"The Borders of Infinity"
This is a pretty intense little story. The reveal that Miles conceived of the food distribution scheme as a way of preparing the prisoners for a mass escape was pretty damn shocking, although it also skirted a little close to a writing device that I usually dislike: as with all of the Miles stories, the point of view is a close third person, where we are very much in the narrator's head at all times -- except this time, when a key fact is left out for the sole purpose of preserving a surprise. I'm sure the original plan, and the decision to expand the scope of the rescue, were very much on Miles's mind throughout his stay in the camp. It's so effective here that I can forgive it, but I hope Bujold doesn't let it become a habit. Another nitpick: Beatrice's death is something of a fridging, particularly in light of how it affects Miles. Again, not something Bujold seems to do often, so I'm not too worried, but it did ping on my radar.
Still, I thought it was a great story; the horror of the camp, and of Miles's realization that the Cetagendans are following the letter of the law regarding the care of prisoners while deeply defying its spirit, were particularly well done. I also like the way the women have banded together. It seems realistic to me, as was Miles choosing to use them as the center of his organization. Good self-contained piece, as well as adding a dimension to the Barrayar/Cetaganda conflict and to Miles himself.
Brothers in Arms
Okay, I have to admit: there is nothing quite so fine as the way that Miles comes up with the clone cover story, wonders why he never thought of it before... and then it turns out to be true. It's a hell of a turn of events. Watching Miles getting himself into a situation where he has to out-think himself was highly satisfying as well. Mark is a great character, and I have to assume that we haven't seen the last of him. I hope we see more of Galeni as well; I like the way his character was gradually revealed, how our perception of him changes as Miles learns more about him.
Hooray for more Ivan, and for more Elli! I am in favor of Miles/Elli as a pairing in theory, although I have to wonder how well it's going to work out, given Miles's position and his long-term requirements in a mate. He seems to be attracted to women who would hate the idea of settling down into the role of Countess Vorkosigan -- Elena, Elli (and the similarity of their names has not escaped me; has it escaped Miles?), etc. I also wish there had been just one story between Ethan of Athos and this one that developed their attraction a little more. As it was, it seemed a little abrupt, especially given that just one story ago, he was fantasizing about making a life with Beatrice. Come to think of it, Miles seems fairly prone to falling for the women who come into his orbit. Just because he is young, or something else going on? It also felt like his guilt over Beatrice's death disappeared a little too easily -- the impact on his psyche had seemed pretty significant at first, but by the end of the book the issue seemed to have disappeared entirely. Unless that was behind his drive to save Mark, at least in part? Maybe; I'll have to think about it.
Anyway, I quibble. This is a vastly entertaining book, and it kept me turning the pages, hard. I've talked before about the fascination of watching Miles juggle his various identities, and since that's the whole theme of this book, it's no wonder that I was riveted. I loved many things about the end, especially -- the way Miles played all the factions against each other to make his escape; Destang forcing himself to give Galeni his condolences; Tung's retirement, and the very strong hint that he knows the truth about Miles and the Dendarii's employers; the very last exchange between Elli and Miles. Who's wearing the white hat, really? I have a feeling Miles tries not to think about that one very much.
Last but not least, the cat blanket. Is it wrong that I really, really, really want one now?
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