Monday, August 04, 2008


Over the last few weeks, I've been working my way through Kage Baker's Company series. I first became aware of Baker in the pages of Asimov's, where she published a large number of Company stories starting with the Mar. 1997 issue. I really liked the stories and always meant to pick up the first novel in the series, In the Garden of Iden, but I never did. Then a few months ago, Chris Roberson posted about the series and I decided I would start on it before the end of the year.

What is the Company? It's a 24th century corporation called Dr. Zeus that has discovered time travel and the secret to immortality, both with a catch. The catch with time travel is that you can only go into the past and then back to your present time - no future. The catch with immortality is that in order to get it you also have to become a cyborg. So, Dr. Zeus goes into the past and creates a bunch of cyborgs that can work on preserving works of art and such for the future, which is how the company can get rich. Oh, you can't change the past but there's also a lot of unrecorded history and you can work in those grey areas. And only children can be made into cyborgs; the Company uses orphans.

In the Garden of Iden introduces us to Mendoza, a new recruit to Dr. Zeus in the 16th century. She is rescued from the Spanish Inquisition by Joseph, who works as a Facilitator for the Company. Upon her graduation from training, she ends up in England for her first assignment - she's a Botanist charged with saving rare plants from a garden. Mendoza is not a fan of mortals but she ends up in love with one and it does not end well at all. The struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism in the country looms large over the entire novel. It's a very good introduction to the world of the Company but things kick up a notch with the next book in the series.

Sky Coyote brings back Joseph and Mendoza as well as introduces new characters, notably Lewis. Joseph heads a team that is sent to California to preserve the culture of the Chumash. In order to do this, Joseph disguises himself as their trickster god, Coyote. It's a funny novel but also full of politics and economics and myth; we also start to learn more about the Company. Joseph's "father" was Budu, who worked as an Enforcer for the Company; the Enforcers have all been retired since they were hyrbids who came from Neanderthals or other earlier forms of humanity. We also get intimations that all is not as it seems with Dr. Zeus. What happens in 2355, when the Silence falls?

Mendoza in Hollywood finds Mendoza posted to Los Angeles in 1862, where Hollywood will end up. She's at a stagecoach in with five other operatives and her job is to investigate a temperate zone. One of her fellow operatives, Einar, is a huge movie buff and they occasionally screen film classics. In fact, one chapter has the group watching and reacting to D.W. Griffith's Intolerance. All of the cyborgs have interesting jobs or problems, one of them (Porforio) even has to deal with a member of his mortal family. More significantly, Mendoza and Einar manage to travel into the future and are sent back by Company operatives but before they are completely gone, Lewis tries to warn Mendoza about something. Soon after, Mendoza is reunited with her love from three centuries before, reincarnated in the form of Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax. Things do not end well.

I just finished The Graveyard Game yesterday and it is now my favorite of the books. We learn so much about the Company and have so many more questions raised. Joseph and Lewis are trying to piece together what happened to Mendoza, who has completely disappeared. Joseph also starts investigating what happened to Budu and we are introduced to players like Suleyman and Nennius and so much more. This book ends with some very interesting twists as well.

Unfortunately, my local library does not carry the entire series...only the novels. I ordered the first story collection, Black Projects, White Knights, and now have it here at home. I'll have to order the other one too in order to finish the whole series. I really want to dive into the collection but I had also requested Lord Tophet, the concluding book to Gregory Frost's Shadowbridge, which I read and loved earlier this year. It came in and is now sitting on my shelf, so I'll probably read it and then get back to the Company.

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