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Borderline (The Arcadia Project) Paperback – March 1, 2016
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"Borderline is worldbuilding at its most original...I loved this book." (Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author of DEAD UNTIL DARK)
"Smart, snappy, fast, fantastic. You will not be sorry you read this." (Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author of the October Daye series)
"A fast-paced story of high costs laced with humor that goes from light-hearted to scathing with the flip of a coin...navigates the borderlands of friendship and enmity, trust and betrayal, with shrewd and unrelenting grace." (NPR)
* "Fully articulated, flawed, and fascinating characters combine with masterly urban fantasy storytelling in Baker’s debut novel... [a] beautifully written story that is one part mystery, one part fantasy, and wholly engrossing." (Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW)
* "Baker’s debut takes gritty urban fantasy in a new direction with flawed characters, painful life lessons, and not a small amount of humor." (Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW)
"An enjoyable fantasy mystery that tackles physical disability and mental illness without sacrificing diverting, fast-paced storytelling." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Baker’s consistent, caring integration of the realities of disability into the narrative, makes Borderline one of the most purely respectful portrayals of people with disabilities that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and that in turn makes it an excellent launch to a very promising urban fantasy series." (Publishers Weekly STAFF PICK)
"Baker has crafted a swift, delightful, and complex beginning to your next favorite urban fantasy series, very nearly redefining the genre along the way...an unabashed pleasure cruise, filled to the brim with snappy dialogue, smart character choices, behind-the-scenes Hollywood shenanigans, and delightful fish-out-of-water moments." (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy blog)
"Mishell Baker’s new Arcadia Project series is off to a thrilling and glamorous start with Borderline...Baker has given her audience urban fantasy at its finest—visceral and real in its sense of space, and dancing on the uncanny edges of our vision...Borderline is dark and creeping and smart as a whip." (Tor.com)
"Borderline [is] a strange, fast-paced, and surprisingly dark tale about magic, madness and mystique...Despite the engaging plot, Millie’s character, and the complexities in the characters around her made the book a real page-turner for me...Immensely riveting, with unexpected influxes of depth." (MuggleNet.com)
About the Author
Mishell Baker is the author of the Nebula and World Fantasy Award Finalist Borderline, which was also a Tiptree Honor book, as well as the second and third books in The Arcadia Project, Phantom Pains and Impostor Syndrome. She is a 2009 graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and her short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Redstone Science Fiction, and Electric Velocipede. She has a website at MishellBaker.com and frequently Tweets about writing, parenthood, mental health, and assorted geekery at @MishellBaker. When she’s not attending conventions or going on wild research adventures, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.
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Living voluntarily in a psychiatric treatment facility after recovering from her fall, Millie is startled when a well-dressed stranger, Caryl Vallo, visits and offers her an ill-defined form of employment if she will leave the facility and move into a residence run by the mysterious Arcadia Project. Millie chances accepting Caryl’s offer and soon learns that the Project’s job is attempting to manage relations between the Fey (as it is spelled here) and the human world, which some of the fairy folk choose to live in for extended periods—in this case, the section of that world that comprises Hollywood. (That would explain a lot about the movie capital.) She also learns that the Project likes to employ mentally ill people as its human agents, so it’s no surprise that the other five dwellers in the residence are as screwed up as she is.
I particularly liked two things about this book. The first was the characters; Millie, Caryl, Teo, and the others are complex, interesting, and appealing. The second was the steady way in which the author fed in a great deal of information about complicated subjects such as the nature of borderline personality disorder (not likely to be as familiar to most readers as, say, bipolar disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder), the rules governing the relations between Fey and humans, and the care and operation of prosthetic legs. I can’t judge the accuracy of the information, but it was consistent and “felt right.” The writing was well handled, too. For instance, Millie (who narrates the book) says:
“Most Borderlines are virtually incapable of a sincere apology. Tell a Borderline she has hurt you and she responds with a list of ways you’ve hurt her worse. Why? Because in a ‘split’ world, someone has to wear the black hat, and for a person with suicidal tendencies, avoiding guilt is quite literally a matter of life and death.”
I was glad to see signs that the author is planning further books about the Arcadia Project, and some threads were left dangling in preparation for that, but the story in this book was well wrapped up, which is not always the case when sequels are in the works. I will look forward to reading the sequels when they appear.
The novel takes place in a contemporary fantasy version of America. Written like an independently produced film, it makes free use of the language of the cinematic world, and frames scenes as though they were part of a movie, giving this story’s decidedly non-epic scale a sense of epical quality nonetheless. It includes a mystery to be solved, with Millicent acting out the role of Sherlock Holmes while rolling in her wheelchair or seeing what’s afoot on her prostheses, and this keeps the plot moving while the author smoothly shares world building information with the reader in a painless fashion.
All the characters in the story behave bizarrely. Some, like Millie, have mental diseases that cause this; some are Fey, and Fey have non-human standards of conduct that appear outré to us; and some are just humans displaying flawed behavior out of insecurity. This makes for interesting exchanges. And since the story is told in the first person, Millie’s mental state makes the reader the first person to sense the unconventional perspective presented in the book. It’s as though we have always been Fey-ked out by the reality we see. But make no mistake; there is nothing fake about how good this book is. It’s comfortably uncomfortable: tragic and humorous, gritty and glossy, starkly human and maddeningly glamorous.