Apparently everyone is in a science fiction mood right now–or at least two of my favorite stores! Powell’s is celebrating Geek Week with a sale on science fiction/fantasy games and gifts, and Out of Print is running Book Madness with a sale on science fiction/fantasy shirts and accessories (I have the Wizard of Oz shirt and absolutely love it). I recently finished Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold, and am currently halfway done with the second book in the series.

Cordelia's Honor

Cordelia’s Honor

I’ve read several fantasy books by Bujold, but this is the first sci fi book I’ve read despite owning several of them so I was really excited for this one. Cordelia’s Honor is actually two stories in the Vorkosigan Saga, Shards of Honor and Barrayar (which won a Hugo Award for best science fiction novel), and follows a few years in the life of Cordelia Naismith. Cordelia is captain of a spaceship and comes from a very technologically advanced planet called Beta Colony, but has never seen the ocean or even a lake because her world mainly exists as underground cities.

While on a mission, her team is overwhelmed by a group from the rival planet of Barrayar (a planet so “backward” they don’t have electricity and computers in every home). Soon only Cordelia, a wounded member of her group, and the leader of the other group, Aral Vorkosigan, remain to make the trip back to a base to be rescued. Like any good love story, two very different people thrown together in stressful circumstances naturally fall in love…except Cordelia and Aral will do most anything to avoid admitting they feel anything but hate toward the person who should be the enemy. Yet when life back on her home planet becomes unbearable, Cordelia manages to escape the military to join her love on his strange planet.

And while Barrayar may have many similarities to Earth, it’s the strangest thing Cordelia has ever seen. She struggles to understand their political system, their food (instead of “protien packets” they eat animals, something not seen on Beta Colony), and the way marriage and sex works on this planet (they don’t have birth control, and arranged marriages are common). And when Aral becomes Regnant to a child Emperor orphaned in a bloody civil war, Cordelia barely manages to survive this strange new world.

Obviously this book has an exciting story line, and I love most anything to do with space travel. The true highlight of the book, however, is Cordelia and the contrast between women on Beta Colony and women on Barrayar. In Cordelia’s world women can fill any position in the army, control their own love lives, and live like independent modern women. In Aral’s world, however, women aren’t allowed in the army and they don’t hold political office. What appalls Cordelia most of all is the lack of medical technology–on Beta Colony pregnant women can transfer the fetus to a robot-like incubator so the pregnancy and birth don’t disrupt their lives, while on Barrayar it’s rare to even have a doctor perform a C-section!

Cordelia is an intelligent, funny, and passionate woman. Her crazy antics never seem out of place because she truly believes in everything she does, and I hope those traits continue into the rest of the series.

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