Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold, published 1989
(In-Universe #8 chronologically in the Miles Vorkosigan Saga)
This was a compilation of the three novellas in the Vorkosigan universe, with a little bit of a frame narrative to string them coherently together. These three novellas (“The Mountains of Mourning,” “Labyrinth,” and “Borders of Infinity”) have also all been collected in the various omnibus editions, but placed in the proper in-universe chronological order between the novels.
The Mountains of Mourning. You know, I was reading up on historical methods of birth control for one of my stories. Turns out the most common, socially acceptable, and widely practiced method of birth control was infanticide. Miles, honey, I love you, but I can’t decide if the human rights stance in these books is extremely liberal or the most horrifically conservative thing I’ve ever seen. It seems to be some terrifying mixture. Basically, a kid born with a harelip is offed and Miles is sent to figure out who did it. Ladeeda.
Labyrinth. Further proof that Miles will screw anything female that shows interest. Also further proof of Miles’ bordering-on-unbelievable human rights stances. It occurs to me that, long long ago, before I was made aware of intense overpopulation issues and zealots dedicated to the human meat puppet, I would have more-or-less agreed with all of these positions. But now they just make me fairly uneasy. And I want to say “Miles, get your ass back out into space and play soldier.” Jackson’s Hole, by the by, seems exceedingly interesting. Also, it’s very much a shame that Miles won’t screw Bel Thorne as he/she (I cannot say it, like the text) is a Betan hermaphrodite—but aside from that is one of the coolest characters in this series. See, Beta colony screws my mind up because you have people who are violently against abortion but are exceedingly sexually free. The way you get around that, as an author, is that you give Beta Colony default sterility treatments until people actually want to reproduce. This does not make things better, in my opinion. Also, I just wish Miles could practice what he preaches. It’s not like Bel isn’t female.
Borders of Infinity. This is the story that gets the whole little compilation an A+. It has war, intrigue, tactics, crazy people, Miles-being-Miles, and no strange sexual situations of a dubiously political nature. This is also the “Dagoola incident” that I heard so much about in Brothers in Arms and was like “um, hello, I want to read that.”
I know that I’m way over-thinking these books by this point. I also know that most books aren’t written to be in-your-face socio-political at every turn. But I certainly tend to read things that way. Plus, trying to apply my socio-political position to books from the ’80s and ’90s is not the wisest thing to do, but I don’t usually have such deep-seated problems with books that I whole-heartedly adore. That’s just the power of Bujold, I suppose! I can overcome even my personal issues with the books while I’m reading them. They are that awesome.