Kage Baker (was Re: OT Other Books)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Sat Feb 16 00:00:41 EST 2002

On Fri, 15 Feb 2002 20:27:14 +0000, Hallie O'Donovan wrote:

>Anyone read the Company books by Kage Baker?  I read the first one 
>and liked it but not enough to order others from the States without 
>someone recommending the way the series is going.

I like the series very much.  I think if you didn't adore it, it might be a
good idea to at least get the second book and see how you feel about that
one, because it's not terribly similar to _In the Garden of Iden_.  (But try
not to pay too much.)  I got them from the library, but someday I'll
probably buy them in PB.  Though I prefer the first two (_Sky Coyote_ is
probably the only Native-American themed book I've ever loved; warning,
though, that it has some sexual-lore stories that might seem a little
graphic--sort of light versions of the stuff you get in Mesoamerican
mythology) the entire premise is interesting enough that I'm anticipating
the fourth book.

For those interested, the series to date is:
_In the Garden of Iden_
_Sky Coyote_
_Mendoza in Hollywood_
_The Graveyard Game_

The series' premise is fascinating.  Time travel is invented not by
altruistic scientists, but by a corporation looking to make money.  They
sent their people back in time to steal whatever they could, but it turned
out to be too expensive.  Their solution?  Go back and alter some of the
natives to be super strong, super intelligent, and immortal, teach them
"modern" culture and knowledge, and let them do the legwork.  So somebody in
the 24th century discovers that a cure for cancer could be derived from a
nearly-extinct plant?  Send a message to an operative living back before the
extinction and have them cultivate it in an area where the Company can find
it later.  (This will sound familiar to readers of Connie Willis.)  The
operatives have all the information and culture that their "future" masters
know, except for one thing:  their information doesn't go further than a
certain date in 2355.  Nobody will say what happens past that point, but the
operatives know that their "masters" are just the littlest bit afraid of
their creations.  And, since you can't travel FORWARD in time (unless you
first travel back in time and then return to your starting place) the
operatives can only wait for time to eventually bring them to that key date.

The first book begins in the sixteenth century, with a 5-year-old Spanish
girl named only Mendoza who is found by an operative and made immortal.
Though not all the books are from her point of view, what is consistent is
that each book in the series brings the characters (and by extension the
readers) closer to whatever waits for them in 2355.  I just learned that the
series will eventually be 10 books long, which is interesting considering
that.  They've been compared to Connie Willis with good reason; the
operatives, despite being natives and contemporaries, think and behave in
much the same way as the historian/time-travelers of Willis's novels and
short stories.  The characters are beautifully drawn and intriguing; I admit
I was hoping for more of Mendoza in the second book, but her mentor Joseph
is a fair trade.  I am also very fond of seeing how the operatives establish
pockets of culture in the "uncivilized" world, as well as their addiction to
a kind of chocolate.  That's an addiction I could get behind.

Melissa Proffitt
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