Borders of Infinity: Three important stories about Miles

Borders of Infinity (Vorkosigan Saga) Paperback – January 3, 2017 by Lois McMaster Bujold (Author)The Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster BujoldBorders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold (contains the novellas “The Mountains of Mourning,” “Labyrinth,” “The Borders of Infinity”)

Borders of Infinity has a different structure than the earlier VORKOSIGAN books. It’s actually three previously published novellas with a frame story. Simon Illyan, head of Imperial Security, is visiting Miles while he’s recuperating in the hospital after a surgery for bone replacements. Knowing that the government will start asking questions, Simon needs Miles to justify three large vague items in his expense reports. When Miles protests, Simon explains that because he’s the prime minister’s son, Miles must avoid even the appearance of shady accounting practices. And so Miles explains each item and thus we get the stories in the novellas “The Mountains of Mourning,” originally published in Analog in May 1989, “Labyrinth,” (Analog, August 1989) and “The Borders of Infinity” (Free Lancers anthology, 1987).

In “The Mountains of Mourning” young Miles is home on the planet Barrayar after graduating from the Imperial Academy and he’s waiting for his first military assignment. One day he is sent by his father to the backwoods to investigate and deliver justice for the murder of a deformed infant. Since Miles was also born with a deformity, Aral Vorkosigan thinks his son will be the perfect envoy — clearly he intends to teach those backward folks that a twisted body doesn’t mean that a person’s brain doesn’t work. This has been a recurrent theme throughout the VORKOSIGAN SAGA.

This story is a departure from the usual tone of the series. It lacks the humor and frantic pace of the novels, but it represents an important learning experience for Miles. He has to deal with some difficult people in a tragic situation and it’s sure to affect his future behavior. “The Mountains of Morning” won the Nebula and Hugo awards for Best Novella in 1989. In the internal chronology of the entire series, these events occur after the novel Warrior’s Apprentice and before The Vor Game. You can also find this novella as a stand-alone or in the Baen omnibus edition called Young Miles.

If you want to follow the chronology, the next two stories should be read after Cetaganda and before Brothers in Arms.

“Labyrinth” tells how Miles (in his guise as Admiral Naismith) and his Dendrarii mercenary fleet go to the planet Jackson’s Whole to grab a geneticist who wants out of his contract with his evil boss so he can work for Barrayar. Jackson’s Whole has got to be the most degraded place in the entire universe. This is where mad scientists set up shop to create bizarre creatures to fulfill all their customers’ sensual desires. They also create clone bodies for rich people who want to transplant their brains into these bodies when they get old (the clones’ brains are thrown away). This is where Miles’s meets future enemies such as Baron Ryoval, Baron Fell, and Baron Bharaputra. This is also where Miles meets the eight foot tall weregirl (if that’s what she is) named Taura. You’ll definitely want to read this funny story before Taura shows up again in Mirror Dance which is my favorite VORKOSIGAN novel. You can also find “Labyrinth” as a stand-alone or in the Baen omnibus edition called Miles, Mutants and Microbes.

In “Borders of Infinity” Miles infiltrates a Cetagandan POW camp, ostensibly to find and rescue a Barrayan officer who is one of his relatives. He’s disgusted by what he finds there. The Cetagandandans are obeying the letter, but certainly not the spirit, of the universal laws for how prisoners are to be treated. Though he’s the smallest and weakest person among the thousands of prisoners, and though there’s plenty of strong opposition, Miles sets out to better their circumstances. This is an exciting story with lots of laughs and lots of loss. It’s an important part of the VORKOSIGAN series because it explains why the planet Cetaganda wants revenge on Admiral Naismith — an issue later in the series. It also explains some of Miles’ behavior in the novel Komarr. “Borders of Infinity” can also be found as a stand-alone novella and in the Baen omnibus edition called Miles Errant.

Like the other VORKOSIGAN books, Borders of Infinity is available in audio format. Grover Gardner is doing such a great job with the narration.

~Kat HooperBorders of Infinity: A Miles Vorkosigan Adventure (Miles Vorkosigan Adventures) Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged by Lois McMaster Bujold (Author)


The Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster BujoldBorders of Infinity is the fourth book about Miles Vorkosigan in internal chronology, and features three early stories in the career of Miles, separately published as novellas but with an added framing story of Miles recuperating in a hospital and being questioned by the Barrayaran head of security, Simon Illyan, about some unusual expenses. It’s a nice bit of connective tissue to incorporate the book into the larger VORKOSIGAN SAGA.

I read this back in 1989 when it first came out and really enjoyed the three stories, “Mountains of Mourning,” “Labyrinth,” and “The Borders of Infinity.” Miles remains a fast-talking but physically-handicapped guy whose greatest weapon is his wits. He manages to talk his way out of some pretty outrageous scrapes where others would simply give up. They are a lot of fun to listen to as narrated by Grover Gardner.

“Mountains of Mourning” — This story is not the usual manic Miles adventure. It’s actually his first foray after graduating from the Barrayaran military academy. Before being assigned to duty, Miles accidentally encounters a distraught country woman on the Barrayaran estate who demands justice for her infant daughter, the victim of infanticide. Baron Vorkosigan decides that this is good learning opportunity for Miles, since the cause of the murder is related to folk superstitions about disabilities, and who better to deal with it than Miles with his brittle bones and bent spine? It’s a serious story about the moral dilemmas he faces as he has to determine what justice to deliver in a small, remote mountain village. It won the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novella in 1990.

