Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels discussion

Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga, #7)
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Challenges - Discussion > Vokosigan 2 -- Barrayar

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message 1: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 3782 comments Mod
following in Z's footsteps, in case any are ready to talk about this one

Feel free to make your own folders if we get behind


message 2: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3730 comments Mod
I'm already in the middle and I like it!


message 3: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 3782 comments Mod
It's a Hugo winner, you know

Of course you like it


Antti Värtö (andekn) | 802 comments I've read 2/3 and it's good. I'm not sure if I like it more than Shards, though.


message 5: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3730 comments Mod
Antti wrote: "I've read 2/3 and it's good. I'm not sure if I like it more than Shards, though."

Yes, they are different in style and plot. It is more concentrated on Cordelia feelings and her desire both to follow norms of her new society and keep herself independent (not exactly... to be seen as an equal maybe). Her approach is different from a lot of more recent SFF that deal with women's rights, less angry and more conciliatory I'd say


Antti Värtö (andekn) | 802 comments Oleksandr wrote: "desire both to follow norms of her new society and keep herself independent (not exactly... to be seen as an equal maybe)"

I really like the relationship between Cordelia and Aral: they are not co-dependent or fret about the other's feelings: they are equal and independent. At the same time they have the same general goals in life and trust each other without question.

This is an ideal marriage, right here, but not unrealistic. There's just not any unnecessary drama: making Cordelia doubt her relationship with Aral would be the easiest way to increase tension in the book, but LMB doesn't go down that road, and the book is better because of that.

What I would've liked to see a bit more were situations where Cordelia commits a faux pas in the Barrayaran society and has to deal with consequences. After all, she comes from a pretty different culture and doesn't keep her opinions to herself. The book implies that she has made quite some number of blunders, but there's no blowback: Cordelia doesn't cause any real trouble with her outlandish ideas. I felt this was a missed opportunity.


message 7: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3730 comments Mod
The quote that stresses the desires of Cordelia:

"An outworlder frill will never gain power on Barrayar by scheming to give a mutant the Imperium. That, I guarantee."
"Is that the official line, now? I don't want power. I just object to idiots having power over me."


message 8: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 3782 comments Mod
I love that line! . . . idiots having power over me. So true


message 9: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3730 comments Mod
There are quite a few good lines in this book!


Lee at ReadWriteWish (leeatreadwritewish) | 68 comments Just finished the book, a re-read for me and I still loved it.

LMB again builds the tension beautifully and there are so many fabulous cliffhangers! I think these first two books are such a fast read because you cannot just wait to find out how things are going to pan out for the characters.

I suppose the only bad point is that you know Miles survives, as he becomes the series lead.

I still really liked Aral's father even though he is an ass for a lot of the time. He's got a lot of Aral's characteristics actually; especially loyalty and intelligence when it comes to battle strategy (or, I suppose, Aral has a lot of his characteristics). I love the epilogue where you just know he's going to soften to Miles. (I've cast Christopher Plummer in this role in my head. LOL)

Aral and Cordelia again prove why I prefer reading books featuring mature romantic relationships. They are true equals. They are mentally *and* physically attracted to each other. And, especially highlighted in this installment I think, able to still have a measure of independence despite being wed. LMB doesn't give into the temptation of adding a love triangle or anything equally silly to add drama. And even when either has a moment of petty jealousy or anger towards the other, it's usually fleeting and with underlining reasons.

I enjoyed each and every reunion between Aral and Cordelia. They always acted exactly right. No ridiculous displays of public affection that would never suit them.

I really loved the bagged gift Cordelia brings him after she returns from retrieving Miles. And how she presents it! LOL!

On that note, I must say that even though there's characters being killed, I like how LMB shows the characters doing the killing are not unaffected.

I also liked Kou and Drou's romantic subplot; especially the humour it added. It's always nice to have a break from the drama and action. (Rhyming names though?)

I'm still not completely sure about Bothari. I know he's probably a fan favourite but I sometimes find his psychological issues unnecessary. For example, bringing up his uncontrollable lust for women, even heavily pregnant ones, made me really uncomfortable and also made me question his fitness to be a parent of a girl of any age. I know he's at least used in the next book (I've tried really hard to avoid spoilers of future books) but still, I'm not as enamoured with him as I am with the other characters.

