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Barrayar (2003)

Barrayar (2003)

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4.3 of 5 Votes: 2
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0743468414 (ISBN13: 9780743468411)
gardners books

About book Barrayar (2003)

Fantasy Review BarnMinor spoilers of Shards of Honor are possible, you have been warned.Wow, what a wonderful book. This just blows its predecessor out of the water. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Shards of Honor quite a bit. (And I realize that technically this is not the second book of the series, but it was packaged this way in my omnibus and who am I to argue?) I thought Bujold’s first book was full of heart, with a protagonist that quickly was proving to be a favorite. It was a page turner, a sci-fi book that read like a light fantasy; but it is managed to show a bit of depth beneath its light exterior.But wow, amateur hour compared to Barrayar. This book showed several fronts, all in about three hundred pages, and each storyline got the depth it deserved without ever becoming real convoluted. A wonderfully funny start; Cordelia trying to fit in to her new place in a society that is alien to her. The relationship she shares with Aral, her husband, is absolutely perfect. Flirty and playful, occasional fights that don’t cause pages of brooding, with give and take from both sides. The story starts out as a fish out of water story as Cordelia navigates the court and learns what goes with her husband’s new position as regent to the boy emperor. Several favorite scenes come to mind, but the one where she tries to catalog all the unwritten rules about who can talk about sex to whom is one of the funniest passages I have read all year. But just as I sit wondering if this supposed sci-fi book was going to be all dinner parties and playful banter a simmering pot boils over and the book quite naturally takes a new turn. An attempted coop moves the book down two incredibly interesting paths; the political side of what is happening and the adventure that goes with it. The politics were light but worth following, dealing mostly with Aral and what he needs to do to retake control. The adventure portions did what they needed to; keeping me turning pages at a furious pace to ensure everyone is going to be alright. This isn’t real dark fiction with a huge body count, but survival was not guaranteed for all characters and the danger felt real.Where this book shines though is in characters. Trite to say, I know, but true. Outside of a few all too evil types all the adventures and plot twists seem to give at least one, sometimes several, characters just a bit more life. People act like people, not characters in a book, which I must admit even some of my favorite authors have trouble bringing across. Cordelia watches a conversation from afar and makes up her own dialog in her head. Not only was it hilarious, but it is totally something I have done when bored. Her fight for her unborn son will resonate with any parent; the way she project that protective nature on to another’s child (and the way she wasn’t the only one to do so) was heartwarming to say the least. I will have to see how the series develops, but two books in Cordelia has quickly become one of my favorite characters.Much like the first book I could care less about Aral Vorkosigan, one of the few week points of the book as he often acted as Cordelia’s straight man, so instead I will focus on the background cast. Bothari specifically was incredible. A mentally damaged man with a horrible past, yet his fierce loyalty to Cordelia and awareness of his own issues make him a person one can’t help but like, yet pity. Never does a reader forget the man’s past and capabilities for more issues to come, but every time he shows the fortitude to get past his limitations it feels like a victory. Contrast Bothari, who is physically a superman but mentally a mess, with Koudelka who must come to terms with the fact that he will never physically be what he once was. Yet another plot line that could have felt trite if not played right, but for once I bought completely that he had to see himself as others saw him to understand things would be all right.A book with great characters who feel more real throughout, a surprising amount of humor, and a pace that just didn’t slow down. Seriously, Bujold deserves all the praise she gets. I started with her fantasy, but this series has won another convert in me.5 Stars. I am not sure the book did anything real unique or groundbreaking (though it is old, so maybe at the time it was groundbreaking). But I sure enjoyed the hell out of it.

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father. As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life (so far).Two books from Bujold’s epic sci-fi series, The Vorkosigan Saga, won the Locus Sci-Fi Award in the mid-90s. Barrayar in ’92 and Mirror Dance in ’95. Despite being published just a few years apart, within the chronology of The Vorkosigan Saga, the two stories fall at opposite ends of the spectrum – Barrayar is (chronologically) book two of the series, and Mirror Dance is book nine: Barrayar focuses on Cordelia at the time of Miles’ birth, and Mirror Dance focuses on Marc (Miles’ clone-brother) as a grown man.I think it was the names that made me initially sceptical. Vorkosigosioisi-whatsit, doesn’t exactly trip off your tongue, nor does Bararayarra. The covers looked so cheesy I thought they’d attract mice quicker than bookworms…Oh, I was such a fool! I loved Mirror Dance. It was heaps of fun! As I mentioned in my review of that book – I love long series (big fan of Discworld and Dresden Files) – so the idea of quality sci-fi series had major appeal to me. I got excited. I would’ve gladly ploughed straight into Barrayar next, but I’d already ordered my next batch of books beforehand, so I had to blitz through Brin’s Uplift Saga trilogy first. Then I faced a dilemma – Barrayar or Speaker for the Dead? I felt confident that Bujold would deliver, but I hadn’t yet given Card a chance – oh what a pickle!I read Speaker first, and it was good enough to stop me itching for Barrayar . But I had my happy-face on when we eventually got our time together!Someone should have warned me though – this is the story of how Cordelia, pregnant with Miles, gets hit with a ‘Soltoxin’ bio-warfare grenade in the midst of a civil war. Her and Aral (her husband) get the antidote and are fine – but not the baby. This is the book that explains Miles’ stunted growth and ‘mutie’ appearance in later books. This is not the ideal book to read when your own wife is heavily pregnant with your first child!Or maybe it is. Bujold has a couple of kids and from her writing I feel confident that she’s a great Mum – Cordelia certainly is. I think I empathised with Cordelia more than I could have before facing parenthood myself. I was trying to push my life in a new direction, to build for a family and future - and Cordelia is struggling to adapt to a new planet and culture as she plans for her family. Some of the echoes struck deep, and sometimes that made me uncomfortable. I loved Mirror Dance as amazing, fun sci-fi. I was expecting more in that vein here – I wasn’t expecting to feel worried and aching inside.I’ve mentioned in other reviews that my best experiences with books are when they live up to and exceed my expectations. When they’re not what I expected, when I feel blindsided or ill prepared, I sometimes struggle to enjoy the immersion as much. This is one reason I used to be so cautious with new authors. Barrayar is a tremendous book. A thoughtful start, building to a gripping, page-turning climax; a wonderful grasp of characters and a tightly plotted scenario. Really, it should be a 5-star read.But because it made me feel stressed, because it made me worry about my baby – how I would feel if there was something wrong with him, something they’d missed in the scans, something they couldn’t foresee ‘till he was born – I kept jarring myself out of the story and can only give it 4-stars.I’ve since continued to read (and very much enjoy) The Vor Game, and was recently given another three Vorkosigan books for my birthday – so I shall definitely, enthusiastically, be continuing with the series.

