Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my GIFTS AND GUILTY list.
Regardless of how many books are already queued patiently on my reading list, unexpected gifts and guilt-trips will always see unplanned additions muscling their way in at the front.
I had scheduled this to be read several weeks ago, but my darling wife (who I've gotten utterly hooked on the wonderfully addictive Vorkosigan Saga) beat me to it. Then she lost the book. Thanks, sweet-pea!
My parents came to visit recently which sparked a mad scramble to tidy the old homestead, and the missing book turned up under a box of baby toys. With teeth marks in it. That's teeth, plural - my boy has two now!
I've never been a huge fan of short stories and novellas (check out my short-stories shelf, it's pretty understocked). Once a story starts to carry me, we build up some momentum together and when it's good the pages flicker past without me really noticing... Short stories never build the same kind of momentum, and never really aim to, and that leaves me kind of cold. Usually. Not so here.
This is a collection of three Miles novellas, bound together (loosely) with a bit of Miles/Illyan banter about mission budgets - sounds fascinating, I know, but it suffices as a bridging device. Plus, it gives Miles a bit of distance on these stories for a couple of heart-ouchie zingers in his reflections.
Now, it's worth mentioning (if you've not heard me say it before) that I'm reading this fourteen (so far) book saga out of order. Neither print order or internal chronological order. As such, I may know a character or location from a later adventure without really understanding where the significance comes from. It means I've taken each book at face value, and enjoyed them tremendously, but I also take great delight in joining the dots in the backstory.
As I said, this book compiles three novellas, and Bujold simply cannot write a bad story:
The Mountains of Mourning
- a young, newly graduated Miles is looking for some fun on leave before being assigned. Instead he ends up travelling into the hillbilly mountains of his home district, to act as judge and jury in a case of baby-murdering. Sounds grim, huh? It cuts even closer to the heart for Miles, as the baby was killed for being a 'mutie', a planetary prejudice/hatred which Miles himself has battled against his whole life. This is Miles in detective mode, and young enough to be fretful. This is my favourite story of the three, and for me it filled in the question mark a later book, Memory, had left, when Miles returns to the site of the baby's grave during his mid-life crisis.
- the rescue of Taura! Where did Taura come from? What was their romantic relationship? What did Miles do to piss of Ryoval quite so bad? These are questions I'd had hanging in the air ever since I read my first Vorkosigan Saga novel, Mirror Dance. This is miles as Admiral Naismith, thinking fast as leaving the world eating dust. Pure class.
Borders of Infinity
- the Dagoola IV rescue mission. Miles walks into a prison camp, friendless and naked. The prisoners (of war) have had their spirits broken, they're fighting each other, and the only one willing to chat with Miles is half mad. But still Miles saves the day, with just his brilliant brain and his balls of steel. You've gotta love this guy! (My wife tells me there's a great echo from the end of this novella in Komarr, but I haven't read that yet)
The Mountains of Mourning was my favourite because it left the old heart strings thrumming, but the other two are just popcorn-pleasure-reading, sci-fi-adventure-nuggets. Yum-may. This Borders of Infinity collection is a very worthwhile addition to the Vorkosiverse.
After this I read: Coraline