I'm kind of in awe of LMB being able to go back in the universe's timeline and pick up the threads of Cordelia and Aral's storyline with a setting of the day after Shards, a book which she wrote in 1986, and have it all seem so perfect. I don't remember noticing one thing that felt out of place or inconsistent.

I realised, after putting in the new read date on my Goodreads bookshelf, that I originally read this 5 years ago and it's amazing how much I remembered quite clearly. I'm sure there would be books I've read 5 months ago which I wouldn't have the slightest recollection of their details. This isn't me becoming vague in my old age (surely not!) but the fact that I really adored these characters (then and now) and almost absorbed their story rather than merely reading it.

I still see a lot of similarities between Aral and Cordelia and Adama/Roslin in Battlestar Galactica, right down to them battling a mutiny together. I wonder if Ron Moore read this series...


Antti Värtö (andekn) | 802 comments Great points all around, Lee! I agree almost completely.

I actually felt bad for Cordelia for a second for losing her baby, until I remembered that her baby is Miles, the protagonist for all the rest of the Vorkosigan books, so obviously the kid will live, after all.

I was a bit surprised when (view spoiler)

Bothari is very interesting character, but not a nice one. I like him as a character in a book, but he's very messed up and he feels like he could turn into a villain at a moments notice.

In my edition there was an afterword by LMB where she describes how these books were born. Apparently when she was writing Shards she didn't really know where to stop, and the first third of Barrayar was written at the same time as Shards. Then she found the natural cutting point, shelved the rest of the story and remembered it years later when she started to contemplate writing a sequel to Shards. That's why Barrayar feels like such a natural continuation of the story began in the SoH.


message 12: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3730 comments Mod
Great comments, Lee, thank you very much for the detailed outline!

re Bothari, I agree that some of his issues seem a cop out for a specific point in the plot and not really in line with modern psychology I guess (I'm not a specialist). I cannot say that he has "uncontrollable lust for women, even heavily pregnant ones", it seems not the case with Cordelia (even when he proclaims that he is her dog) and quite smooth interaction with other women - Drou, Alys...


message 13: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 3782 comments Mod
Re the lust thing--maybe she should have made him shell shocked instead. But remembber, he's off his meds

Sorry abbout the stutter. I have a malfunctioning b key


Lee at ReadWriteWish (leeatreadwritewish) | 68 comments Perhaps that's why that scene is more jarring - when he lusts over Lady Vorpatril when she is in labour - because up to that point he has been behaving almost normally towards Cordelia and Drou. His being triggered and turned on by a rogue soldier thrusting towards her seemed odd. I suppose it was to highlight that he needed his meds and that people with real life issues (bipolar perhaps she might have been alluding to? I don't know) function quite well in society whilst on medication. The implication that he has little free thought and will do anything Cordelia tells him (her dog references) also left me uncomfortable. At least Cordelia admits her using him in this fashion is wrong. Just not my favourite part of the book anyway.

I forgot to mention, on a completely different tangent, that I love the sword stick. It's a great weapon. I know there's similar ones in scifi (and real life) but it's definitely one of my favourites.


Lee at ReadWriteWish (leeatreadwritewish) | 68 comments Antti wrote: "Great points all around, Lee! I agree almost completely.

I actually felt bad for Cordelia for a second for losing her baby, until I remembered that her baby is Miles, the protagonist for all the ..."


Oh, I didn't have that info regarding her writing it in my edition. That explains it. I also was looking at the incorrect publication date - I now see it was 1991 originally. I was looking at 2003, so I'm wrong all round. Even if she did write it afterwards, it's only 5 years in between, not the amount of time I was thinking. /idiot


message 16: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Santoro | 210 comments I can't believe the book was written years after the 1st one, with others in between... I'd never have guessed that! That's having a great grasp of your universe.

Cordelia is a far better role model as a female hero that most, she doesn't pretend to be a man or force anything, she just does what she thinks is right and forces people to judge her actions.. it's fantastic, and alot of modern writers could learn from it.

