Space opera

Apr. 4th, 2008 07:37 pm
white_hart: (Mediaeval)
Mainly for [livejournal.com profile] girlyswot, who wanted to know what I made of Bujold...

My FL is full of fans of Lois McMaster Bujold. Some of them even write fic set in her universe; very good fic, as far as I can tell, although bits of it didn't make much sense to someone who'd never read any of the original books.

A few months ago I found a copy of Shards of Honour in the Oxfam bookshop. Fortuitously, this turned out to be the first of the Vorkosigan series, and having seriously overdosed on 1930s literature in recent months I decided that a spot of sf wouldn't be a bad antidote.

I wanted to like this book, really I did. And I didn't dislike it. I just felt a bit meh about it.

Unlike [livejournal.com profile] girlyswot, I am not a stranger to science fiction, although it hasn't been a majority of my reading since I was about 15. However, I still read a couple of sf books every year. I like good sf for its ability to hold up a mirror to contemporary society, to turn things round and show them from a different angle; for the way it can play with ideas that wouldn't work in a 'realistic' setting. What if the last relic of humanity was eking out a bleak subsistence on a hostile planet, dependent on technology it had no means of replicating or repairing? What if a repressive neo-feudalist culture clashed with an anarchic hedonist AI? What if a repressive theocracy decided that falling birthrates were such a problem that fertile women could no longer be allowed to exercise control or choice over their own reproductive systems? (The sferati can play 'Name That SF Novel here, if they choose.) Anyway, you get the picture.

Unfortunately, Shards of Honour just didn't do that for me. Maybe it's just because it's 22 years old. Maybe if I knew more about Reagan's America it would have had more to say to me. As it was, all I really got was bog-standard space opera. When I started the book, I kept being reminded of Star Trek; later on, as the romance plot progressed, I was reminded more of Anne McCaffery (although seemingly without the batshit opinions on homosexuality). I would have adored this when I was 14. At 34 I found the writing capable but lacking poetry, the gender politics just the right side of disturbing, and the plot little more than fluff.

I am sorry about this. And I do realise that this is a very early novel, so if any of the Bujold fans reading this want to tell me that the series improves I could quite easily be persuaded to give her another try.

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