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National Bestseller


Strange things are happening at Biehl's Academy when this elite school opens its doors to a group of orphans and reform-school rejects, kids at the end of the system's tether. But the school is run by a peculiar set of rules by which every minute is regimented and controlled. The children soon suspect that they are guinea pigs in a bizarre social experiment, and that their only hope of escape is to break through a dangerous threshold of time and space....

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Borderliners: A Novel

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National Bestseller


Strange things are happening at Biehl's Academy when this elite school opens its doors to a group of orphans and reform-school rejects, kids at the end of the system's tether. But the school is run by a peculiar set of rules by which every minute is regimented and controlled. The children soon suspect that they are guinea pigs in a bizarre social experiment, and that their only hope of escape is to break through a dangerous threshold of time and space. Peter Høeg's "brilliant" and dystopian Borderliners is a "uniquely philosophical thriller" (Boston Sunday Globe) and a haunting story of childhood travail and hope.

The bestselling author of Smilla's Sense of Snow returns with a disturbing, sometimes brutal thriller. 4 cassettes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brilliant . . . [a] uniquely philosophical thriller."—The Boston Sunday Globe

"A brilliant novel of shattering force."—Entertainment Weekly

"Gripping and disturbing . . . Høeg's evocation of the way a child perceives the world is alarmingly vivid."—USA Today

"The Catcher in the Rye meets A Brief History of Time. . . . Brilliantly tormenting and philosophically haunting."—Glamour

"An honest novel that once again demonstrates Høeg's talent and integrity."—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"A beautiful and satisfying book, reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange or Lord of the Flies."—Orlando Sentinel

"Powerful . . . well-crafted suspense . . . Just as with Smilla's Sense of Snow, one question hangs in the air when the last page is turned: When do we get his next book?"—Newsweek

Michiko Kakutani
"Borderliners" is a willfully elliptical narrative that often tries the reader's patience. . . . These highly abstract soliloquies are apparently meant to add resonance to Peter's story, and to underscore one of the novel's central themes concerning the dehumanizing effects of science and the scientific method. Unfortunately they have another effect entirely: they weigh the story down, turning what might have been a deeply affecting story about a young boy's painful coming of age into a lugubrious and strangely impersonal allegory. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The second of Danish writer Heg's novels to be translated into English (following Smilla's Sense of Snow) concerns a trio of misfits at an elite boarding school who discover they are guinea pigs in a sinister experiment. (Nov.)
Library Journal
In this extraordinary novel, Hoeg portrays the closed world of Biehl's, a Danish private school where a bizarre social experiment is underway. The narrator, Peter, is now a student at Biehl's after spending all of his life in children's homes and reform schools. He is a borderline case, along with Katarina, whose parents both died in the past year, and August, severely disturbed after killing his abusive parents. Although allowed no social interaction, the children conspire to conduct their own experiment to discover what plan is being carried out at Biehl's. Hoeg touches on some of the same themes as in his acclaimed Smilla's Sense of Snow LJ 8/93-neglected children, scientific experiments, and technology-but this is not a thriller and may not appeal to the same audience. It is instead a fascinating intellectual puzzle that explores the themes of social control, child assessment, family, and the concept of time. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/94.]-Patrica Ross, Westerville, Ohio
From Barnes & Noble
Students in an elite private school in Copenhagen discover that the school is using them in an experiment to control children--an experiment that, almost inevitably, has tragic consequences. A disturbing new book from the author of Smilla's Sense of Snow.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312427115
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 10/30/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,405,304
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Høeg, born in 1957 in Denmark, followed various callings—dancer, actor, sailor, fencer, and mountaineer—before turning seriously to writing. He is the bestselling author of five novels and one short story collection. His work has been published in thirty-three countries.

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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

1. In Chapter One, Biehl says, "When I speak, you should listen, first and foremost, to my pauses. They speak louder than my words." Discuss the role of silence in this book. How is silence used to invoke fear? How do the students use silence?

2. The children in Borderliners, Peter, Katarina, August--have lost their parents, or been abused and abandoned by them. How does this affect their attitudes toward authority figures, such as Biehl and Karin Aero? Are all adults portrayed as abusive? Why do you think in the end Peter decides he wants to be adopted?

