Tatiana's Reviews > Shards of Honor

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
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it was ok
bookshelves: 2012, sci-fi, romancelandia
Recommended for: read Le Guin's "Four Ways to Forgiveness" instead

Maybe one is spoiled for sci-fi forever after reading Ursula K. Le Guin? Maybe Le Guin is as good as it gets? Because Lois McMaster Bujold is supposed to be one of the best sci-fi writers, Hugo-awarded, etc., and yet, I don't see anything of note in this sample of her work.

Shards of Honour is painfully reminiscent of Maria V. Snyder's later books (anything written after Poison Study really). In a way that this novel has a promising plot, but is suffocated by the superficiality and blandness of characters and world-building.

Two mature adults belonging to vastly different civilizations (one - militaristic and rigid, and another - humane and liberal) romance each other and battle through various political conspiracies. What can go wrong?

I'll tell you what. First, the fact that this novel is, essentially, a sci-fi romance. The romance is dressed with a lot of pseudo-sci-fi details, but, still, a marriage is proposed within 5 days of the meeting and worlds are turned upside down for love here. Whatever.

Second, it is possible that I am not very familiar with space-opera subgenre of sci-fi, but if Shards of Honour is a fair representation of it, I am never picking up anything like this again. Basically, you have people jumping from one spaceship onto another overtaking power and talking at length about political intrigue. Yawn.

And third, going back to Maria V. Snyder, there are certain tropes used in Shards of Honour that I remember seeing in Snyder's work on annoyingly multiple occasions, such as the heroine of motherly, do-no-wrong type and her being kidnapped over and over, the obligatory rapey, torturing villain, etc.

So yeah, I wasn't impressed with this book. There is a similar story called Forgiveness Days in Ursula K. Le Guin's collection Four Ways to Forgiveness. Read that instead.
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Reading Progress

December 30, 2011 – Started Reading
December 30, 2011 – Shelved
December 30, 2011 –
January 1, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012
January 1, 2012 – Shelved as: sci-fi
January 1, 2012 – Shelved as: romancelandia
January 1, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

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message 1: by Catie (new)

Catie Yeah! You got right on that!

Tatiana Yep, while it's on my mind. There'd better be some sexy times in this one!

message 3: by Catie (new)

Catie I have no idea! But I will hope for it on your behalf. ;)

message 4: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Hartman [Racks brain trying to remember if there's sexy times. Suspects no. Quietly creeps out of room...]

Tatiana Oy. This is going the romancy way right now, so I'll be sad nothing comes out of it:(

message 6: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea Bujold's SF is fade-to-black iirc. Love the series though.

Tatiana Andrea wrote: "Bujold's SF is fade-to-black iirc. Love the series though."

They do fall in love though, right? I can deal with fade-to-black.

message 8: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea Oh, definitely. Lovely clash of cultures romance. And then, of course, there's their precocious kid. :)

message 9: by Thoraiya (new)

Thoraiya Thanks for taking another one for the team. I was starting to feel left out by all the Bujold-worship around me and was looking to try something of hers. But space opera is not my thing :(

message 10: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Hartman LOLz. All right, let me just shake off the vague embarrassment attendant upon recommending a book to someone that they end up not liking.


There we go. You're making me think I should read this again. It's been a long time, and some things just don't age well. What was awesome in the late 80s may very well not be awesome anymore; these things happen.

I would just like to plead the case of Space Opera, however, and enjoin upon you to talk to someone who really loves the genre and has deep knowledge of it (Phoebe North comes to mind) before writing it off for good. I'm feeling like I've done a disservice to a whole genre of books, here, if MY recommendation - of a book I read almost two decades ago, in a genre I don't usually read - is going to be the basis for categorical scorn.

message 11: by Tatiana (last edited Jan 01, 2012 04:28PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tatiana Oh please, Rachel, don't feel bad. I'd been eyeing this author for awhile and your rec just encouraged me to finally give her a try. As you probably know I will testdrive almost any genre or author, which causes me to abandon and give up on many before I find just the right thing.