I love Bothari... yes, some of his scenes are rather uncomfortable, but that's the point. He's a reformed villain turned tragic hero in the best comic book tradition.

The epilogue, and our first view of the actual main character of the series, was pretty promising, but it's definitely going to be difficult to accept a generational time jump.

I want to read the book about how Aral puts a government together, and Gregor growing into Emperor.... I'm a bit sad that's not a thing that exists. (Maybe there are flashbacks...)

I also was a bit sad at the lack of mentioning what was happening in the larger universe... it seems unlikely that no one else would get involved in the civil war, yet that's exactly what happened. I get WHY for story reasons, but some sort of hand wave in story excuse would have been nice... maybe Cordelia calling home for medical help and getting refused because Beta was in a conflict with xxxx or whatever.


message 17: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva | 0 comments "I want to read the book about how Aral puts a government together, and Gregor growing into Emperor.... I'm a bit sad that's not a thing that exists. (Maybe there are flashbacks...)"

You'll definitely get a lot more of both of these characters. :-)

"Cordelia calling home for medical help"

If I remember correctly, then Cordelia is still a wanted criminal on Beta and cannot go back or ask them to do anything. They've also just been at war with Barrayar and probably don't want to risk another one by interfering in its internal affairs.


Lee at ReadWriteWish (leeatreadwritewish) | 68 comments Joe wrote: "I can't believe the book was written years after the 1st one, with others in between... I'd never have guessed that! That's having a great grasp of your universe.

Cordelia is a far better role mod..."


I've just started reading the next one and every Cordelia or Aral scene excites me. I think they'll always be my favourites.

I wonder if other planets were eager for them to wipe each other out. I think the implication is they are a very misunderstood society. Definitely Betans think they are almost barbaric.


message 19: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Santoro | 210 comments That's why I thought that if Cordelia appealed home for medical help she'd get it... yes, she's probably still wanted, but the Betan society she describes seems unlikely to refuse humanitarian aid.

Of course, her view could be a bit idealized... all the more reason for it to be in the story so we can see one way or the other.

I'm glad to her Cordelia and Aral still have a presence, because they are both great characters and I'm definitely not done with them yet ;)


message 20: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 3782 comments Mod
They occur at random intervals throughout and are always impressive. In fact, Cordelia is the main character in the very last book (so far.) Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. But people didn't like it much, including me. Only rated 3.81 and not nominated for anything.

I have not re-read it yet, and am looking forward to seeing if it grows on me, as Komarr did. Komarr's rated 4.30, though, so probably not.


Cordelia (anne21) | 57 comments Just finished. I liked this even more than the first book.


message 22: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 3782 comments Mod
Yes, it won the Hugo and the Nebula both, I think. I love that moment when Cordelia (view spoiler)

One of my favorite moments ever.


Allan Phillips | 2097 comments Mod
It won the Hugo and Locus SF, and was nominated for the Nebula.


message 24: by J.W. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.W. | 22 comments Kateblue wrote: "It's a Hugo winner, you know

Of course you like it"



Is that a jest? I've been on a quest to read all the Hugo Award winners/nominees (adding into that quest with Nebula/Locus now, as well), and there are some real stinkers in there! Tons of great reads, of course!


message 25: by J.W. (last edited Jan 30, 2020 07:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.W. | 22 comments [I TRIED TO TAG SPOILERS BUT FAILED MAYBE?]

This is a continuing re-read for me, a fresh read for my wife. She liked it enough to want to read the next few as well. I am about halfway through the book and was driving to work today when the scene with the poison gas happened and the cure ends up with them telling Cordelia her son will likely die. I was on the interstate (I have a decently long drive to work) and I was just devastated. So here I am trying to change lanes on the interstate as tears are streaming down my face. Wow, that is .... so poignant a scene.

It's so good.


Cordelia (anne21) | 57 comments Kateblue wrote: "Yes, it won the Hugo and the Nebula both, I think. I love that moment when Cordelia [spoilers removed]

One of my favorite moments ever."


Yes. It was great, wasn't it. I can just see their faces.


