Miles, Mystery & Mayhem, by Lois McMaster Bujold
The second of the omnibus collections of Bujold’s writings I have reviewed  (okay, maybe the third or fourth, depending on what one counts), this book contains two novels that I have read and reviewed previously and “Labyrinth,” a novella from Borders Of Infinity that previously appeared in the omnibus collection Miles, Mutants & Microbes. Given that “Labyrinth” already appeared in an omnibus collection, it seems a bit puzzling as to why it would appear again here, unless it was thought that the discussion of the corruption of Jackson’s Whole in Ethan Of Athos  required more context. I would have preferred to have seen “The Mountains Of Mourning,” as it is a mystery with Miles in it (unlike the novel previously mentioned) and as it is a much more touching story than “Labyrinth” in its defense of a slain little girl killed by a relative because she had a minor defect that could have been easily fixed with contemporary medical care.
As far as the larger narrative, while one of the novels included is short on Miles, all of the stories have plenty of mystery and plenty of mayhem. Again, this book demonstrates the facility that Bujold has when it comes to genres, as these works when put together deal with serious questions of ethics and culture and morality, include heavy political analysis, and have well-constructed plots dealing with characters who are often far from home and fish out of water. There are distinct questions and genre concerns dealt with in each of the stories, as Ethan of Athos is a tense character drama, Cetaganda  a political mystery, and “Labyrinth” a madcap military science fiction story. In all of the stories the codes of honor of the characters, and their own dogged curiosity and persistence, lead to a positive result, despite the dangers faced.
As is the case with any large collection of novels like this, one’s enjoyment of the novels will depend on many factors. If one is new to reading Bujold, this is perhaps not the best entrance into it, but for those who have a taste for heavy social and political messages, these novels have plenty of that to provide. Additionally, they provide a low-cost way of obtaining at least two or three day’s worth of solid novel reading. If one already has the novels in isolation, this volume only provides a short afterword that discusses the essential aspect of humanity, which is not how we came into this world but what we do when we get here. For all of our profound differences in viewpoint, Bujold and I agree on that, and that agreement makes this collection worthwhile even if these novels are far more heavy on the issues than most of her work. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up to the reader to decide.
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