the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Kage Baker’ Category

mendoza in hollywoodMendoza in Hollywood, by Kage Baker

published in 2000

where i got it: purchased used

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This is the third book in the company series, and it’s my third favorite.   Some quick non-spoilery background on the The Company for those of you that don’t know: 350 years from now, time travel is possible.  But you can only go back in time, you  can’t bring anything back to your “home”  time, and history can’t be changed. Ok, so how to get rich quick if artifacts can’t be brought back? Easy.  Send some crews and technology into the past, have them build safehouses and a staff of employees who will set aside your artifacts, and wait, patiently, nearly forever. Company operatives are cybernetically immortal, given an education about everything that will happen, ever (because this is the past for their instructors and doctors, who are from the future), and programmed to be fanatically loyal to the company.

 

Thus, we get science fiction/historical fiction. Which, if you ask me, is one of the best genre combos EVER.

 

Anyways, in the first the book in the series, we met Mendoza, who is rescued from the Spanish inquisition by a company operative. She’s raised and educated within the Company, and completely bombs her first assignment. The second book follows different characters with Mendoza as a very minor character, and in this third book, we are back with Mendoza.  She’s gotten over the raw, raging anger of what happened all those years, but she’s far from healed.

 

Mendoza has been by herself for a very, very long time, and I get it, she hates people, I’m ok with that (some days I hate people too).  So she’s used to very quiet days, very little interactions, not much going on, just being one with nature. Introvert, indeed. Her new assignment is to a post in the Cahuenga Pass in Southern California in 1862, with the mission of collection valuable plant specimens before the drought (and grazing animals) kills (and eats) everything.  Mostly unaffected by the Civil War, it’s an interesting time to be in Hollywood’s backyard.  Mendoza has no choice but to take the assignment, and besides, maybe some conversation would be good for her.

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time. If you’ve been paying attention, nothing on this list will be a surprise to you.  If you happened to stumble by because you like “year end” lists,  these are my top ten speculative fiction books I read this year.  Looking for a good read? go find one of these.

Some of them are old.

Some of them are new.

Some of them were borrowed.

None of them are blue.

;)

I’ve linked the titles to my reviews.  In no particular order:

Sky Coyote by Kage Baker (1999) – the second in The Company series, this novel is told from Joseph’s point of view (and yes, Mendoza is still really, really pissed off at him). Joseph gets to do one of his favorite things – pretend to be a God. But this time, he’s got to get even the skeptics to believe his act.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (2013) – No surprise this one made it to my best of the year list, as this is one of my favorite fantasy series.  It’s true, I ranted a little about a character who really annoyed me, but holy shit, that ending??  holy shit!  Also, I do just happen to have a Cinnamon colored dress/jacket combo and a four cornered grey hat in the making.

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White (2013 )- Secret societies, multiple personalities, sublime prose, metaphysics, unexpected romance, characters that rip each other to shreds.  What more could you possibly want? I got meddled with, my switches got hit, and I never wanted it to end.  Just go read it already. Everything about this book was spot-on perfection for me.

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks (1990) – only the best Culture novel of the best space opera series in existence.  Not the easiest book in the world to read, but the subtlety, and the reveal at the end, and oh god I knew something was so horribly wrong as soon as he said he was going to cut his hair. . .

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Sky Coyote (The Company series,  book 2) by Kage Baker

published in 1999

where I got it: purchased used

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What’s your favorite beer or cocktail?  What’s your favorite drink at Starbucks or coffee shop of your choice?  How many drinks did you have to go through to find the perfect combination of hops and malt, or soy milk or foam or espresso shots? What I’m getting at here is that feeling of when you’ve got something just right, that this coffee has exactly the right amount of cream and is exactly at the right temperature, that feeling of “if only every drink could be this perfect”. That feeling of finally finding out what you like and the perfect combination of ingredients? I found it in a book. A book with perfect combination of sly dialog and sarcasm, great characters, sex jokes, painful introspection, and a feeling of running, running from the truth.  I was the crazy girl whispering to herself over breakfast because I was reading large portions of this book out loud to myself.

And since a book review that consists simply of metaphors that makes sense only to me followed by “this book was incredible, amazing, everything I wanted it to be and more” is useful only to me, I’ll get to the more comprehensible portions of the review, just for you.

