Friday, March 25, 2016

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

It's hard to believe that I never got round to writing about some of the early books in the Vorkosigan saga, but it appears that Memory came out during the early days of this blog, and I never went full retro, as I did with Cole & Bunch's Sten novels. I recently finished Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, and it led me to re-read Shards of Honor (and continue through to Barrayar) in a moment of temporary new novel drought, as I had copies on my tablet ready to hand.

There are certain stories which I cannot read without sentimental tears coming to my eyes at times, and Bujold has written a fair number of them. A Civil Campaign is the weepiest one for me, but Shards did a pretty good number on me, too, and as I mentioned before, I began grieving for Aral all over again while reading Gentleman Jole. Crazy thing is, Shards used to be my least favorite story in the series. But I began by reading The Warrior's Apprentice when I was in my twenties, and now I'm in Cordelia's demographic. Odd, that.

This is, at the moment, the true beginning of the story. Captain Naismith is in charge of a peaceful survey expedition on an uninhabited planet (later named Sergyar), which is attacked by a small Barrayaran force which has arrived to garrison the planet and prepare a stockpile for their invasion of Escobar (we find this out over the course of the first half of the book). Also caught up in the scuffle is Captain Aral Vorkosigan, a man of strong personal integrity who has run afoul of the secret political police, and who is assaulted by one of his own crew and assumed to be dead, though  it turns out the conspirators really didn't truly understand the motivations of the man they picked to murder him.

Cordelia is left with one crew member dead and another nerve-damaged, when Aral arrives on the scene to make her his prisoner, technically, though the relationship soon develops into something far different. Together they journey for a week or so, facing the dangers of an untamed planet, followed by the dangers of untamed Barrayaran soldiers. Aral retakes command of his ship, but is forced to fight against another round of mutineers, and Cordelia manages to flee to freedom in the confusion.


Cordelia is now the commander of a top secret mission to supply the Escobaran forces with a secret weapon, a force shield which will reflect the Barrayaran (space) navy's weapons straight back at their own ships. The mission is successful, but she and her crew are captured by the Barrayarans and she is taken aboard the flagship as a prisoner - again. The fleet is commanded by Admiral Vorrutyer and Prince Serg, heir to the Imperium. These two are well suited to partner up, as they are both sexual sadists, and Cordelia is dismayed to learn that Vorrutyer has taken a personal interest in her, but she is rescued in a surprising manner, and then encounters Aral again on the same ship.

I don't want to say too much more, cause there's plenty of spoilers, but I think we all know the end of the story, if we've been reading Bujold for a while.

One little note that made me laugh out loud was when Cordelia bamboozles a pilot officer into smuggling her off of Beta Colony, one step ahead of the authorities. The pilot officer's name will be very familiar to anyone who has read The Warrior's Apprentice, and we wonder why the man didn't run screaming the minute he heard the name, Naismith.

Great story. Barrayar to follow.

No comments: