally I read Shards of Honor from a local library so it has been a long time since I've read it. I never owned a copy. I do have a copy of Barrayar so I have read it several times, say 3-4 times in ten years. One of my favorites and better than most of the Miles books in my opinion. Shards was weaker but still had moments I remembered from first reading and it was good to read both books together.

My old copy of Barrayar has a better cover that the repackaged Cordelia's Honor and one thing that mars the recent covers for me is their use of romance novel iconography. They are a really terrible match to the early books.
cassandra chan
39. SteveC
I'm totally infatuated with Cordelia, though I doubt she would have me. That's the main reason I could never accept Miles's marriage to Ekatrin. Ekatrin is a fine woman by most ordinary standards, but not when viewed alongside Cordelia. Plus, there's a bit too much of the frustrated late 20th century American suburban housewife in her character for my tsste.

cassandra chan
40. Tracey C.
I'm another person who had put off reading the series for years, although I regularly devour sf/f and did so even while in grad school (although the amount dropped off).

The reasons I remember for putting it off were:
a) The length of the series. I know me, and if there was a billionty-book series I started and I liked it, I'd have gotten nothing else done, and sleep and work need to happen. Which partly explains why I didn't pick them up until I was off work on disability and had tons of time to read (and then plowed through them in a week, which actually made Lois flinch when I told her so at Wiscon several years back - she said her authorial tics must have gotten really annoying, or something like that).

b) I think I had the impression of the series as MilSF (which I do love, so that wasn't a negative), but more of an adventure-romp sort of thing. Nobody who'd raved at me about the books had told me about the emotional depth they had, or I'd have picked them up much sooner.

The covers are uniformly awful, but I'm used to that in sf/f, so that wasn't it, I don't think.
Rikka Cordin
41. Rikka
I picked up Curse of Chalion by accident looking for another book. I then read The Sharing Knife series and Paladin of Souls but I was actually very wary of starting the Vorkosigan series. I think because from the outside it seems so monolithic (let's be real, it's over a dozen books) and as much as I love me some epic fantasy, epic sci-fi is a little farther out of my comfort zone. I've read the Foundation series and the Dune series and that's about it for epic sc-fi, whereas I could spend days on my epic fantasy list...

Also. I didn't know where to start. Plus... space opera? The only context I had for that was Firefly and I was pretttttty sure Bujold wasn't going to be writing that. However, I was recently told by a fellow tor.comian that they are available for download (and I bought the ones that aren't, hi Memory). The same guy gave me a list of the books in internal chronological order, which is how I like to read them if I'm not picking it up in the first or second book.

So now I've gotten up through Miles Errant, which I finished yesterday, and am waiting for my copy of Memory to land in my mailbox. I do adore them and I am wondering if maybe I can blame my lower than usual grades this semester on this latest addiction. Or maybe it was my car accident, whichever.
cassandra chan
42. Sedentaria
I think this is where e-books score - you tend not to buy them based on the covers. I picked up a recommendation from mumsnet, and having started went stright through buying the next one as soon as I had finished each one. Cried at the end of Cryoburn. Wonderful books

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