Cordelia (anne21) | 57 comments J.w. wrote: "[I TRIED TO TAG SPOILERS BUT FAILED MAYBE?]

This is a continuing re-read for me, a fresh read for my wife. She liked it enough to want to read the next few as well. I am about halfway through the..."


The narration is good, isn't it. I'm listening to it because it is the only version I can get without buying all the individual books. I'm really enjoying it - the narrator is great.


Lee at ReadWriteWish (leeatreadwritewish) | 68 comments I think I would have preferred if these two books were narrated by a female. After all, it's all from Cordelia's point of view. However, I did become more accustomed to the narrator by the second book (I swapped between listening and reading) and appreciate his timing and ability to wrap his tongue around all the Vor names.


message 29: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Santoro | 210 comments Kateblue wrote: "Yes, it won the Hugo and the Nebula both, I think. I love that moment when Cordelia [spoilers removed]

One of my favorite moments ever."


I totally agree! That was one for the ages. It's one of those moments where you what the book to be made into a TV/movie just to see it (though on a side note, with Game of Thrones I feel I was not careful enough as to what I wished for)


message 30: by Gabi (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gabi | 546 comments I've finally gotten around to read the second book. I'm not finished but nearing the finishing line. I can just chime in with everybody about the great characterisation of the female characters. Cordelia is a relief to read after all those wanna-be-badass-loudmouth females in books that get on my nerves by now. And Drou is very good as well.

As with the first book the story drags for me in parts. I just don't care for court intrigue/etiquette plots. I'm now at the point where Cordelia takes over the action and now it is real fun to read.


message 31: by Kalin (new) - added it

Kalin | 701 comments I blew through this book over the weekend. It was really, really great. I agree with Gabi that court intrigue/etiquette plots are not my thing (mentioned something similar in the Shards of Honor thread) but LMB really knows how to get the reader invested in the plot. Very much a "page turner." (view spoiler)

I also agree with basically everything Lee said in her comments. Really liked Kou and Drou.

Does Bothari remind anyone else of Amos (the Expanse)?


message 32: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3730 comments Mod
Kalin wrote: "Does Bothari remind anyone else of Amos (the Expanse)?."

Now that you've said it, yes, a little, but I picture Amos as much more talkative and Bothari as a silent one


Allan Phillips | 2097 comments Mod
I see Bothari as much more twisted, almost doing things automatically, struggling to stay in control. Amos has a criminal background but it's made him wise. I think he exerts less effort to control himself but can release the beast when he needs to.


message 34: by Antti (last edited Feb 17, 2020 08:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Antti Värtö (andekn) | 802 comments Amos and Bothari have very similar traumatizing experience from childhood: (view spoiler).

There was also a person called "Butcher of X" in both series, which makes me think these parallels are perhaps deliberate.


message 35: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3730 comments Mod
Antti wrote: "There was also a person called "Butcher of X" in both series, which makes me think these parallels are perhaps deliberate.."

IIRC there was Butcher of South Bressia on Hyperion and several real life generals e.g. The Madman and the Butcher: the Sensational Wars of Sam Hughes and General Arthur Currie


message 36: by Kalin (new) - added it

Kalin | 701 comments Also the Butcher of Blaviken! (Witcher)


message 37: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3730 comments Mod
Kalin wrote: "Also the Butcher of Blaviken! (Witcher)"

Oh, right, I've read it Polish and hasn't linked it in my mind!


message 38: by Nick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 137 comments I really enjoyed this one - I think the start was a little slow because there was a lot of setting up characters and situations but it was worth it (final Act was absolutely nail-biting) and the characters were more than enough to carry me through the quieter parts.