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I live 90 minutes away from where I work. My commute involves a minibus, 2 MTR lines (Hong Kong's subway), and a company shuttle. I don't usually mind the trip so much, however, because of audiobooks. Print books make me queasy and they don't work with a packed metro car, but audiobooks are lovely ear-ambrosia for the weary traveler. Recently I've been diluting my literary commutes by playing some iPhone games for work (I make games hooray) while I listen to books for pleasure. Some books don't suffer from divided attention. I read Warbreaker this way and very much enjoyed it. Barrayar is not one of these books. I discovered that when I was partially distracted, I didn't like it all that much. But when I listened lying back on my couch with my eyes closed, I absolutely loved it. When I soaked my brain in the juices of Bujold's thoughtful characters and dynamic situations, it became a delicious brain pickle.I still mixed up all of the stupid names, though. My head continues to buzz with assorted Vorbarras and Vormaldehydes.

Barrayar is the sequel to Shards of Honour. As much as I enjoyed the first book, Barrayar is noticeably more polished. There are no space battles this time round, but the political intrigue is really ramped up in the first half of the book as Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan find themselves in the role of Regent of the Barrayan empire and protectors of the child emperor Gregor. The death of the former Emperor Ezar leaves a power vacuum that threatens to tear the planet as well as the new Vorkosigan family apart. The plots and treacheries build and then explode into violence in the second half of the story and former Captain Cordelia Naismith finds herself once again fighting for her life as well as for the lives of those she loves.For all the intrigue and action, this book still remains a light read. The plot isn't that convoluted, the story isn’t that deep, and the characters aren’t that complex. But where the book succeeds is in telling the story of the POV character, Cordelia, in a way that had me cheering her on, hating those who hurt her, and generally making me want to reach through the pages and swear my allegiance to the Regent consort Vorkosigan. Hand me that plasma arc and I'll melt the bastards' faces off for you...milady. An all round good yarn. I look forward to continuing the series with Cordelia’s son Miles Vorkosigan.4 stars.
—David Sven

This book is a "fill in the gap", and shows it a little in its structure. Bujold wrote "Shards of Honor" and then went on to write "The Warrior's Apprentice" and other books, then later went back and wrote "Barrayar" to complete the 'arc' of Aral and Cordelia's romance with the birth of Miles.Cordelia Naismith, having many reservations about Barrayar's backward warrior culture, has come to the planet and married Aral Vorkosigan, a retired soldier with a chequered past planning a quiet life with children. That plan was probably never going to come off as quietly as hoped, given Aral's background, but leaps right over the cliff of not-going-to-happen when the dying Emperor appoints Aral Regent for his four-year-old grandson.The first half of this novel is Cordelia's slow settling in as 'modern' wife of planetary Regent. Formerly an astrogator, and now in a society which calls women "frills" when they're being impolite, Cordelia has little interest in being some kind of society hostess, yet few other occupations open to her except 'gestating' (which she gets down to right away, while her husband is off being very busy).There is some frustration in reading this opening half. Cordelia is very inactive, and while she encourages Aral to be Regent because it would be good for him psychologically, she doesn't seem to allow herself to understand or engage with what she's gotten herself into. The scene with her casual conversation with Vordarian, for instance, is an exercise in idiocy. She never seems to think of people as potential enemies unless they actually do something obviously negative.The other frustration for me was the Kou and Drou romance. While fine overall, (view spoiler)[Kou's confession/apology for "raping" Drou totally messes with enjoyment. It's a scene played for mild laughs, but I spent ages disengaged from their romance because, if taken at face value, damaged Kou finally gets an erection, and jumps on the nearest female without regard for her consent, because he was so overjoyed to have a boner and somewhere warm to put it. I eventually decided (for my own sanity's sake) that we are meant to understand that Kou didn't really think he'd raped her until their mutual avoidance afterwards led him to decide that she mustn' have wanted him to have sex with her after all. The 'rape confession', played on a lightly humorous note, should have been omitted. (hide spoiler)]

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