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Three linked novellas about Miles Vorkosigan,
This review is from: Borders of Infinity (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a very good set of three novellas set in the Miles Vorkosigan universe. There are a lot of linkages to other stories in the sequence.
The narrative which links the three novellas is set in Miles' hospital room, where he is recovering from major surgery while aged 25, just after the events of "Brothers in Arms." Simon Illyan, the dreaded head of Imperial Security, visits him in hospital to get a more detailed report of two missions Miles had previously carried out. (Illyan needs the details in order to respond to awkward questions being asked by opposition politicians who hope to discredit the Prime Minister, Miles' father Aral Vorkosigan, by suggesting that Miles has been padding his expenses.)
The memories of these two missions which Miles has to remember so as to answer Simon Illyan, and one earlier story of which he is reminded by Simon's questions, constitute the three stories which make up the book.
The first novella, "The Mountains of Mourning" is set when Miles is 20 and has just graduated from the Military academy, just before his first posting in "The Vor Game." Miles is sent to investigate the sudden death out in the sticks of a baby with a harelip. He has to find out whether she was murdered as a mutant, and if so he has the power to act as judge, jury, and executioner. This story is much more grim and downbeat than most of Miles' adventures.
The second novella, "Labyrinth" is set three years later, on Jackson's Whole, shortly after the book "Cetaganda". Miles has been sent to help a scientist to defect - quickly and quietly since "his-soon-to-be-former employer is expected to be highly irate at the lack of a month's notice."
However, the problem of extracting the scientist quickly and discreetly is soon exacerbated by the presence of not one but two damsels in distress. One of them, Nicol, is a Quaddie, a descendant of the genetically modified space dwellers who Leo Graf fought to liberate in Bujold's book "Falling Free", set two centuries previously.
The third and best story, "Borders of Infinity" is set two years later, when Miles is 25, and shortly before the book "Brothers in Arms." Miles is planted as a mole inside a prison camp where the Cetagandans are keeping 10,000 POWs from the planet Marilac, which they are trying to conquer. I can't say any more about this one without spoiling it, other than that it is an exceptionally good story.
The three novellas fit together well, explain a lot about Miles, and are very entertaining.
One unusual thing about "Borders of Infinity" is the subtlety with which the cover art scene for some editions of this book was chosen.
The picture concerned shows Miles clad in a spacesuit: a woman's arm is reaching towards him, and Miles is reaching back, trying to grab her hand. This cover art represents one of the most moving moments in the book, but it is almost too subtle for the reader to follow. It is easy for the reader to miss the point of the cover, and I can't explain here without giving too much of the story away.
There is a sequel to the event depicted in that cover art, however, and it isn't a spoiler for me to tell you where to find that subsequent event described. It happens in Bujold's book "Komarr (A Miles Vorkosigan adventure)" which is set about six years later. After an embarrassing mishap on a shopping trip with a woman named Ekaterin, Bujold has Miles experience a flashback. He then explains to Ekaterin how the incident which inspired the cover art for "Borders of Infinity" has haunted him for six years, but the embarrassing accident they have just had enabled him to see the previous incident in a new light and allows him to lay aside a burden of guilt over the original incident.
The full sequence of books in this Universe is
"Falling Free" (Set 200 years before the rest of the books)
The story of the romance between Miles' parents:
"Shards of Honour"
(Both published together as "Cordelia's Honor")
The Miles Vorkosigan adventures:
"The Warrior's Apprentice"
"The Vor game"
"Borders of Infinity"
"Brothers in Arms"
"A Civil Campaign"
And a separate adventure for Miles' friend Elli Quinn:
"Ethan of Athos"
All these books are excellent and strongly recommended.
There is also a supporting reference book to this fictional universe,
"The Vorkosigan Companion (Vorkosigan Saga)"
and the first ten Miles Vorkosigan books have also been published together in a number of compilation volumes, which are:
Young Miles (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures)
Miles, Mystery and Mayhem (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures)
Miles Mutants & Microbes
Miles in Love (Omnibus Edition).
Bottom line: "Borders of Infinity" is an excellent work of science fiction, and if you enjoyed anything else in the Vorkosigan series, you will enjoy this one.