“The Borders of Infinity” (Lois McMaster Bujold) 5*

Miles shook his head.  “I’ll allow you know the man better than I do….And yet, well, people do get hypnotized by the hard choices.  And stop looking for alternatives.  The will to be stupid is a very powerful force –“

If I could write like anyone, I might pick Lois McMaster Bujold.  Bujold has won 5 Hugos and 3 Nebulas, but somehow she’s invisible.  I never see her books in secondhand shops, and they have hideous covers.  Basically, her publishers are crap except that they do offer the first 80% of each of her books for free.

That means that you can read two complete novellas, “The Borders of Infinity” and “The Mountains of Mourning,” for free.  They are windows to two very different sides of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan.  He’s under 5 feet tall and brittle-boned in a time when medical science and fear of mutation have combined forces to make physical handicaps rare and reviled.  He’s funny as hell and steal-your-underwear charismatic.  The series starts at The Warrior’s Apprentice, where 18-year-old Miles fails his physical exam for the military academy but, in a series of desperate acts, cons his way into admiralship of a space mercenary fleet.

Miles gestured the injured mercenary captain ahead of him into sickbay with a little jab of his nerve disrupter. The deadly weapon seemed unnaturally light and easy in his hand. Something that lethal should have more heft, like a broadsword. Wrong, for murder to be so potentially effortless — one ought to at least have to grunt for it.

Besides Miles’s sheer incandesence, I like Bujold’s world because technology is integrated as seamlessly as microwaves and lightbulbs.  For example, with casual mentions of plastic “flimsies” instead of paper and “organic disposal,” Bujold waves toward complex systems of closed-loop production.  When Miles visits Earth, he wants to take an underwater tour of Los Angeles.  Her characters take technology for granted, to the point that I myself occasionally forget that meat does not yet grow in vats, and babies cannot yet be grown in uterine replicators.  Of all science fiction, and I’ve read a lot, Bujold’s future universe is the most prophetically true so far, and also the most familiar because it is experienced via real flesh-and-blood people, not cardboard archetypes or intellectual constructs.  It’s something to look forward to.

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2 responses to ““The Borders of Infinity” (Lois McMaster Bujold) 5*

  1. “Flimsies” is indeed an apparently astute prediction.
    I was out shopping today and discovered a case of 12-oz plastic bottles of Coke. I guess aluminum cans are completely on the way out at last. Paper can’t be far behind.

    • Vat beef and uterine replicators are not too far behind. I’m quite sure I’ll be eating vat beef in a decade or so because small quantities are already being produced at enormous cost.
      Paper doesn’t ever go away completely. Infinitely cyclable flimsies and lightpens are used for printouts, and books are read on handheld readers, but fancy stationery sticks around as a niche application. Bujold’s world is remarkably well thought out, but some people actually criticize her as light on worldbuilding. I guess some people are just too dumb to notice tech details unless someone makes a stilted explanatory monologue.

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