Lois McMaster Bujold – Barrayar
Read my review of book:
1. Shards of Honor
Read By: Grover Gardner
Length: 11h 41min (304 pages)
Genre: Science Fiction (but only technically; it’s really this wonderful action/political intrigue/romance hybrid – just set on another planet. So, I guess it’s properly termed a Space Opera.)
Started: 25 February 2010
Finished: 07 March 2010
Where did it come from? From the publishers for review.
Why do I have it? I absolutely loved the previous book, Shards of Honor.
Culture shock isn’t
so bad, as long as no one’s
trying to kill you.
Summary: Barrayar, the second book of the Vorkosigan saga, begins almost immediately following the events of Shards of Honor. Cordelia Vorkosigan (née Naismith) has given up almost everything of her former life on Beta Colony to be with the man she loves. She’s finding life on Barrayar somewhat hard to adjust to, however; its class and gender stratification, its emphasis on familial lineage and military might, and its lack of technological progress, all make the entire planet seem somewhat backwards, to Cordelia’s way of thinking. To make matters worse, Aral, her husband, has been unwillingly thrust into a position of vast political power: regent to the four-year-old emperor. Learning to navigate the currents of Barrayaran politics is challenging enough, but the planet is full of people who will not hesitate to use Cordelia – and her unborn son – as pawns in their plays for power.
Review: I’ve yet to read anything by Bujold that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and Barrayar is no exception. She seems equally at home writing fantasy and sci-fi, because what she’s really writing isn’t either: she’s just writing wonderful, character-driven stories, dressed up in the trappings of the genre. Barrayar is actually less science-fiction-y than most, in large part due to the setting. Barrayaran society is roughly modeled on feudal Russia, and there are just as many horses and swords as there are aircars and nerve disruptor pistols. So, while the genre label might say sci-fi, it’s actually really a family saga and political drama… it’s just set on another planet.
But the worldbuilding, as good as it is, is not why I love Bujold’s writing, and not why I loved this book. What I really love are Bujold’s characters, and most of all Cordelia. She is smart, practical, has a wicked sense of humor, and is made of stronger stuff than three of your typical literary heroines put together, but still shows enough emotion and has enough flaws to make her feel real. (I am not ashamed to admit that I now have a raging girl-crush on Cordelia; I want to be her when I grow up, or, failing that, I at least want her to come over so we can sit on the back porch and drink a beer and talk about science and boys.) Aral is equally wonderful, and most of the supporting cast are quite deftly drawn as well. I had less trouble keeping secondary characters straight in this book than I did in Shards of Honor, although there were still a lot of similar-sounding “Vor______” names to keep track of.
The audiobook itself was very well done, although I still find it strange that they selected Grover Gardner to narrate a book that is told almost exclusively from a woman’s point of view. All in all, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and cannot wait for Blackstone to release the rest of the series. 5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: I’d certainly recommend Barrayar to just about anybody who appreciates a good character-driven story, whether or not they typically read science fiction. Actually, I’d recommend the whole series to just about anybody – Barrayar follows closely on the heels of Shards of Honor, and not a lot of summary or explanation is provided, so they really should be read in order. But they’re both such wonderful books that I don’t think anybody should miss out on either one.
First Line: I am afraid. Cordelia’s hand pushed aside the drape in the third floor parlour window of Vorkosigan House.
Cover Thoughts: Eh, it make sense in the context of the book, but it doesn’t really grab me, either.
This review was originally published at SFsite.com.