3. Since the children have no parent figures, they must form attachments among themselves. Describe the nature of the friendships between Peter, Katarina, and August. What do they have in common? How do they communicate?

4. The two ravens on Biehl's wooden chest stand for Surveillance and Control. The school attempts to control the students with timetables, schedules, charts, and bells, and keeps them under constant surveillance this way. What kind of freedom can exist under surveillance? Discuss what the students do in order to be free, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Is knowledge freedom?

5. Biehl and other authority figures use corporal punishment in class to maintain order. What does this book say about the effectiveness of physical punishment, by teachers and by parents? How do the children react? Discuss whether control and power can ever be maintained this way.

6. The clock in Borderliners is a metaphor for the accuracy, or inaccuracy, of the universe. Discuss how the measurement of time is both precise and inarguable, like mathematics and science, and also creative and malleable,like a work of art. Does Peter see time as science, art or both?

7. Peter says you can set yourself free by helping others. Describe how he feels responsible for August and tries to help him. How does this compare to how Humlum tried to help Peter?

8. One of the themes in Borderliners is how we remember. Katarina says people remember their lives as a time line of events, except for when they are young, and then the past has no chronological order. Compare this to how August remembers his past and his parents. Discuss how Borderliners as a whole is the expression of Peter's memory. Does he remember chronologically. Does he choose to repress certain memories?

9. In the author's previous novel Smilla's Sense of Snow, snow and ice are central images. To what effect does the author use the cold, snowy Danish landscape in this novel? Discuss how environment can reflect the inner lives of characters. What other images does the author use throughout Borderliners?

10. Peter notes the difference between linear time and circular time. Discuss how the author incorporates both of these concepts into the narrative structure of Borderliners. Do you think the narrative is linear or circular? How does the author use Peter's memory to disrupt the narrative flow? Is this an effective technique?

11. Biehl has his own vision of the ideal school system, a place where marginal students--borderliners--coexist with students of higher ability. Discuss the implications of Biehl's plan. Is such a plan possible? How do his good intentions turn into tragedy?

12. Despite the fact that Borderliners is a novel of intellectual depth and discussion, it still contains a great deal of suspense. Discuss how the author maintains suspense throughout. What elements of mystery does he use to propel the plot? How does he continue this suspense after the climactic scene with August and Biehl?

13. In Borderliners, Peter notes that the German biologist Jakob von Uexkull says man is fundamentally alone. Describe how the author uses language and setting to achieve a sense of isolation in this novel. Also discuss whether Peter himself is truly alone. How does he build up barriers against people? How does he try to achieve intimacy? Is there a feeling of hope for him at the end of the novel?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2004


    I happened to pick up Borderliners at the library without knowing anything about it. once i read the description i thought it sounded ok and i checked it out. little did i know that it sould be so... great i guess. now im going to have to get my own copy and read it again and again until i can be sure i grasp every last concept. not only was it a good book but the concept was good as well... making it a must read. seriously... go get it... either buy it or check it out... borrow it from someone... SOMETHING! you need to read this... take a day off from life, get ready to think and go for it. just sit down and read. believe me... you wont regret it...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2003

    a unique exploration of childhood

    A phenomenal look at life from 'the other side of education' as well as perceptions of time and memory. One thing that I think 'commercial reviewers' missed: The 'experiment' at Biehl's was not bizarre or unusually cruel as is often stated, but typical of the way that educators constantly play and experiment with the children most at risk, doing it all the time with the best of intentions. The main character recognizes this. That is the central tragedy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2001


    A must read, i won't say anymore. If you see this review and don't read the book you must be out of your mind. Are you able to read, read this book. It made me see different on things. A lot of books have a good plot but what makes this book so speciellt it because of its message. Read it!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2001

    Bordering on Brilliant

    I'm positively in love with this book. I read it last year and it's still the most incredible book I've ever read. Hoeg's exploration of the perception of time is a poignant and thorough discussion that reached me very personally. He delves into time and loss, time and childhood, time and control, the pain of separation...I've never read a better book. Read it now.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

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