“Labyrinth” — Here is another madcap adventure with Admiral Naismith and the Dendarii Mercenaries on Jackson’s Whole (correct spelling; no economic summit held there), a planet dedicated to extreme capitalism where everything is available for sale, including justice, and order is controlled by a series of criminal syndicates called Houses. Miles’ mission is to ensure safe passage for a geneticist to leave his current employer for a new one, as this is likely to put him in mortal danger. Once Miles understands the nature of the geneticist’s experiments, the morality of defending him becomes much harder to stomach, and when Miles meets one of his living experiments (who is essential to the entire mission), things get hilariously out of control and there is some unexpected romance with a very powerful but troubled young woman.

But it is a relief, as always, to see that Miles has a conscience and is always going to try to do the right thing even if it conflicts with his own interests. That is one of the endearing things about the VORKOSIGAN series — there are good and bad characters, but the author clearly sides with the characters who try to do right even in difficult circumstances. It’s refreshing entertainment amid the darkness that often pervades subgenres like cyberpunk or hard SF.

“Borders of Infinity” — In this story Miles has to infiltrate a Cetagandan POW camp masquerading as a mercenary to extricate a military officer there. Almost immediately his physical handicaps draw the wrong attention and he seems to get more bones broken in this one story than any human being could possibly endure, yet manages by quick wits alone to unite various prisoner factions into trying to stage a rebellion. It’s a bit implausible, like many of Miles’ adventures, but as always he does things with such impish charm and chutzpah that it’s hard to resist going along and suspending belief. Overall a decent story, though I thought the first two stories were better.

~Stuart Starosta

The Vorkosigan Saga — (1986- ) Omnibus and audio versions are available. The Vorkosigan Saga is a series of science fiction novels and short stories set in a common fictional universe. Works in the series have received numerous awards and nominations, including five Hugo award wins including one for Best Series. The point of view characters include women (Cordelia in Shards of Honor and Barrayar; Ekaterin in Komarr, A Civil Campaign, and The Flowers of Vashnoi), a gay man (Ethan of Athos), a pair of brothers, one of whom is physically handicapped and the other a clone (Miles and Mark Vorkosigan), and their cousin (Ivan Vorpatril), together with some minor characters (e.g., Miles’ bodyguard Roic and the runaway lad Jin). The various forms of society and government Bujold presents often reflect contemporary politics. In many novels, there is a contrast between the technology-rich egalitarian Beta Colony (or more generally, galactic society) and the heroic, militaristic, hierarchical society of Barrayar, where personal relationships must ensure societal continuity. Miles Vorkosigan, the protagonist of most of the series, is the son of a Betan mother and a Barrayaran aristocrat. Below we present the author’s preferred reading order which is in order of plot chronology, not publication.

Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan Falling Free, The Borders of Infinity, Brothers in ArmsShards of HonorBarrayar by Lois McMaster BujoldThe Warrior's Apprentice 30th Anniversary Edition (Vorkosigan Saga) Paperback – Deluxe Edition, May 3, 2016 by Lois McMaster Bujold (Author)The Vor Game (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster BujoldScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil CampaignLois McMaster Bujold Vorkosigan Saga 1. Shards of Honor 2. Barrayar 3. The Warrior's Apprentice 4. Ethan of AthosBorders of Infinity (Vorkosigan Saga) Paperback – January 3, 2017 by Lois McMaster Bujold (Author)Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan Falling Free, The Borders of Infinity, Brothers in ArmsScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil Campaignfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil CampaignScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil CampaignScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil Campaignfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsScience fiction book reviews Lois McMaster Bujold Miles Vorkosigan The Vor Game, Mirror Dance, Cetaganda, Memory, Komarr, A Civil Campaign, CryoburnThe Flowers of Vashnoi: Vorkosigan Saga Kindle Edition by Lois McMaster Bujold  (Author)

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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STUART STAROSTA, on our staff from March 2015 to November 2018, is a lifelong SFF reader who makes his living reviewing English translations of Japanese equity research. Despite growing up in beautiful Hawaii, he spent most of his time reading as many SFF books as possible. After getting an MA in Japanese-English translation in Monterey, CA, he lived in Tokyo, Japan for about 15 years before moving to London in 2017 with his wife, daughter, and dog named Lani. Stuart's reading goal is to read as many classic SF novels and Hugo/Nebula winners as possible, David Pringle's 100 Best SF and 100 Best Fantasy Novels, along with newer books & series that are too highly-praised to be ignored. His favorite authors include Philip K Dick, China Mieville, Iain M. Banks, N.K. Jemisin, J.G. Ballard, Lucius Shepard, Neal Stephenson, Kurt Vonnegut, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. LeGuin, Guy Gavriel Kay, Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, etc.

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4 comments

  1. Mike G. /

    In “Borders of Infinity” Miles infiltrates a Cetagandan POW camp to find and rescue a Barrayan officer who is one of his relatives.

    Not quite. He’s rescuing a senior Marilacan officer so Barrayar can use him to set up a resistance group, and POSING as that officer’s relative. No one in the whole camp is meant to know Barrayar is involved in any way.

    But yes, these are all excellent stories.

  2. April /

    I’m still waiting for my next Miles audio book (Memory) to become available at my library and saw your post earlier this week mentioning these three shorts. I was exceedingly happy to find that my library does have an audio copy of these and that it was available! I’m now deep in The Mountains of Morning.

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