Miles Errant, by Lois McMaster Bujold
As part of the continuing series of omnibus volumes I have reviewed in the Vorkosigan series , this volume offers another chance to comment on how the context of a story changes by its surroundings. Although all of the stories have been reviewed here before , it is interesting to see the transition between the novella “Borders Of Infinity” and the two novels which introduce the bitter Lord Mark Vorkosigan, and which basically point to the impending end of Miles’ first career as a mercenary leader working for Imperial Security, because of the damages that it wrecks to his health, even involving a death in his knight errant role trying to rescue his clone brother. All of the stories blend well into each other, and if one does not have a copy of each of them, this book is a good buy.
For those who have not read the stories before, some brief summary is useful. “Borders Of Infinity” is a novella that tells of how Miles was sent to rescue one leader from a Cetagandan prison and upon seeing the catatonic wreck he found, decided it would be better to rescue an entire army instead, at greater expense but with greater results. That expense, and the fact that the planet balks at paying it despite its usefulness, forces Miles and company to go to earth, where Miles’ secret identity becomes massively complicated and where he becomes the target of a dastardly switcheroo plot. After successfully dealing with this in Brothers In Arms, his brother triggers a plot to destroy the cloning business on Jackson’s Whole that spawned him, leading to an immensely complicated and deadly mission, along with Mark being more damaged than ever, but also with a family he never knew he had.
When viewed as a whole, this particular omnibus is a touching look at such questions as identity, family, honor, and bravery, all written in a way that is accessible to fans of military science fiction. The title is a fitting one in many ways, not only because Miles (and others) serve as gallant and sometimes foolish knights seeking idealistic aims, but also because these stories together represent a young man entering the cusp of adulthood and dealing with mortality and the desire to settle down and have a family. Obviously, this is a tough task if you’re a short fellow with a bit of a hero complex, but it’s hard for a lot of us, and this novel explores serious subjects in a brisk and fast-paced way, good literature in general apart from genre concerns.
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