I agree with what everyone above says about Cordelia as a character, and how wonderful Cordelia and Aral are together. 😍

Regarding Bothari's unpleasant moment when Alys and Padma are captured, I didn't see it at all as his uncontrollable lust for women, even heavily pregnant ones. I thought from the previous book that Bothari had been conditioned, twisted, and used in some perverse sexual games, and Alys's extreme vulnerability triggered that conditioning. The important thing is that he overcame it!


message 39: by Eva (last edited Mar 02, 2020 01:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva | 0 comments Yes, exactly, it was like a messed-up Pavlovian response caused by trauma conditioning. It's just like rape victims who afterwards only feel attracted to people who look like their rapist, etc. - it must be very upsetting to feel that one's physiological responses have become so messed-up and I felt compassion for him.


message 40: by Kat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kat | 9 comments I agree with many things that have been said. Bothari is definitely an uncomfortable character, but I was less bothered by him in this novel than in the previous one, because he was treated in a more complex manner. But I agree he shouldn't have had the raising of a child in his hands! As to the moment when he feels lust for Alys, didn't he tell Cordelia earlier in the book that he got triggered by acting in a violent way himself? Which he had just done at Cordelia's request.

One more thing: I think the way we seen the culture of Barrayar--in many ways not unlike ours--through Betan eyes helps make that culture seem fresh instead of familiar. I loved the way Cordelia appreciated all the different things one can do in designing structures with exteriors.


message 41: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Santoro | 210 comments That's a great point... I mentioned this a bit in another of these threads, but it's nice that there's no direct analogue to any of our countries... so often in space opera (I'm looking at YOU David Weber ) the empires/planets/whatever are clearly particular countries... by not doing so, it's harder work (you have to develop it on your own) but it has a better sense of newness and wonder that I can really appreciate.


message 42: by Nick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 137 comments Kat wrote: "I loved the way Cordelia appreciated all the different things one can do in designing structures with exteriors."
I loved it when she started trying to make a list of Barrayan social/sexual taboos and it became a little injoke between her and Aral. It worked so well as a joke, and for showing us the world and their relationship.


Kirsten  (kmcripn) I love this book and Shards of Honor. I always wished there were more books with this pair.


message 44: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Santoro | 210 comments Now that I've read a few books, it's clear that the author is happy to hop around the timeline, so there's certainly still hope :)

I definitely want to read the story of how Aral solidifies power, and there are plenty of stories to tell of Cordelia trying to change Barrayarian society.


Kristenelle | 310 comments Lee wrote: "I think I would have preferred if these two books were narrated by a female. After all, it's all from Cordelia's point of view. However, I did become more accustomed to the narrator by the second b..."

Yes, completely agree. I was not a fan of the reader and would have preferred a woman since most of the book was from Cordelia's perspective.


Kristenelle | 310 comments I wasn't crazy about this one. It felt like reading a book about the middle ages set in space. Feudalism? Dresses? Sexism, duels, cruel punishments, lords and ladies... It's just not what I'm looking for in scifi.

Cordelia is ok. I agree with a lot of what others are saying about her being strong, independent without being perfect or masculine. I'm annoyed that she is so happy to go along with all the backwards stuff on Barrayar. She is from this much more progressive culture, but she is cool just being friends with ladies and princesses. It doesn't trouble her very deeply that she is benefitting from a feudal society. It just irked me. I wanted her to be more revolutionary on a world level rather than just a personal level.

I do love her and Aral's relationship. It is lovely.


message 47: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kateblue | 3782 comments Mod
Kristen wrote: "I'm annoyed that she is so happy to go along with all the backwards stuff on Barrayar. "

Maybe she is and maybe she's not . . .


message 48: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (last edited Jul 31, 2020 10:03PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Art | 2551 comments Mod
Antti wrote: "I've read 2/3 and it's good. I'm not sure if I like it more than Shards, though."

Not getting the hype either. But then again I'm not that far into the novel so far.

I'm glad that the pacing is somewhat slower, we get to learn more about Cordelia. Not sure if I'm excited about Bothari featuring so prominently in every second discussion, but I guess that may lead somewhere eventually.

Can't read the whole thread yet, spoilers abound! Can't wait to read what everyone else thought about it.


Caitlin O'Neill (ktdid42) | 102 comments finished this one today, I'm starting to really like this series. i also really like Cordelia and Arals relationship. its kind of sad but its the type of marriage i would like to have over a typical romance novel type of relationship any day.


message 50: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Acorn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3730 comments Mod
Caitlin wrote: " its kind of sad but its the type of marriage i would like to have over a typical romance novel type of relationship any day."

Fully agree


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