Lois McMaster Bujold is an author I have been meaning to read for the longest time, she has won so many major sf awards it is clear that she must be some kind of major talent in the field. However it took me years and years to get around to picking up one off her books simply because the synopsis of her Vorkosigan series never seem all that interesting to me. Fortunately for me Lois has graciously decided to make most of her Vorkosigan books available for FREE
in digital formats on her publisher web site. So I took advantage off her generosity, downloaded the whole package and got on with the first book Cordelia's Honor. This is an omnibus volume consisting of Shards of Honor and Barrayar.
Shards of Honor introduces the characters and the settings and Barrayar is the more intense plot driven conclusion.
Character driven sci-fi is something of a rarity, most sci-fi novels are more concerned with plot and technology, characterization is more often than not of secondary importance. Sci-fi greats such as Asimov and Clarke are not known for characterization, they get away with less emphasis on characterization because of they brilliance of their plots and tech. Lois McMaster Bujold is a different kettle of fish, she puts technology in the background and concentrates on her characters and what they do. This works greatly in her favor as her characters are mostly complex and believable.
Obviously characterization alone is not enough a decent novel needs a decent plot to give the characters something to do. Bar bar has a reasonably complex and driving plot and becomes quite fast paced in the second half of the book. The only drawback for me is that it gets bogged down with romantic scenes from time to time. They are not badly written but the occasional lapses into sentimentality does make me cringe. They don't detract much from the over all quality of the book though and the whole thing concludes beautifully. Fortunately I still have many vote vote books to get through before I have to start passing fort them. Certainly I will be more than happy to start buying Lois non vote vote fantasy novels of which there are many. I feel like I really owe her something for all the freebies she has given to me.