Saturday, June 21

"The Borders of Infinity" - Lois McMaster Bujold

Miles has been imprisoned in an off-world Prisoner of War camp - set upon by an organised band of fellow inmates, he is stripped of his clothes and the few possessions he was issued with (a sleep mat, cup, plate, and cutlery) within minutes of entering the huge bubble. While some of the inmates, like the gang that hit Miles, are loosely organised, for the most part it's each prisoner for himself; the women have banded together, patrolling the perimeter of the area they staked out. Food, in the form of ration bars, is randomly dumped twice a day, and those unable to raid the pile go hungry. Naked, starving and trapped, Miles strikes up a friendship with a delusional man who thinks he's a prophet.
For most of this novella the reader is in the dark about why Miles is in the camp and what's going on. This technique would be annoying in the hands of a lesser writer, but Bujold masterfully manages to enhance the novel by revealing Miles' plan chronologically, increasing the dramatic effect and increasing appreciation of Miles' intellect and plotting capacity.
The events of "The Borders of Infinity" take place during the invasion of Marilac by the Cetagandans, a race the Barrayans have tangled with in the past. To foster resistance, Barrayar has become covertly involved, though more detail would undo the delicious balance trickle of information Bujold threads through the story. A side story, this doesn't seem significant in the overall story arc of Miles Vorkosigan's life, but is enjoyable in it's own right. However, writing this review as I've just finished a book close to the end of the series, I discovered that Miles was haunted for years afterward by a failure that resulted in the death of a soldier during the escape from the Dagoola IV prison camp - yet another example of Bujold's clever and intricate weaving together of sub-themes written non-chronologically. I love this series! - Alex

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