Vorkosigan Saga: Shards of Honor
September 11, 2018 11:24 AM - by Lois McMaster Bujold - Subscribe

When Cordelia Naismith and her Beta Colony survey crew are attacked on a newly-discovered world by a renegade patrol from the militaristic world of Barrayar, she is taken prisoner by Aral Vorkosigan, commander of the Barrayan ship and victim of a mutiny himself. Together, Aral and Cordelia must work to survive an alien ecology, deadly feudal intrigue and an uneasy mutual admiration.

Shards of Honor is the first novel in Lois McMasters Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, various bits of which have been nominated for Hugos, Nebulas and other SFnal awards over the last 32 years.
posted by infinitewindow (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Ooh! The Vorkosigan Saga was instrumental in changing how I thought about science fiction. Looking forward to this!
posted by Mogur at 12:04 PM on September 11, 2018

This read like a first novel to me, and not a first published novel, but a first novel first novel by a talented but inexperienced writer. It's a bit like a Gothic romance in a silvery jumpsuit rather than a black wool cape. Having said that, the two leads are both believable and compelling in their own small ways, enough to forgive both the too-big-to-believe deeds both accomplish in the story, as well as the ehhhness of much of the supporting characters. Aral and Cordelia work very, very well together, and it's not too much of a spoiler to say that their early relationship is an excellent foundation for the rest of the Saga.

These novels and stories were originally published out of chronological order. I'm open to ideas of which work to discuss next (Barrayar is my preferred choice, but "Aftermaths" or Falling Free could work as well). If you want to discuss the best reading order or other meta Vor lore, head on over to vor_club, and let's chat.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:29 PM on September 11, 2018

Best modified Trek fanfic ever!

Is skip SF to the way up to Komarr or even A Civil Campaign, honestly.
posted by happyroach at 2:09 PM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oooooh, did this story really emerge from a heavily-modded Star Trek fan fic? Vorkosigan definitely seems like a Klingonesque name, and Barrayar definitely seems like a Romulan-type society. I was 7 when this was published, a good twenty years after the original series was in prime time, and the Klingon and Romulan civilizations have been expanded in canon and licensed works very much over the past forty years in ways that are incompatible with the Saga as published. This makes it very difficult for me to see anything more specific than an SF/romance "sexy capable people from two different worlds collide" plot.

On the subject of reading and posting order, there's a thread in Vor Club, but the gist is, post a thread for the story you want to discuss regardless of order and don't worry so much about spoilers, because the series is over 30 years old and tends to spoil itself anyway.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:53 PM on September 11, 2018

I was getting a little snarky. The truth is rather more complex, x CD illustrated an author's creative process: Was Shards of Honor ever a Star Trek fanfic?

I may just post a thread for A Civil Campaign, because to my this is Miles being his Milesiest.
posted by happyroach at 3:08 PM on September 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

It is awesome that she asked herself the question on GoodReads.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:12 PM on September 11, 2018

ugh I am as bad at spelling McMaster as I am at spelling refridgerator
posted by infinitewindow at 3:26 PM on September 11, 2018

Oh man, the timing is perfect on this for me! I resolved sometime last year to read pretty exclusively authors that were not straightwhitecismen, but did not find that it diminished my appetite for SF/pulp/noir/etc. one bit. What a delight to be pushed thereby to discover the Vorkosigan saga -- Bujold is SO GOOD at so many things. Few authors can craft pulse-racing action sequences, super-twisty plots, ever-deepening characters, tear-inducing emotional moments, AND fascinating hard-SF concepts -- she constantly astounds me.

It's a particularly...impactful day for me to be reminded of this delightful introduction to Miles' forebears, that sets up so much of the base he operates from throughout -- just yesterday I finished Cryoburn. (Oh man, that last line.) I see what IW is saying about it having the clumsy, enthusiastic, not exactly tightly plotted feel of a first novel, but it's still charming to my read and contains all the seeds of the saga's overall preoccupations, as I perceive them -- reproduction, politics, trauma and recovery, scientific wonder, and romance. Also, Cordelia and Aral are just so fucking badass, and they stay that way throughout the series, which helps to make Miles' manic genius more believable.

My vote would also be for Barrayar next. I don't think there's much reason to read Falling Free until immediately before Diplomatic Immunity. That way the quaddie cultural origins will be fresh in our minds when Miles visits their realm.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 3:49 PM on September 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

This isn't my favorite book in the series (that title probably goes to "Memory") but this series is my favorite of all time. I re-read them all a year or two ago, I might even read them again since these threads are here.

Also vote for Barrayar next, and follow Bujold's chronology that is printed in the back of some of the books.

Aside from these first two books, I pretty much read the rest as they came out, and so the series has been with me since just after high school.
posted by mmoncur at 8:23 PM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oooh I'll be following this run of threads, I love Cordelia and Miles as characters. Looking forward to Cordelia's shopping trip and all the rest.
posted by invisible_al at 4:03 AM on September 12, 2018

One downside to reading a lot of an author's work is you start to run into patterns you just can't unsee. Bujold really likes writing May-December relationships when there's a female protagonist. I also second putting Barrayar after this one - they really do belong together.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:13 AM on September 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I really need to reread this whole series. I stalled somewhere halfway because I got distracted but I remember loving Cordelia so much I can get really impatient when the narrative leaves her, which once it settled on Miles, of course. And I was really looking forward to starting the recent one with her and Aral's aide.
posted by cendawanita at 6:02 AM on September 13, 2018

Yeah, they might not be high art (whatever that means), but they're easy and engaging reads. I think I polished off like 7 on a camping trip one week. The last few have sort of lost a bit of the swashbuckling adventure romps in favor of something like high court drama, but they're still telling interesting stories.
posted by Kyol at 7:14 AM on September 13, 2018

I honestly think this is still her best book (although I would rank A Civil Campaign close after.)
posted by kyrademon at 8:11 AM on September 13, 2018

If you liked Cordelia as a character, then you should also read Paladin of Souls. It's from another of her series (World of the Five Gods), but it involves another awesome female protagonist. The ending is a little weak, but otherwise it's a great fantasy romp, and an interesting study of a character type we don't normally see.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 11:21 AM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think the Vorkosigan universe and then The World of Five Gods series won back to back "best series" Hugos when that category was added. I love them and enjoy rereading them.
posted by puddledork at 1:29 PM on September 13, 2018

I devoured this series, along with all her other books, within the last two years. Bingeing the Vorkosigan Saga (in order by the chronology in the back of this book) was a really good way to see how her characters grow and evolve. It also amazed me that she wrote them out of order, and yet the character development stayed on point. I really wish I had it in me to re-read them again so soon, since they get all sort of jumbled in my brain. Excellent series, though, for anyone who hasn't read them yet.
posted by gemmy at 9:20 PM on September 13, 2018

I also got really into the series, but after a while (5 or so books in, I think by internal chronological order) I noticed that there were almost no people of color as protagnoists and once I saw it I couldn't unsee it and that was the end of that for me.
posted by coolname at 11:46 PM on October 19, 2018

I may just post a thread for A Civil Campaign, because to my this is Miles being his Milesiest.

ACC is my favourite, but I think you need Miles in AWA, VG, even Cetaganda - and definitely "Borders of Infinity" - to really understand Miles in ACC.

That said, I would have been fascinated to start the series blank with Komarr, and see Miles (primarily) through Ekaterina's eyes. Even knowing him so well, I saw new things because the vision steps out of his head.
posted by jb at 5:11 AM on October 17, 2019

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