Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cordelia's Honor; L.M. Bujold

This is an omnibus edition comprised of Shards of Honor and Barrayar both originally published in 1986 and 1991 respectively. I borrowed this from the library, as the Vorkosigan saga has quite a large cast and my book budget is tight. I first read Ms. Bujold's short story telling of Miles' marriage & the love life of one Sgt. Taura in Irresistable Forces. I decided to find her other material- initially concentrating on the Vorkosigan family & not on her new Chalion series .

The series is set up around Miles Vorkosigan & his adventures, very similar to mystery series in the sense that they weren't written in internal chronolgical order (meaning starting at the beginning of Miles' life & moving forward). I was advised to begin with this volume as it details Miles' parents' courtship & also relates signifigant background material (such as how Miles became physically deformed).

Cordelia Naismith, a Betan native, is on a planetary exploration mission when her scientific crew is ambushed and killed. The only survivor, she is taken prisoner by one Aral Vorkosigan, of the planet Barrayar. Now, the planet Beta seems to be to be similar to Europe socially. Liberal, well eduacted, high standard of living, slightly condescending to anyone not from Beta. Barrayar, OTOH, is emerging from a long period of galactic isolation & as a result it culturally, politically & socially backward when compared with other planets. Barrayar is given to violent political strife & its people are very agressive & seem to have a chip on their shoulder because they are often looked down upon.

Barrayar has claimed this planet, but not announced this fact to other planets. Thus Cordelia's scientific mission is viewed as an 'invasion' despite the fact that no one knows the Barrayarans have claimed the place. On these grounds Aral takes Cordelia prisoner. They then come under attack from Aral's people. Now they must evade Aral's people, keep a desperately wounded man alive, overcome the attempted coup & get up to Aral's ship.

What follows is a convoluted space adventure complicated by politics, war, honor and extreme cultural differences. Cordelia views Aral's culture as backward, violent & warmongering, but this is tempered by her appreciation for his values & behavior. Aral appreciates Cordelia as his equal intellectually & the fact that her sense of honor is at least as great as his even if she often approaches decisions from the opposite viewpoint. I definitely had a sense that Cordelia & Aral liked each other perhaps lusted after each other, but weren't really together enough initially to develop a strong relationship.

Not until after they marry does Cordelia begin to appreciate how much responsability Aral has or how dangerous his life is. Ms. Bujold, in the second half, does an excellent job portraying Cordelia's troubles adjusting to the reality of being a political wife, learning to get along with Aral's father, the lack of privacy, her concerns that Aral is overworked & overstressed & underappreciated. Cordelia's feelings of cultural isolation & bewilderment are apropos too. Being a Yankee & living across the South for nearly twenty years now, I completely related to Cordelia feeling culturally lost. Because they were both adults entering into the relationship, there is a minimum of angst which I was thankful for. Cordelia married Aral with her eyes open, if not fully informed.

Now that I'm up on Miles' parents, his family & political background, the reasons for his disabilities, etc. I'm ready to continue glomming Ms. Bujold's Vorkosigan series. Via her website I read there is another Miles book coming late 2008 or perhaps 2009. The third Chalion book, The Hallowed Hunt is out as well.


Rosario said...

I've read only Shards of Honor, so far, and I agree with your assessment. I meant to read Barrayar immediately, and then continue to the Miles books, but I had more trouble than I expected getting Barrayar, so it's been a few years. Now I've managed to get a copy, so I should probably start again by rereading SOD!

Bookwormom said...

I don't know if they're still pubbed singly, to be honest. I think finding the omnibus may be easier. I'd send you this one, except the library wouldn't like it. LOL

Rosario said...

Oh, no, don't worry, I did finally get a copy! But the thought is much appreciated :-)