I'll look into space operas again. So far though they've been disappointing. Orson Scott Card, Lois McMaster Bujold, Robert A. Heinlein are clearly not my cup of tea. There must be more.

message 12: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea Space opera is one of those things that works for some and not for others. [Though if it's purely that this particular volume is primarily "space romance" then you'd probably like the Miles books more, since they're more space adventure and then get rather complex.] Try "Borders of Infinity" if you're willing to give the genre/Bujold another shot.

message 13: by Jay Z (new)

Jay Z yep, ursula ruins you for life. there is no sci-fi author that comes close to even the outer peripheries of her brilliance. horribly melodramatic, but yeah.

Tatiana Jay Z wrote: "yep, ursula ruins you for life. there is no sci-fi author that comes close to even the outer peripheries of her brilliance. horribly melodramatic, but yeah."

That's very sad to know:(

message 15: by Buka (new) - rated it 3 stars

Buka Sad to see you miss out on such a great series without even meeting its main character (who, by the way, is so different from his parents). But then, I had similar issues with Shards of Honor myself - managed to finish it only on my third attempt. Looking back now, I'm really glad, I decided to try the next book... and then opened the next one right away, and then became throughly hooked.

It changed from predictableness of Shards of Honor to stories and thoughts I know I would never be able to come up with on my own. The best kind of stories for me. And I'm not talking about shiny spaceships or technologies here.
Also it's a pure joy to read about someone getting his way through sheer will- and brainpower, wit and charisma for a change. :)

I don't want to force these books on you but if you or someone else reading this decide to give Bujold (and Miles) another chance, maybe you should try her short stories about Miles. One of them - Mountains of Mourning - is offered as a free read on Baen website and it's as non-spaceoperish as it can get and is considered to be one of the best Bujold's works by many fans (though personally I like The Borders of Infinity more - one defenseless, naked - virtually - physically deformed man and ten thousand prisoners who lost all hope. What would it take for him to get them out of inpenetrable prison?).

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

I pretty much hate when people say this, so fair warning, but the next book ramps up the personal/political with a fury, and the ending stands as one of my faves in scifi. But...it might not work for you, and that's fair.

message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Also, UKL ftw.

Tatiana Ceridwen wrote: "I pretty much hate when people say this, so fair warning, but the next book ramps up the personal/political with a fury, and the ending stands as one of my faves in scifi. But...it might not work f..."

Ah, so the series gets good at book 2? LOL. But seriously, I have read that the second one is much better than the first, and I would be interested in giving the author another try if my issues with Shards were only plot-related. It's more of... her writing style is not pleasing. Normally there is no getting over this for me.

message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Yeah, see? It's a horrible thing to say. Read more of this thing you don't like to get to this thing I like!

I don't think the style changes much between 1 & 2, so you probably won't like it either. :-)

message 20: by Luke (new) - rated it 4 stars

Luke I believe this was her first book. That might help explain the difference between this and say the "curse of chalion"

message 21: by Harold (new)

Harold Ogle Me, I don't know why anyone would read this book except as a completionist. I always recommend people start with The Warrior's Apprentice and not look back. That said, the series is primarily military SF (I'm surprised that anyone would call it space opera), and many people fervently dislike the military SF sub-genre (which includes Ender's Game, in case that's the only Card you've read).

message 22: by Ajax (new)

Ajax Plunkett Shards of Honor was written and published well before Snyder and her books were thought of. T is possible to say Snyder ripped off Bujold.

message 23: by Harold (new)

Harold Ogle I realized that, in my earlier comment, I said that this is not space opera but is military SF, but I didn't give examples of actual space opera. Alistair Reynolds, Neil Asher, Iain Banks, and Peter Hamilton all write space opera as modern authors. Some classic space opera authors are E.E. Doc Smith and Jack Williamson.

Joshua Thanks for the tip Harold. I remember as a teenage member of SFBC that the Vorgosigan Saga was one of their darlings. Reading this book was kind of a WTF? I'll skip ahead to the books that feature Miles as the protagonist. If they are as mediocre, bad even, as this book, I'll have to take a closer look at what was available in scifi in the eighties, because the popularity of this series would be inexplicable.

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