>> Wednesday, October 29, 2014
TITLE: The Borders of Infinity
AUTHOR: Lois McMaster Bujold
TYPE: Science Fiction
SERIES: One of a couple of short stories set right after Cetaganda
..On a rescue mission gone wrong, Miles Vorkosigan is captured by the enemy Cetagandans and thrown into a dome-shaped prisoner of war camp that seems a literal Circle of Hell. Against impossible odds, Miles organizes thousands of angry and dispirited prisoners into military formation that may offer the only chance for escape....
This is the 3rd story in the anthology of the same title. As I mentioned in my recent review of Labrynth, the first story is set much earlier in the series, so I read it a while ago. This one comes right after Labrynth.
It starts right in the middle of things, with Miles being dropped into a Cetagandan POW camp. It's a fiendishly ingenious camp, one which complies with the letter of galactic rules for how POWs must be held, but definitely not with the spirit. Prisoners are simply dumped into a force-field dome and left. The exact amount of food required by the rules is sent in all in one lump, with no distribution. The result of this has been chaos and the victimisation of the weak by the strong. And into this chaos goes Miles, naked and on his own, and creates a functioning, functional society.
It's a really clever story. Miles obviously knows what's going on and what he's there to do, but we readers don't. Bujold manages to give us his point of view in a way that makes sense taken at face value, but which I'm sure will reward a second reading with a further layer, once readers find out what was really going on. It's a hell of an "a-ha!" moment.
The only thing I wasn't crazy about is really an incremental issue. Miles seems to be taking a page out of the James Bond rulebook and having a different love interest in each book or story. I don't have a problem with each of those romantic threads in isolation, but the fact that there's one in each story, and that they're all with different women, bothers me. It's not the women themselves. They've all been quite fabulous characters, and I have no issue with their portrayal, or even with the way Miles has treated them. It's just a distaste for the device, I guess.
MY GRADE: An A-.
NOTE: There's a really interesting review on goodreads where someone theorises that the story is "a riff on Dante's inferno". It's pretty convincing!