Reading: Borderline & Phantom Pains

It’s no secret that I’m a brand new fan of Mishell Baker’s writing. I’d heard of her novel Borderline last year, but if you’re anything like me, your to-read list could span multiple decades of solid nose-in-book time. I didn’t actually start reading until Borderline popped up on the Nebula Suggested Reading List.

Borderline hit me in all the right ways. The story starts with Millie–who struggles with mental illness and disability and responds with sharp words and a fierce exterior. She’s doing the hard work of mending herself (in body and mind) while showing the world an incredibly strong facade. I just love her.

Every character in Borderline is fully realized with actual believable personalities and desires. The voices in some conversations are so distinct that you can remove dialogue tags and still know who is speaking. This is top-notch writing that sails along–I’d sit down to read a chapter and look up hours later.

I tore through Borderline like a bewildered child. I asked anyone passing by, “Why did no one tell me this book was so damn good?” Luckily, the release of Phantom Pains was only a few weeks after I finished Borderline. Both books move fast, but Phantom Pains goes deeper into Arcadia (figuratively and literally) and the systems that keep that world running. Millie is dealing with the aftermath (isn’t she always?) of book one and I was thrilled to see the enigmatic Tjuan become more prominent in the second book.

Borderline and Phantom Pains are fantasy, but they’re also about reality at its most awful. Kind of like urban fantasy, but centered in the body and mind. Physiofantasy? Medipunk?

Once again, watching Millie struggle within her relationships broke my heart (in a good way). There’s a wonderful tension between her, Caryl, and Claybriar that isn’t your typical love triangle. (Autocorrect made that phrase into “love triage” and it might be more appropriate in a way.) My only regret about these books is that I can read so much faster than Mishell Baker can write them. And… I learned that she’s a Clarion cousin from the class of ’09! *waves at Mishell from Clarion West ’16*

Author: TJ Berry

TJ Berry has been a political blogger, bakery owner, and spent a disastrous two weeks working in a razor blade factory. She now writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror from Seattle with considerably fewer on-the-job injuries. She’s on Twitter @TJaneBerry.

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