Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Borders of Infinity (Book)

Impressive Stories. Sides of Miles Vorkosigan we have not seen in other books. The book Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold consists of four stories: three novellas and an overarching story that ties them all together. Besides being worthwhile independently, the stories also help to fill in some gaps in the Vorkosigan Series.

Connecting the novellas are segments of a story in which Simon Illyan, head of Imperial Security on Barrayar, interviews a hospitalized Miles about financial overages in his various missions. We then find out about these missions in the novellas.

Mountains of Morning is probably the best novella I have ever read. The story will stay with me a long time. It deservingly won the 1990 Hugo Award for best novella. Miles, just out of the military academy, is asked by his father to investigate the death, possible murder, of a baby born with a cleft pallet in a rural area under the jurisdiction of Miles’ father. Miles has been commissioned to “find the killer and extract justice.” In some ways Miles believes that his father is testing him with this experience. We see a side of Miles that is both wise and touching. The story touched me even more because I had a family member who was born, in a rural area, with a very mild form of the same disorder. Even a person who is not familiar with the Vorkosigan Saga could appreciate the story.

Labyrinth, the 1989 Analog reader’s poll winner for best novella, has some of the fun we expect from Miles. The Dendarii Mercenaries are supposed to extract a brilliant geneticist from Jackson’s Whole. The supposedly easy mission goes wrong when the geneticist won’t go along with them until they retrieve some biological samples stored in the leg of a “monster” that they must find. The story shows Miles embracing different types of people’s humanity and valuing them for who they are. We see Miles with his brittle bones; Nicole, who is a harp playing Quaddie (a genetically engineered woman with four arms and no legs); Bel, who is a genetically engineered hermaphrodite; and Nine, who was engineered with both human and animal DNA.

Borders of Infinity, the novella which is the namesake of the book, is by far the most somber story I have read of Bujold’s. While well written, most of it is just downright depressing. It also shows a cold side of Miles that I don’t remember in the other novels. Most of the story takes place in a Cetagandian Prisoner of War camp. We don’t find out why Miles is there until late in the story.

I am glad that I found Bujold’s writing. Reading Borders of Infinity is yet another experience that has made my voyage in reading all the Hugo Award winning novels worthwhile.

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