Sky Coyote is the second book in Kage Baker’s Company series, and it’s told from the point of view of Joseph, who we met in In the Garden of Iden.  It’s been about a hundred and fifty years since Joseph last saw Mendoza, and she’s still mad at him. When you’re an immortal cyborg you’ve got all the time in the world to stay angry and hold grudges. They’re going to be working together again, and they meet up at the decadent  Mayan Lost City also known as New World One, where Mendoza has been researching New world grains and where Joseph is preparing to become a god.

Well, imitate a god at least.

It’s 1699, and the white man will be making permanent inroads into the New World any day now.  The native tribes of the west coast of the Americas don’t know the disease and horrors that are on their horizon. Usually company operatives are tasked with acquiring objects, technologies, or even plant samples that will be valuable in the future.  This time Joseph has been tasked with acquiring and entire native village. Armed with research of their beliefs and multiple prosthetics, Joseph is about to convince an entire village of Chumash that he’s their trickster god, Sky Coyote.   Joseph has a tough time at first, of course they tell stories about their gods all the time, but they have no idea how to respond with a god shows up on their doorstep.

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New goodies!  Received from the publisher:

The Book of Apex Volume 4 – edited by Lynne Thomas, this features original fiction published in Apex magazine. Ken Liu, Catherynne Valente, Elizabeth Bear. . .  it’s so pretty.  No, really, it is. The photograph doesn’t do it justice. Everything about this book looks absolutely fricken’ gorgeous. i’ve barely had time to crack it open, and I’m already falling into the cover art.

And from Orbit, we have Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach and Malice by John Gwynne.  Looking through the promo material that came with Fortune’s Pawn, I kept wondering why they were also advertising Rachel Aaron’s Eli Monpress series. Ahh,  because they are the same person. She writes under both Rachel Bach and Rachel Aaron.  I don’t know much about Malice except that at first glance it looks to be in the Joe Abercrombie military epic fantasy mold.

Anyone read any of these? what do you think? what looks interesting to you?

Goodies from the publisher isn’t enough for me, cuz I iz greedy.  Had to visit the bookstore too!

We’ve been trying to cull the book collection. It’s either that or buy more bookshelves. As it  is, I’m afraid the floor of our apartment is going to cave in under the weight of all these books, and give our downstairs neighbor one helluva surprise.   I took a grocery bags worth of books to the usedbook store for trade (a few older paperbacks, a few brand new books that weren’t catching my attention, even a glossy photo filled cookbook or two).  turned in a tall stack of books, got a shorter stack of more interesting books in return.

For Vintage Scifi Month:

I have such a weakness for these Doctor Who books.  The new ones haven’t done much for me, but oh, these old ones, I adore them. They are candy to me!    I’m woefully underread when it comes to Zelazny, so found what looked to be a stand alone novel from him.  Hoping the local used bookstore would just happen to have the first Amber book was pushing my luck!

but I did feel mightly lucky when I found these:

there’s no such thing as having enough Kage Baker! The Life of the World to Come is a Company novel, Sky Coyote is I think a stand alone.

Hey Baker and Zelazny experts: help a girl out. Can I read the Company novels out of order, and what’s the recommended reading order for the Amber books?

and not that anyone cares, but the digital camera on my new smart phone is insanely awesome.  compared to the photos my older model digital camera takes, these new photos look practically 3-D!

In the Company of Thieves, by Kage Baker

Published November 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher

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I’ve been a devotee of Baker since reading her The Anvil of the World, a hilarious fantasy adventure novel. Then I read the first company novel, In The Garden of Iden, and I fell in love with her dry humor, her snarky immortals, and the innocence of a new hire who never asked for any of this. Kage Baker is one of those authors who should be on the shelf of any speculative fiction fan.  Once you read her, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

In the Company of Thieves is a collection of six Company stories, many which were previously published, including The Women of Nell Gwynne, Rude Mechanicals, and Mother Aegypt.  Kage Baker was very close with her sister Kathleen, and each story has a very short introduction by Kathleen, giving some background about when or why it was written, sometimes why Kage was drawn to that location or plotline. The Baker sisters grew up in California, so many of the stories take place in some of Kage’s favorite places in California. The final story in the volume, Hollywood Ikons, was finished by Kathleen after Kage’s death.

Not sure what Baker’s “The Company” is?  The best summary I can find for The Company is on the blurb for the book, so I shall borrow it:

“The Company, a powerful corporate entity in the twenty-fourth century, has discovered a nearly foolproof recipe for success: immortal employees and time travel. They specialize in retrieving extraordinary treasures out of the past, gathered by cybernetically enhanced workers who pass as ordinary people. or at least try to pass. . .

