Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Sun Jan 28 15:06:30 EST 1990

Raymond's Reviews #12

%T The Borders of Infinity
%A Lois McMaster Bujold
%I Baen Books
%D Oct 1989
%O paperback, US$3.95
%P 311
%G 0-671-69841-9

I hope it's not news to you that Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the best new SF writers to come down the pike in the last five years. She may just be the brightest new star in Jim Baen's editorial crown to date, though S. M. Stirling looks ready to challenge for that title if his fourth novel is as gripping as were the last three (see RR#3: The Cage).

Bujold's particular strength, like Stirling's, is an ability to write military-flavored adventure SF that is simultaneously true to all the best traditions of genre SF, and also achieves a psychological truthfulness and originality still too rare in the field.

She introduced her leading character, Miles Vorkosigan, in 1986's The Warrior's Apprentice, and followed that up shortly afterwards with Brothers In Arms. Miles is the son of one of the most powerful nobles of the feudal, militaristic society of Barrayar. An assination attempt on his father exposed him to a teratogenic gas in the womb. He was born, dwarfed and brittle-boned, into a milieu that hates and fears `mutants' and has been struggling to meet the deadly challenges of the Barrayaran warrior's way ever since.

Miles grows into a wry, brilliant and tormented young man who never dares give in a micron to self-pity or weakness. It is a measure of Bujold's gift that avoids cliche here; rather than settling for another of the one-dimensional, demon-driven misfit types that populate bad SF she creates him as someone made realistically more human and complex by his ordeals. In the two novels so far we have seen him begin to make a place in the world for himself and acquire the beginnings of a self-esteem that may someday enable him to live at peace with the universe.

This book stitches together three Miles Vorkosigan novellas with a rudimentary frame story. Two have appeared previously in Analog and a third in the Freelancers anthology. All three are up to spec, though the whole can't be as good as a true novel of the same length would be. And "up to spec" from Bujold means really fine stuff by anyone else's standards.

If you're new to the series, try to pick up The Warrior's Apprentice or Shards Of Honor (Miles's parents are the viewpoint characters in that one, set years before he was born). These explain much about Bujold's universe that Borders Of Infinity takes for granted as background. But anywhere you start Bujold's work will make a truly excellent read.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Sun Jan 28 15:06:30 EST 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>