Lois McMaster Bujold
Shards of Honor (1986)
The setting is familiar. Humanity has spread to the stars; FTL travel by way of wormhole jumps has provided the means to populate many worlds; politicial union, if there ever was one, has long since deteriorated; social systems, and by now even the respective histories of the many colony worlds, are quite different, leading to a state of affairs rich in underhanded politics and both cold and heated wars. Such is the common universe of most of Lois McMaster Bujold's works, to which we are introduced through Shards of Honor. I found it more than a little reminiscent of Poul Anderson's later Flandry novels or Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium.
The novel follows the subdued romance between Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan. A woman and a man of very different upbringings and backgrounds, yet drawn to each other, they have to meet as opponents in a war involving their respective worlds, and as allies in the savage struggles for power that are afflicting Vorkosigan's home planet. Naismith is a scientist from Beta Colony, a world we learn little about but which seems to correspond to our current Western democracies. Vorkosigan is a career officer, a member of the military cast and aristocracy on Barrayar, a world of quasi-feudalism, which turns its violent inner struggles into an expansionist war. The title of the novel refers to one of the few things still worth fighting for.
Enriching the standard space opera there is a plethora of intrigues, chicanery, and betrayal, but also Bujold's mild-mannered humor, good characterization, and the tender love affair between the protagonists. Shards of Honor is an eminently readable novel but lacks any originality.
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