There is one rule at Dr. Zeus Incorporated that must not be broken: Recorded history cannot be changed. But avoiding the attention of mortals while stealing from them? It’s definitely not on the company manual”.

Immortal cyborgs stealing stuff? Historical fiction? Madcap adventures and tricking dumb mortals?  Where do I sign up?

Rude Mechanicals – Anytime recurring Company characters Joseph and Lewis show up, you know trouble and hijinks are on the horizon. A Shakespearian comedy of errors, the story takes place in 1930’s Hollywood. Lewis is working as an assistant and translator for the famous German director Max Reinhardt, who is directing and producing an outdoor version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Joseph has been tasked with acquiring Reinhardt’s notes for The Company, so it’s a good thing Lewis is an expert forger. To complicate matters (and by complicate, I mean create hilarious situations for the reader to enjoy!), Reinhardt keeps digging up trees to make his set look better, and his earthworks are getting way to close to a particular buried treasure that needs to stay buried for a little while longer, as per Company request. Comedy of Errors ensues, with a secret diamond getting passed off as costume jewelry, getting actually stolen, and actually gotten back. Lewis makes the perfect “straight man”, a guy who just wants to do his job, not get fired, and get some damn sleep. Joseph on the other hand, thinks this is the most fun he’s had in centuries!

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scifi month header

Thanks to the amazing organization skills of Rinn over at Rinn Reads, we’re right in the heart of  Science Fiction Month. And I’ve noticed something. Something wonderful: lots of folks who are participating in SciFi Month are completely new to science fiction.

This is fantastic!  That so many people who have never picked up a science  fiction book are interested in giving some weird stuff a try, it warms my heart.  Getting into science fiction isn’t always easy.   Strange names, alien planets, technobabble, far future technologies. . .  it can be a bit much.  Luckily, there are plenty (countless, actually) of “gate way” books, books that take place right now, or maybe a few years in the future, or even a few years in past. Books that don’t leave the solar system, maybe don’t even leave the Earth. You don’t need to be fluent in technobabble or have a degree in astronomy to enjoy these. You just need to turn the first page. . .

to help you on your journey into scifi, I’ve linked the titles to my reviews.  If you have any suggestions for other gateway books, let everyone know in the comments!

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett – After her parent’s death, Mona inherits her Mom’s old house in a sleepy town in the southwest. It’s one of those old fashioned towns, where everyone knows everyone else, and the oldsters remember all the family secrets. there are family secrets, and then there are Family Secrets. How will Mona react when she learns her own?

In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker. I love Kage Baker, it’s as simple as that. This novel is the first of her Company Series. Don’t worry, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, you won’t feel sucked into reading another long series. Mendoza is an operative with a company that collects historical artifacts, and they’ve turned her into an immortal cyborg, of sorts. She spies on people, but can’t tell anyone who or what she is. Really sucks, when she falls in love with someone on her first mission. This book is as heartbreaking as it is funny. By the way, I’ve got a review of some Kage Baker Company short stories that’ll be posting in a few days.

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garden of IDenIn the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker

published in 1997

where I got it: library

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I’d read Kage Baker’s The Anvil of the World a while ago and loved it, but where to begin with the rest of her works? Why not start at the beginning, with her first novel, In the Garden of Iden?  Her first “Company” series book, In the Garden of Iden is told in a diary style by Mendoza, a young company operative who is reminiscing about her youth and her first mission.

Saved as a young girl from the Spanish Inquisition, Mendoza is recruited into The Company, a 24th century organization of time travel and artifact hunting. Instead of sending people or cyborgs back in time to collect specimens or change history, they send a few people back with all the technology, recruit “natives”, and offer them immortality and cyborg implants in exchange for being a Company operative.  It sounds gruesome, but Mendoza happily takes this over starving to death in an Inquisition prison. As a native, Mendoza knows the languages and the customs like the back of her hand.

Yes, this is a futuristic scifi  book that takes place one hundred percent in the 16th century. That’s pretty damn awesome when you think about it.   Remember Joss Whedon’s show Dollhouse?  Garden of Iden had a bit of that feel, with operatives being trained to act and roleplay and dress and walk in a certain way, except no hypnotizing or brain scans. All the operatives remember everything that happens to them with perfect clarity. And some of them have been working for The Company for centuries. All of a sudden that sounds awesome, and, uh, really creepy.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.